THE BREAKING POINT by Jefferson Bass Reviewed

Jefferson Bass

June 9th, 2015
William Morrow

THE BREAKING POINT by Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson, known professionally as Jefferson Bass, realistically uses forensics to solve crimes. Jefferson is a writer and documentary filmmaker while Dr. Bass is a forensic anthropologist and founder of the renowned research facility, the Body Farm. With all of their fictional books they intertwine a powerful crime mystery with details about forensic science.

The plot opens with the FBI working at the Body Farm, taking a course on evidence response. They learn how to handle the location and identification of skeletal remains. Shortly thereafter, there is a devastating plane crash resulting in fragmenting body parts, making it difficult to identify the victims. Working closely with the FBI the main character, Dr. Bill Brockton, is asked to help find the remains of a maverick millionaire who was supposedly killed in the fiery plane crash. Brockton has made a reputation for himself as a prominent forensic anthropologist while doing research and teaching at the University of Tennessee, home to the Body Farm. Brockton must determine if the philanthropist is a diabolical killer and has faked his own death or has really died in the crash.

What makes this story very powerful and a tearjerker is that Brockton suffers one crisis after another. The parallels with the prophet Job are evident, considering Brockton is a good person who is beset with horrendous disasters that take away all he holds dear. He is seen as drowning, with his life spinning out of control. First his identification of the crash victim(s) is called into question. Then he receives a threatening message from the serial killer who attempted to kill his family. Because this a prequel the next line might be a spoiler alert for those who did not read previous books: his beloved wife Kathleen, a soul mate and the source of his security, tells him she is dying of cancer.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the discussion of veteran issues. A shout out is given to the Vietnam veterans, in the quote, “Our conflicted feelings-our national shame-had created an unwritten but undeniable tragic domestic policy: a policy of pretending that Vietnam had never happened, and of turning a blind, indifferent eye to Vietnam vets and their postwar troubles.” Yet, there is also a scene in the book where the research of the Body Farm, studying time of death, is called into question, since some of the subjects were corpses of veterans.

Although the story of THE BREAKING POINT is fictional the science is all too real. What makes the plot fascinating is that readers will have a hard time separating fact from fiction. This novel has all the elements of a page-turner: mystery, danger, and suspense. Yet, it also tugs at people’s emotions as grief and loss are explored, something that can resonate with everyone.

Elise Cooper