Works by 2 local writers explore mystery of death
There's something endlessly fascinating about the world of forensic pathology, particularly in the study of bones, the only part of our mortal coil that doesn't return easily to the elements. Death has always been the biggest mystery of all, and figuring out how and why somebody died from the bits of bones left behind is not just lifting the veil a little into the great beyond, it's a tradition handed down from ancient mystics.
"One Drop of Blood"
by Thomas Holland
(Simon & Schuster, $24)
"Forensic Detective: How I Cracked the World's Toughest Cases"
by Robert Mann and Miryam Williamson
(Random House, $24.95)
Two new books from world-class forensic osteologists based in Hawaii have landed at almost the same time, and they are as different as chalk and cheese.
Robert Mann's "Forensic Detective" is a clearly written memoir that is mostly about the notorious cases he has worked on over the years, full of juicy but not salacious detail, and a bit about how his own fractured childhood led him into various noncareer paths before settling happily into tarsal-counting.
The book's arc is a bit of a letdown, as the last few cases aren't solved. We're left hanging but that's real life for you.
Thomas Holland's "One Drop of Blood" is a page-turner mystery that links the paddies of Vietnam and the boonies of Arkansas, and how a somewhat ruffled Central Identification Laboratory scientist from Hawaii gets caught up in both.
The passages set in Arkansas' rural politics, the interagency government sniping and the thought processes of the scientist as he balances rationality and emotion have the ring of truth to them.
As a writer, Holland might have been hit too many times with the metaphor stick, but he manages to tamp down that urge later as the book hurtles toward a climax.