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CR3 #97: The Bone Lady: Life as a Forensic Anthropologist by Mary H. Manhein

Since nothing says "holiday season" like books about rotting skeletons and murder most foul, here's another about my latest obsession, forensic anthropology.

Mary Manhein has written a book similar to my last review, Dr. William Maples's Dead Men Do Tell Tales. It is part memoir, part collection of cases she has worked on. She discusses her work with identifying historic remains as well as assisting law enforcement with victims of violent crime. She also tells stories about how she entered her career, and how she handled it in the early days.

The book is mostly made up of short vignettes, many between two to three pages long. They are brief snippets from her past, all put together somewhat randomly. Frankly, while her mini-stories are all very interesting (some are funny, some sad, some spooky, some bizarre) they aren't organized in a particularly coherent fashion. She leaps around in time, neither using chronological nor thematic organization, which made this a little confusing. Also, her vignettes seem to have more to do with emotion than with the science of forensic anthropology. While Dr. Maples used his cases to illustrate useful scientific information, this author is mostly telling anecdotes from her long career. The tones are quite different -- one that of a college professor speaking to a lecture hall, the other an extremely amusing, fascinating dinner companion.

I enjoyed this book, but the tone and subject matter were a bit lighter than I'd expected. Not a bad book, but nothing all that special, either.

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