Monday, March 19, 2012

"The Bone Yard" Book Giveaway

Mr. Bones has agreed to host a few book-giveaway contests here on the blog in March and April. We'll be giving away copies of The Inquisitor's Key in the coming weeks, so check back as often as humanly possible without becoming completely obsessed...

Today, however, in anticipation of the paperback release of The Bone Yard on March 27, 2012, Mr. Bones will give away his beloved copy of the novel to one aspiring sleuth! I promise you one thing -- it's not going to be easy to win. In fact, it might become downright dangerous. So-- do you think you have what it takes to win this literary treasure hunt?

                
           


                                              Rules of Participation:

1. LIKE Jefferson Bass on Facebook if you haven't already.

2. SHARE Jefferson Bass on your Facebook Wall for your friends to see. To SHARE Jefferson Bass, copy and paste this link into your next status update: http://www.facebook.com/JeffersonBassBooks 
         *Include a variation of this message: Please LIKE this page so I can win The Bone Yard! 

3. Read the following excerpt from The Bone Yard. Answer the questions that follow, then send your answers and your name as it appears on Facebook to JeffersonBassBookGiveaway@hotmail.com

4. Then post a comment -- anything you want -- on this blog entry so we have a tally of contestants.

Pretty simple, right? Thanks for playing along, and good luck! The randomly selected winner(s?) will be announced tomorrow!

 

Chapter 1 of The Bone Yard

I held the last of the dead man's bones in my left hand. It was his skull, which I cradled upside-down in my palm, as comfortably and naturally as an NBA player might hold a basketball. As I searched for a place to hide it, I felt the tip of my index finger absent-mindedly tracing the edges of a hole in the right temple. It was a square-cornered opening, about the size of a small postage stamp, and it had been punched by a murder weapon—a weapon I'd tucked into a tangle of honeysuckle vines a few moments before. The honeysuckle was in bloom, and its fragrance was an odd contrast to the underlying odor of death. Funny thing, I thought, how something that smells so good can grow in a place that smells so bad.

Chattering voices floated up the hillside, growing louder as the people came closer. If I didn't hurry, I'd be caught with the skull in my hand. Still I hesitated, turning the cranium rightside-up for one last look into the vacant eye orbits. What did I hope to see there—what meaning did I think I might find—in those empty sockets? Maybe nothing. Maybe only the emptiness itself.

As the voices drew nearer, I finally forced myself to act, to choose. I tucked the skull under the edge of a fallen oak tree, piling dead leaves against the trunk as camouflage. Then a worry popped into my head: Is the pile of leaves too obvious, a giveaway? But it was too late to second-guess myself; I'd run out of time, and the makeshift hiding place would have to do.

Stepping over the tree, I strolled downhill toward the cluster of people approaching. I feigned nonchalance, resisting the urge to glance back and check for visible bones. A woman at the front of the group—a thirty-something blond with the energetic, outdoorsy look of a runner or a cyclist—stopped in her tracks and looked at me. Her eyes bored into mine, and I wondered what she saw there. I tried to make my face as blank and unenlightening as the skull's had been.

She shifted her gaze to the wooded slope behind me. Her eyes scanned the forest floor, then settled on the fallen tree. Walking slowly toward it, she leaned down, studied both sides, and then brushed at the leaves I'd piled on the uphill side. "There's a skull beside this log," she announced to the group. She said it as coolly as if it were an everyday occurrence, finding a skull in the woods.

"Wow," said a young red-haired woman in a black jumpsuit. "Police, one; Brockton, zero. If Dr. B decides to turn killer, he'd better steer clear of Florida."

The redheaded smart-aleck was Miranda Lovelady, my graduate assistant. The blond who'd found the skull so swiftly was Angie St. Claire, a forensic analyst from the Florida state crime lab. Angie, along with the 23 other people in the group Miranda had brought up the trail, had spent the past ten weeks as a student at the National Forensic Academy, a joint venture of the University of Tennessee and the Knoxville Police Department. Taught by experts in ballistics, fingerprinting, trace evidence, DNA, anthropology, and other forensic specialties, the NFA training culminated in the two death scenes Miranda and I had staged here at the University of Tennessee's Anthropological Research Facility: the Body Farm.

