Death's Acre
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In this memoir, Bass, a premier forensic anthropologist, recounts how a life spent studying dead bodies led to the creation of "The Anthropolgy Research Facility" (aka the Body Farm), a plot of land near the University of Tennessee Medical Center where Bass and his colleagues monitor the decomposition of human corpses in various environments. The book is structured around the 1981 creation of the Body Farm, and the early chapters focus on some of Bass's trickier cases to demonstrate his need for more information about the science of forensics. The later chapters take a closer look at how the scientific analysis of Body Farm corpses has helped Bass and other anthropologists solve some of the toughest and most bizarre cases of their distinguished careers. Though professional and conscientious when describing the medical facts of each case, Bass, writing with journalist Jefferson, proves to be a witty storyteller with a welcome sense of humor. He also does a nice job balancing accounts of death and decomposition with decidedly not-so-morbid tidbits from his personal life. Furthermore, the poignancy of how he reacts to the deaths of his first two wives reflects the compassion he feels for the dead and their surviving family members he encounters in his working life. Bass may deal with the dead, but he has a lust for life that comes across in his writing. While the grisly details may not make this a must-read for everyone, those who do pick it up might just be pleasantly surprised by how Bass brings death to life. Foreword by Patricia Cornwell

Customer Reviews:

  • Interesting even for the non professional
    I found this book fascinating. Certainly a more in depth look at evaluating a body for clues as to death than shows on TV.
    A little macabre but interseting none the less.
    ...more info
  • Good Author
    Dr. Bass is very knowledgeable about the subject he has studied and taught to others for many years. It is a pleasure to read his recollections and to have the privilege of if only slightly, but of receiving first hand teachings of forensics. ...more info
  • Yay, Dr. Bass!
    I've lived in Knoxville all my life and attend the University of Tennessee. Growing up here, I have heard so many tall tales about the Body Farm from friends who had supposedly snuck in unnoticed so it was lovely to hear the truth about what really goes on inside the fence. When UT's student paper announced that Dr. Bass would be signing his books during finals, I was so excited that I fought through a rough Psych 310 final and Knoxville traffic in the rain to buy books for myself and two other friends who had finals all day and couldn't get off campus. After finishing the book, I was a little bit sad that it was over, because it was an entertaining and educating book. Dr. Bass wrote the book with great and understanding to those of us who aren't that familiar with forensics. I also enjoyed reading about Dr. Bass' private life, which was very interesting to the people of the Knoxville area who have been familiar with him and his work due to local news. So, yay to you Dr. Bass! You are, in fact, the man!...more info
  • Great stories
    Great stories by a great storyteller. Some of the stories appear in other books by this author but were a wonderful refresher on Dr. Bass`s career....more info
  • Great book
    While I agree with some reviews that state the book's content ventures away from the title, I loved it. I found Dr. Bass to be a great writer, an inspirational scientist, and a compassionate person. I feel that I learned a lot about him and the field of forensic anthropology from this book. Easy read. Great stories. Highly recommended....more info
    I have been a fan of Dr. Bass for a very long time. This book gave an amazing record of how he came up with the "Body Farm" and the progress that has so far been made in Forensics....more info
  • Forensic Fun
    A very well written book that is both imformative and fun. Dr. Bass "opens the book" on the study of forensic anthropology and the immense contributions it has offered to law enforcement. The "Body Farm" is really secondary to the numerous accounts of his investigations and what he learned through years and years of studying bones. What could easily be a gruesome subject is presented in a very straight forward, matter of fact style by Dr. Bass. His descriptions are thorough but presented as merely scientific study and Dr. Bass does not dwell on the more macabre facets of his work. He is mildly amusing and comes across to me as kind of laid back, at first glance. Read further and I found him to be hard working, self motivated and resourceful scientist who had many obstacles to overcome to develop his program. He praises his graduate students work and stresses their importance in his research. His passion for his work appears to rub off on his students and it is obvious why many have risen to postions of prominence. You can't help but learn a lot when reading this book but you won't be aware it is happening.

