Books by Mary H. Manhein

THE BONE LADY by Mary H. Manhein
Released: April 1, 1999

A subtly creepy collection of stories culled from the experiences of a leading forensic anthropologist. Manhein describes her role as an expert witness as the laying out of her analysis to the jury without a lot of unexplained scientific jargon—the exact technique she employs in this account. While one of her goals seems to be teaching the public about the field of forensic anthropology, she never loses sight of her main intention, the spinning of a good story. The result is a rare, effective blend of entertainment and education. As we follow Manhein into the Louisiana bayou, where she digs up the levee to claim a five-year-old corpse, into industrial fires where victims bodies lie unrecovered, into cemeteries both old, newly discovered, and improvised, under houses, and into the forest to examine the bones of potentially mistreated horses, we learn about identifying bodies through dental X-rays, bone composition, and facial reconstruction. It is the same combination of the desire to solve puzzles and a fascination with death that led Manhein into her field and which also compels the reader to move quickly from one story to the next. Whether she is describing a human skull being pulled up in a fishing net or her nervousness at testifying in court, she maintains a grounded eye for detail and a compassionately detached style which renders the subject matter interesting rather than gruesome. While many of Manhein's cases have attracted media attention, most notably the exhumation of the killer of Huey Long, the book primarily focuses on the much less glamorous side of the field—the identification of drowning victims sometimes years after their deaths, or the discovery that those bones in the yard belonged to the previous owner's pet dog. Despite the morbid nature of her work, she loves what she does and communicates that enthusiasm in her absorbing harrative. (illustrations) Read full book review >