The Body Farm was perched on a hillside high above the Tennessee River. Here, a mile downstream from the heart of Knoxville, more than a hundred corpses in various states of disrepair were dispersed across the facility's three fenced-in acres. Most of the bodies lay above ground, though some were buried. And in a far corner of the facility, looking like eerie sentinels standing at attention, were three nude men: not standing, actually, but hanging, suspended by the neck from wooden scaffolds. With some misgivings, we had carried out three post-mortem lynchings, so we could observe the difference in the decomposition rate when bodies decayed off the ground, where they were less accessible to insects. We'd hung the three in the most isolated part of the facility, because important though the experiment was—the research data would help us determine time since death when a hanged body wasn't discovered for weeks or even months—the dangling corpses were a shocking sight. I'd seen them dozens of times by now, yet I still found it unnerving to round the bend in the trail and find myself confronting the trio. Their necks were stretched a few inches, their faces downcast, their arms and legs angled outward, as if accepting their grim fate with a mixture of resignation and shame. The NFA class included four African American men, and if I, a privileged white man, felt disturbed by the hanging bodies, I could scarcely imagine the complicated response the black men might feel at the sight of dangling corpses in the woods of Dixie.

Maybe I needn't have worried. Everyone in the class was a seasoned forensic professional, after all; cumulatively, the two dozen students had worked hundreds of death scenes, and some of those had probably included suicide by hanging. The students had competed fiercely to get into the NFA course, and several had told me how thrilled they were to train at the Body Farm—probably the only place on earth, after all, where cinching a noose around a neck was an act of scientific inquiry rather than of suicidal despair or racist hatred or—very rarely—state-administered execution. Here at the Body Farm, as nowhere else on earth, we could replicate death scenes with utter authenticity, even lynchings or mass murders. This particular NFA class—one of two groups that would rotate through the course this year—included crime-scene and crime-lab specialists from as far away as the United Kingdom. They'd spend the morning recovering scattered skeletal remains and other evidence Miranda and I had planted in this part of the woods. After a quick picnic lunch on a strip of grass outside the fence, they'd spend the afternoon locating and excavating a shallow, unmarked grave where Miranda and I had buried three fresh corpses, simulating a gang-style execution by drug traffickers.

She and I had spent the prior afternoon digging the grave and then refilling it once we'd laid the bodies in it. We'd clawed into the clearing's rocky, red-clay dirt with a Bobcat—a pint-sized bulldozer—that a local building contractor had recently donated to the Anthropology Department. The Bobcat was a useful tool; it was also—for me, a guy who'd grown up driving dump trucks at my stepdad's quarry—a fun toy.
Excavating the buried bodies in the afternoon heat was going to be sweaty, smelly work for the NFA class. Already, by midmorning, the temperature was above 80 degrees, and the humidity had topped 90 percent; by late afternoon, East Tennessee would feel like the tropics. Divide the year's 365 days by the number of seasons, and you might think there'd be four seasons of 91.25 days apiece, each season serenely easing its way into the next. Not this year in Knoxville; not on this steamy, smelly day in mid May.

My own body was doubtless contributing a bit to the scent wafting across the hillside, and not as pleasantly as the honeysuckle was. Like Miranda, I wore an official-looking black jumpsuit, the shoulders trimmed with the skull-adorned patches of the Forensic Anthropology Center. The jumpsuits looked cool, as in stylish, but they were woven of Nomex, a flameproof fiber that, ironically, made them hotter than hell. Despite the heat, Miranda and I had suited up to give the training exercise a more authentic look—and to let the trainees know we took them seriously.

The forensic techs weren't exactly dressed for cool comfort, either. Over their clothes they'd donned white biohazard coveralls made of Tyvek, the slippery, indestructible stuff of FedEx envelopes. Tyvek was feather-light, but I knew from experience that it didn't breathe worth a damn. As the techs knelt, stooped, squatted, and crawled their way up the hillside, setting numbered evidence markers beside the bones and artifacts they found, I could hear, or at least imagined I could hear, the steady patter of droplets on dry leaves: droplets not of rain, but of sweat. If this were an actual crime scene, they'd need to be concerned about contaminating the bones with their own sweaty DNA. I made a mental note to mention that to them once they'd rounded up all the bones. Did the glamorous stars of "CSI" and "Bones" ever shed buckets of perspiration, ever rain monsoons of sweat?
# # #
After an hour of searching, the hillside bristled with numbered evidence markers—87 of them— flagging the sundry bones, beer bottles, cigarette butts, and gum wrappers Miranda and I had strewn in the woods. The markers resembled the four-inch sandwich-sign numbers restaurants sometimes put on customers' tables to tell the servers which order goes to what table, and I smiled as I imagined a macabre spin on that image: "Number 87? Half-rack of ribs, easy on the bugs?"