    If you have read any of Dr. Thomas Noguchi's work or are interested in real crime stories, this is a must have....more info
  • Thank God people like Mr Bass exist
    It's easy to overlook the vital importance of the work he does when getting lost in his gruesome descriptions of maggots, flies and decaying human flesh, but what it all comes down to is justice for the dead. That what shines through for me in this excellent example of forensic literature... when everything else is stripped away, all Mr Bass wants is for the perpetrators of violent crime to be caught and punished for their sick deeds, and let those who've met their ends so horribly rest in peace. It almost seems wrong to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book, but I did, and I hope the Body Farm continues to play a pivotal role in solving the seemingly unsolveable....more info
  • Forensics for the layperson
    This book is nicely done with a kind word from Patricia Cornwell. I would have preferred a chronological approach instead of the moving back and forth between past and present. It is an easy read and should not give anyone nightmares. It details some of the criteria used in identification of corpses, but is somewhat repetitive. Dr. Bass is an entertaining speaker and undoubtedly a quality teacher. The book should be read as an overview and the reader who wants more specific information should consult his library....more info
  • Another review for death's acre.
    Death's Acre is an excellent read for those interested in learning more about the field of forensic anthropology without digging very deep into the technical aspects of it. As suggested on the cover, the number of people interested in this field is exploding due to shows such as CSI. It is essentially a series of anecdotes that chronicals the career of the author, who was involved in much of the research that has allowed forensic scientists to accurately interpred crime scenes to a much greater extent than we have been able to at any time in the past. He goes into some detailed information, but explains essential terms and concepts along the way, so that even if you are not an osteology buff, you know what ostology is.

    If you are looking for an in-depth guide, a comprehensive reference, a textbook, or anything of that nature, this book is not for you. Although Dr. Bass does explain what he's talking about along the way, he generally only gives you tidbits about his process that are relavent to the case being discussed. It is written so that you get a general overview of the processes of thinking involved in solving a case, but not a step by step guide that would help you do develop a full understanding.

    Some of the reviews on the state that the book gives "gross" accounts of cases that Dr. Bass has worked on. It should be taken as a given that as a reader of a book on forensic science, there will be some graphic descriptions of postmortem proccesses. Although any discussion of this nature will make many uncomfortable, the author treats his subjects (deceased human remains) with the respect that they deserve, and does not go beyond the realm of necessity in his descriptions.

    As a final word, although the subject of this book is rather morbid, Dr. Bass presents his stories with a certain humor that is respectful yet helps us keep in our minds that although forensic science is about death, it's goal is to help the living as well as to acheive justice for the dead. Throughout the book, there is a sense of direction that keeps the curiosity piqued, making the reader want to know whats on the next page.

    I would highly reccomend this book to those who know a little about forensics and would like to know more without having to shell out the money at your local university. For those who are looking for a technical manual and in depth research, I would suggest that you look elsewhere....more info
  • Interesting and fun war stories of Bass's career
    I very much enjoyed "Death's Acre". I'd describe it as a series of distinct war stories spanning the length of Bass's career in forensic investigation, emphasizing how these cases motivated the need for the "body farm" and how the results that come out of the farm assisted in future cases.

    The book sometimes felt a bit disjoint in that the overall chronological timeline is sometimes presented in non-sequential order, and some of the information presented in one chapter is occassionally repeated in other chapters as well.

    Also, I thought the chapter (2nd?) dealing with Bass's early anthropological exeriences researching indian graves on the prairie was BY FAR the least interesting part of the book and I almost set the book aside there. This chapter has very little to do with the rest of the book and I encourage readers to push past (or skip) this chapter.

    All in all, though, this book was a great "page turner". It is not overly gruesome and yet was informative and unflinching. It was a fast, enjoyable read; I highly recommend it....more info

  • Good read, but it's a straight biography.
    The authors are lucky truth in advertising laws don't apply to titles.

    And with that opening, I'd also better say that I enjoyed the book before I go on any further. The book is not about the Body Farm, per se. The place does feature, but it does so as incidental to the story of the lead author's life. This is an (auto-) biography, not an account of the Body Farm, pure and simple.

    It's not particularly gross, as some reviews have said - not if you can cope with natural processes, that is. It does include some humour, but it is sometimes difficult to tell if the authors were trying for humour or really do want to bask in reflected glory as they mention every five pages or so how brilliant the students they've taught over the years were and are - when they're not directly saying how respected they are and how many teaching awards they've won, that is.

    But those negative points aside, it /is/ a good read. It's not a heavy, intellectual read. It is very much pop science and biography. If you enjoyed "Stiff" by Mary Roach then you will probably also enjoy this book. It's far less educational than 'Stiff', but if you like a generally well written and very readable biogrpahy then you won't go far wrong with this....more info
  • Example of useful cross-discipline science
    The writer (an anthropologist) clearly shows not only the practical application of his work, but how it evolved over the years with contributions from varied and sundry sources into an extremely useful tool to aid the criminal justice system. A great history (and fun for those who have watched CSI over the past couple years).

    Especially loved the new information he obtains from a "medical illustrator."...more info

  • A fan of the Body Farm and the Dead
    Dr. Bass's book is wonderful. I live near the Body Farm and I have always wanted to see what it looks like inside the fences. I also know one of his assosicate's Jarrett Hallcox who has written a book "The Bodies We've Buried. He is the Director of the National Forensic Academy which has classes for different law enforcement agengcies taught at the Body Farm. Dr. Bass's work at the farm has help so many different agengcies in solving crimes and he has also help other people in times of national tradgedies such as the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11. He has done this nation a great and wonderful help with his knowledge and research that he has done through out is career. ...more info
    This book by Dr. Bill Bass is a must read for people interested in forensic science.Questions long asked about what happenes after death are answered here.Police all over the North American continent have relied on the studies of Dr. Bass and his famous Body Farm in Knoxville Tennessee.Every aspect of death and the state of decomposition have been studied here as to decern time since death and the many different stages of decomposition which include fly larva which can unlock the door of how long the body has been dead.Most of the television CSI's have relied on information gathered at the Body Farm and Grissom himself of CSI fame mentions the work done by Dr. Bill Bass....more info
  • History, research, and human stories
    I am a historian, a public health researcher, and a fan of all things science. So this book was like candy for me. I also first heard about the "body farm" reading the book "Stiff". A similar facility also showed up on an episode of CSI. This book gives a fascinating insight into the history of forensic anthropology. The stories that Dr. Bass tells of some of the projects undertaken by his students and colleagues are just as fascinating as those he undertakes himself. Kudos to Dr. Bass for sharing the spotlight with others.

    As others have said, this is not a textbook. And it treats the body farm as the central facility in the UT team's research into forensic anthropology. But the book is the story of Dr. Bass's seminal role in the development of the field. It does a marvelous job of describing the ways that the forensic scientists interact with police investigators, medical examiners, politicians, the public and, certainly not least, the media.

    In short, it is people who take center stage in this book. Dr. Bass makes sure the humanity of murder victims is never lost nor is the humanity of the scientists, detectives, reporters and others in Dr. Bass's extensive cast of characters....more info
  • A Great Book by a Forensic Science Legend
    Despite its title and subtitle, this book is really a chronicle of some of Dr. Bill Bass's professional experiences in the world of forensic science. In recounting these fascinating stories, Dr. Bass, an anthropologist, briefly explains how the idea of the Body Farm was conceived and how that facility evolved into reality. Some of the scientific research that takes place within the Body Farm is described but not belabored; it is made clear that the Body Farm is an important scientific tool (one of many) that is used in solving crimes. Consequently, most of the book is comprised of gripping descriptions of some of the cases in which Dr. Bass has been involved and in which he used everything he could in his forensic science armory to solve them, including the Body Farm. Also included in this book are a few tragic episodes that have occurred in Dr. Bass's personal life. The writing style is friendly, lively, authoritative, accessible and quite engaging. This is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone, although those fascinated by true crime and forensic science would likely relish it the most....more info
  • death's acre
    after reading this book, i came to conclude; i would never allow this inaccurate bone-science to ever convict me of a crime. the science seems so hit-and-miss. i found it very worrying that; dr bass (by his own addmission and embarressment) dated a 113 year old set of bones, as only having died within a one year time-frame.