I'd laid all the vertebrae of the spinal column close together, in anatomical order, as they might be found at an actual death scene, so those required only a single marker. Other bones, though, were dispersed more widely, simulating the way dogs or coyotes or raccoons would tend to scatter them over time. My last-minute hiding spot for the skull had actually been a logical place for it. Skulls on a slope tend to tumble or wash downhill once the mandible comes loose; that's exactly what had happened to the skull of former congressional aide Chandra Levy, who'd been murdered in the woods of a Washington, DC, park in 2001. In the case of my "victim," the fallen tree where I'd tucked his skull was lower, I now noticed, than the area where I'd scattered most of the bones. After years of death-scene searches of my own, I'd intuitively picked a natural place for the skull to end up.

The one thing the students hadn't yet found was the murder weapon. I took a sort of perverse pride in that, as I'd been careful to tuck it deep into the honeysuckle. But lunchtime was coming up fast, and they'd need the whole afternoon to excavate the mass grave. Finally, just as I was about to start offering helpful hints—"you're cold"; "getting warmer"; "really, really hot"—I noticed Angie in scan mode again, her gaze ranging just beyond the ragged circle of evidence markers. Her eyes swept past the honeysuckle thicket, then returned, and she headed toward it, like a dog on a scent. Getting warmer, I thought, but I kept quiet as she knelt at the edge of the vines and began parting the leaves carefully. "Got something here," she said, and then she laughed. "Looks like somebody takes his golf game really seriously." With that, she extricated the murder weapon. It was a golf club—a putter—and the cross-section of the club's head matched the hole in the skull perfectly: a square peg in a square hole.

The flurry of interest in Angie's find was accompanied by a series of groan-inducing golf-club murder jokes—"fore...head!"; "keep your eye on the skull"; "I told you not to cheat"; and the worst of all, "say, old chap, mind if I slay through?" The chatter was interrupted by a series of urgent beeps from Angie's direction. "Oh, crap," she said, laying the putter on the ground. She peeled off a glove and fished a cellphone from inside her coveralls. Frowning at what she read on the display, she stepped away from the group and answered the call. At first her words were too low to make out, but the tension in her voice was unmistakable, and it was rising. As the tension ratcheted up, the volume did, too. "Wait. Say that again. Kate what? ... What are you talking about? ... When? ... How? ... A shotgun? ... Bullshit. That's not possible. That is just not possible." Her eyes darted back and forth, tracking something I suspected was hundreds of miles away, at the other end of the call, and she began to pace the hillside. "Please tell me you're making this up, Ned. Please tell me this is some really, really mean joke you're playing on me. ... Please tell me you're not telling me this."

By now everyone in the group was listening, though most were careful not to look directly at Angie. Some people exchanged worried glances; others studied the ground intently, as if the particular twig or bone in front of them held the key to all meaning in the universe. "Oh, shit. Oh shit. Jesus God. ... Have you looked at flights? .... No, I'll just drive. It'll be just as fast. ... Okay, I'm leaving now." She took a few steps down the hillside, returning to where she'd found and flagged the skull. She bent and picked it up, staring into the eye orbits, exactly as I had just before hiding it. "I have to go by the hotel to grab my stuff. ... I'll be there by midnight. I'll call you from the road." She was walking toward us now, head down, still talking. "God damn that son of a bitch. ... Look, I have to go." She snapped the phone shut, shaking her head, a look of bleak dismay on her face as she walked toward Miranda and me. She didn't slow down when she reached us; she simply handed me the skull and kept walking. As she passed, she rubbed her ungloved hand across her dripping face, and I realized she was wiping away tears, not sweat. "I have to go," she said again, not looking back. Her voice sounded hollow and haunted. "I have to go."

She broke into a jog, ran out the gate of the Body Farm, and was gone.

 Questions:
1. Who found the hidden skull?
2. How much land does the Body Farm cover?
3. What "murder weapon" did Dr. Brockton hide in the tangle of honeysuckle vines?
4. True or False: On the prior afternoon, Dr. Brockton buried the three fresh corpses alone.
5. Who was murdered in the woods of a park in Washington, DC in 2001?

Whew. . .wasn't that fun? Now: Send your answers and your name to JeffersonBassBookGiveaway@hotmail.com. And don't forget to leave a comment below!

41 comments:

  1. That was fun - reminds me of early school days and reading comprehension! :) So far I'm liking the new book.

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  2. The Bone Yard is going to be a great book! I already have 4 of his books; Death's Acre, The Little Book of Forensics, The Devil's Bones, Flesh and Bone, and a signed copy of Bones of Betrayal.

    Jennifer Mosley

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer! Stayed tuned for "The Inquisitor's Key"

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  3. yeah, that was fun......but your killing me, can't wait for the new book!

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    1. You don't have long to wait, Annetha! I promise.

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  4. Dr Bass has and will always be someone I look up to. I have much respect and admiration for him. Anxiously awaiting the next book!