    also i found his sense of humour childish, and his blatant vainity anoying. his hypocrisy is puzzling, because although he allows corpses to rott, inside insect-infestations, as he saws and boils away their flesh, he himself has not committed, to leaving his own (over-rated)corpse to his famed-farm.

    another problem i had with his farm was, he had no security and his farm was next to a prison and prisoners use to wander in to look at the corpses, i wondered if any criminals destroyed evidence, that may have convicted them, or their mates ?

    dr bass, sings his own praise louder than anyone else seems too, but the book is worth reading, although the gore has been edited out of existence.

    i didn't like how he felt the need to disprove god, but most selfish people do believe in god, until god does something the believer doesn't like. (dr bass believed in god, until god killed his two wives)...more info

  • Bass's Anthropological Research Facility: BARF.
    This book is written by the man who revolutionized the scientific study of death and what happens to our bodies when our spirit leaves and the blowflies move in.
    Before reading this fine book, I never considered that the fly I shooed off my shoulder or off my food, may have been spawned inside of a dead corpse! (GAG!) Hoo-ballooo-ballooo!...that just gives me the willies.! My maw tole me flies were dirty creatures, but she never did tell me that they spawn on dead flesh! How totally disgusting! But, these are the facts according to one who knows; Dr. Bass set up this forensic research lab and studied the process of death - how a body can go from warm dead to cold, rigor mortis and rot all the way down to the skeletal level.
    Evidently, the rotting down to the bone level is quicker when the temperature is warma and there is alot of moisture in the atomosphere. But if a corpse is inside a body of water, it tends to preserve itself a bit longer...nobody knew this fact until our kind Dr. Bass conducted actual experiementation on the subject. So now we know.....
    He needed to do this in order to pinpoint the time of death that a human being died. This is extremely applicable to those unfortunate souls who were victims of violent crimes.
    One day you read in the newspaper that person was found dead in their home; bloated, smelly and laying in a pool of black oil.
    The first question from the coroner and the family is, "How long have they been dead?" Nobody could estimate this with any accuracy until Dr. Bass's studies began in the Anthropology Research Facility in Tennesse....Patricia Cornwall dubbed it, "The Body Farm," and made it famous around the globe.
    I'd sure like to visit the place someday, but only while I am still alive!
    Nobody had ever done this research prior to Dr. Bass, because, quite frankly, it's revolting and disgusting work.
    Thank God that Dr. Bass can look beyond the gore, and get to the truth: (but how he can tolerate the horrible smell is beyond me! UGH! GROSS!)
    The stench would knock one off their feet!
    Dr. Bass explains how he came into the field of studying death and decay, and he has dedicated not only this book, but his entire professional career to all victims of murder, their family who mourns them, and to all who seek justice.
    That is pretty amazing stuff; alot of the studies have to do with maggots and their lifespan. I have to say that I admire the man for going where no other man dare goeth. All the discoveries of dead bodies and the process of death is clearly explained, and it's only a tad gross. As readers, we aren't subjected to sniffing the foulness of the air when a corpse is being studied, like Dr. Bass's students had to do. Nor are there nasty photos that will cause one to upchuck one's breakfast; the stories are told well and the good doctor keeps it all under control, so the reader will not stumble upon some detail that could possibly be traumatic. I recommend this book to anyone who has an avid interest in medicine and forensics. It is also a good book for people who love flies and want to learn more about maggots. I also think it comes in handy when deciding what to do with your remains once you die. I am very much in the air after reading this book...I am still torn between being cremated versus being buried inside of a casket. Both methods have their draw-backs but one thing is for certain...I am not donating my body for any scientific studies at the Body Farm in Tennesse! No siree!...more info
  • WOW
    This book shows so many ways the ARF has given scientist a way to study forensics in a diffrent light. I couldn't put it down....more info
  • Brilliant - a memoir that reads like fiction
    Dr. Bill Bass is a giant in the field of forensic anthropology, and is the mind behind the University of Tennessee's "Body Farm." _Death's Acre_ is the memoir Dr. Bass' experiences in the field, but also as a teacher, father, husband and son. I simply loved this book.

    The majority of the book discusses the career highs (and sometime lows) of Dr. Bass - his work excavating the graves of the Arikara in South Dakota, his misjudgement of the time since death of a Civil War soldier, and a number of forensics cases he has worked on. The book also details the creation, development and growth of "the Body Farm," where ground-breaking discoveries have been made in determining time since death. But it was the human-side of the stories that resonated with me the most - the gratificaton Dr. Bass expresses at providing closure to those who have lost a loved one, the pain he felt at losses of his own, and especially his dry wit and humor in his retelling of his life.

    Of the several books I have read related to the forensic anthropology, this is heads and shoulders (no pun intended) above the rest. Very highly recommended....more info
  • Highly entertaining
    Granted, This book is not strictly about "The Body Farm", but it explains why it was developed. Stemming from what Dr. Bass admits to being a very embarrassing incident, where he speculated on what he believed to be a recently interred homicide victim was in fact a distinguished Civil War hero that had been buried for over 100 years. The knowledge in the field of what has come to be termed "Forensic Anthropology" was extremely limited at the time, simply because no one had actually studied in a scientific manner, what happens to a human corpse when we let mother nature take its course. Dr Bass and a number of his other doctoral students set out embarking on a path which had yet to be traveled. This book details that path. In a relaxed and entertaining manner, he takes us by the hand and points out, "look how far we have come." Using a simple approach, like friends sitting around the coffee table sharing stories, he points out the mistakes he has made over the years, and how he learned from those mistakes to now being a recognized and court certified expert in the field. He shares with the reader, those cases which turn out to be both the foundation for the development of The Body Farm and those, which after its inception, highlight the importance and significance of the study which has been accomplished there.
    I agree with some of the other reviewers that this is more of a biographical account than a true in depth analysis of the inner workings of The Body Farm, but that only adds to its charm.
    ...more info
  • Title is misleading.
    I would have enjoyed this book much more if it were about the reasearch done at the 'Body Farm'. Instead we get a flimsy biogrophy of Mr. Bass that deviates from the title of the book. There is also an entire chapter that kisses up to Patricia Cornwell. I found it very watered down compared to other forensic study books. No offense to Mr. Bass and his work....more info
  • A quick read
    I found Dr. Bass's book to be a quick read, skimming along the surface of decomposition and decay, but providing a glimpse into the learning underway at the Body Farm. I have read extensively in the subject, and finding the same names crop up from time to time is like encountering old friends. It was interesting to read the history of the "farm", and of the adjunct sciences that are coming into study....more info
  • Disappointing
    I found the topic fascinating, but the writing left something to be desired. Forensic cases that he labeled as the "most bizarre of his career" turned out not be so bizarre after all. In fact, some turn out to be rather mundane. Most of the cases seemed "rushed" and "over-edited". Believe it or not, the book turned out to be rather boring, mostly due to the overabundance of personal interludes - like when his wife is diagnosed with stomach cancer - sorry, Mr. Bass, but people are not buying this book to hear about your wife's illness. Especially when discussion of your wife has been limited to one or two sentences in chapter two. Mr. Bass should stick to forensics and leave writing to others....more info