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  5. Love your books, i have them all so far and have read them more than once. I recommed these to anyone i can!! I cant wait for the new one to come out!!

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    1. Great; spread the word on Facebook by liking Jefferson Bass ... and by inviting others to like us, too! Thanks!

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  6. Thank you so much for allowing us to participate in this. I can not wait to read the rest of this book. I am sure it will be amazing just as the rest have been.

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    1. The cover photo shows crosses in the cemetery at the boys' reform school that inspired "The Bone Yard."

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  7. Thanks for the contest - eagerly awaiting the new book! May 8 cannot come soon enough! (PS. It would be even better if the giveaway copy of 'The Boneyard' was signed!)

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    1. Consider it signed, Tracey!

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  8. I love these books. While I am not in a hurry to join the group, I have donated my body to the Body Farm for future forensic anthropologists. Until then I will continue to purchase and devour the Jefferson Bass books.

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  9. That was fun! Made me feel like I was in school again. Can't wait for the new book!!!

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  10. Thanks for the contest! I'm a hugh fan of Dr. Bass, I had the privilage of hearing him speak at a book signing last fall that Our local library arranged. I took my 14 year old nephew along and he really enjoyed the film presentation and hearing Dr. Bass speak. I both us both a couple of books which he autographed for us!

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  11. Taht was fun! Can't wait to do it again, hopefully!

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  12. I am a first year MA student at Boston College studying nursing. I'm very interested in forensic nursing I have chosen to examine the case of Thomas D. Huskey and dissociative identity disorder.

    Your book "Death's Acre" has been an invaluable resource and has proven to be one of the only records of specific case details I have been able to find, as the initial trial documents are sealed. I was hoping, then, that I might be able to ask to you a few questions the case. May I post / send them to you?

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    1. The case of serial killer Thomas Huskey -- aka "Zoo Man" -- was fascinating, not just forensically but also in terms of the convoluted twists & turns it took in the courts: A confession (later thrown out, because it was obtained after Huskey requested an attorney but before he GOT an attorney); the multiple-personality defense; the Everest-sized mountain of defense motions; the murder convictions that were later overturned. Thank goodness he's still in prison for his rape convictions!

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    2. Check the Jefferson Bass page on Facebook ...

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  13. I loved it.I can't wait to read the whole thing.All of your books are great!Thanks for the preview:)

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  14. if I win this book I will donate my body to the body farm!

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    1. The hearse will arrive 24 hours after the book does!

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    2. I better start reading it fast then!

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    1. Never too late until the keg is empty. . .

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  16. Awesome series, can't wait for the new book!

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  17. I got to meet Dr. Bass at a Rotary luncheon. What a fascinating man!

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  18. I process at the facility, I love Dr. Bass!

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  19. I absolutely LOVE this series!! I only wish that I could get the chance to meet both Dr. Bass and Mr. Jefferson!! Not to mention tour the body farm! It would be a dream come true!

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  20. I love all of the Jefferson Bass books, Have seen Dr. Bass' presentation live multiple times. Can't wait til the next time I am capable of hearing him lecture again.

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  21. Looking forward to reading this! Thank you so much for putting your experiences and expertise to pen and paper! I feel that if I had the correct career counseling in high school I would be this time in life be a forensic pathologist. I have worked for 22 years with the same communications company and of those 22 years I spent 21 years attending night school - I have achieved my Masters Degree in Criminal Justice and hope to find an adjunct teaching position at the local colleges to help those who have these same dreams achieve them!

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  22. Thank you for the chance to win a book from this awesome author!

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  23. I love these books, so interesting. I'm currently studying forensic ballistics so it's always nice to read things and note some of the true practices being written down. Not just hollywood style forensics.

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  24. Love the contest idea. I got hooked on your books when one was a free offer on my Nook. I have them all. Looking forward for the new one.

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  25. I can't wait for the book to come out so I can read the whole story ~ what I have read has kept my interest the whole time, you're such a great writer you keep the story flowing where you don't want to put the book down and keep reading to the end! Thanks for all of your books!!

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  26. Oh my God, I won!!!! That is awesome! I hope it is signed! Thanks!
    Jennifer Hart

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  27. Submitted my answers & waiting anxiously for the winner to be announced! Thanks for such riveting books & entertainment! I love books that make me think & these do that well! Good luck to all!

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  28. I loved the Bone Yard and am trying to be patient until the Inquistor's Key is released next month. I have enjoyed reading all the books in the series and can happily say that I've passed them on to others who also have enjoyed them.

    Since I know I'm too late for a copy of the Bone Yard, I hope this puts me in the pool for one of the copies of Inquisitor's Key!!

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