The Bone Lady: Life as a Forensic Anthropologist
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The Bone Lady: Life as a Forensic Anthropologist

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  433 ratings  ·  53 reviews
When a skeleton is all that's left to tell the story of a crime, Mary H. Manhein, otherwise known as "the bone lady," is called in. For almost two decades, Manhein has used her expertise in forensic pathology to help law enforcement agents--locally, nationally, and internationally--solve their most perplexing mysteries. She shares the extraordinary details of the often hig...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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And I thought you couldn't go wrong with case study books about forensic anthropology... Half of the case studies in the book end with something to the effect of, "and we never did find out what happened." Not many of the cases were terribly interesting to begin with, not much detail is given (the average case study seems to be only 5 or 6 pages long), not a lot of forensic information is given. It's almost if this were an annotated synopsis of some cases she had to help jog her memory after she...more
I know people are going to hate me for this, but this was THE WORST FORENSINCS BOOK I'VE EVER READ!!!. Obviously, in my opinion, this lady is NOT a writer and she should stick to the science part of her career. This book had sooo much potential, I can see that, but her boring and unappealing writing made this book unbearable to read, at least in my case. Sorry for those who liked this book, but I just can't share your opinion :/
Jennifer Leigh
This book describes some of the "interesting" cases that Forensic Anthropologist Mary Manhein has helped solve. This "Bone Lady" also tells her readers why she chose this profession as well as describes the processes of determining information about the skeletons she finds. However, her writing style made this book not very interesting. Watch Bones on Fox instead. That's way more interesting.
Manhein reports on some of her cases as a forensic anthropologist.

I was disappointed with the book. Very little detail. But more importantly - the 'so what' of each chapter was very light. Her tone is friendly. And I'm sure she makes an interesting dinner table companion. But the stories were just not strong enough.
Sep 22, 2012 Ann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Bones or CSI
Recommended to Ann by: Maggie
Shelves: nonfiction
frustrating lack of details. By necessity sometimes of course -- she mostly reports what the evidence tells her, and so sometimes she does not have much evidence. But even when she does, I felt like she was holding back some details either to protect the surviving family or to protect the reader from something disturbing. That's a fine line -- sometimes I am disturbed when all the facts of the case are laid out with gory intricacy, but generally I think more is better than less for me.

Side note:...more
2.5 stars. Had these stories been fleshed out into a cohesive narrative, this would be a great book. They were all incredibly short-winded, though, so it isn't. Read William R. Maples' Dead Men Do Tell Tales instead.
Although I gave it only 3 stars, I greatly enjoyed this book. In short, it is comprised of simple true short stories (with names changed, of course), told in a thoroughly southern style. This is as much its strength as its weakness; while you're lefting wishing for more details, the simple factuality of it all makes any single story far more fascinating than a bloated TV episode. It's so much better written, in fact, than the novels by a certain better-known forensic anthropologist, that I'm a l...more
This was a very quick read. Each chapter is only a few pages long at most and doesn't disappoint in the cultural-sociological aspect, but was quite dumbed down in regards to the actual physical forensics, which was disappointing to me. I was really hoping for something a bit more technical. Instead it was kind of like reading obituaries with all the interesting stuff added in. ::Well how did Mr. Doe actually die? Oh, with a candlestick in the library to the back of the head?:: Not as glamorous (...more
What is a forensic anthropologist? "We are physical anthropologists who are trained in the human skeleton, and we use that training in a medico-legal context to assist law enforcement."

The real live "Bone Lady," Mary Manhein, answers this and another questions with smooth narrative and a Southerner's story-telling charm.
A Louisiana State University graduate who didn't begin undergraduate studies until her early thirties, Manheim weaves her own autobiography into the short book's twenty-seven cha...more
Boring and poorly written. Has very little about forensic anthropology, is mostly a few, brief vignettes from her life. Very little research or background on the cases given.
If you want to know more about Mary Manheim, you might be interested. If you want to know more about forensic anthropology, skip it. 3/26/2011
Annette Roman
Meh. Could have been a lot more in-depth and interesting. Spare and informative rather than overwrought and overwritten, which is appreciated from a writer who is not a writer by profession, but... Meh.
A series of vignettes about the author's work as a forensic anthropologist, an anthropologist trained in examining human skeletal remains and determining age, gender, time since death, and possible causes of death. Interesting little stories and brief insights into why Manhein finds her job so satisfying. If you're looking for a book with an overarching theme or in-depth information on forensic anthropology, this is not the book you're looking for, and I'm not sure there's enough detail to satis...more
Nov 23, 2007 Robin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2007
It is obvious this book was written before the big interest in the forensic sciences as it now seems quite quaint in its descriptions of the trials and tribulations the author went through in her career spanning from the 1980's to early 90's. Lacking much scientific information it reads more like a short story than non-fiction, and at 137 pages it is a very quick read. There are a lot of tales that I wish she had fleshed out more but I found the references to her upbringing in 1950's Louisiana q...more
The lady that wrote this book taught my Intro to Physical Anthropology course in college. She is one of my most memorable professors. When we studied primates, she came to class one day dressed in a gorilla costume and acted out gorilla behavior for us. I loved going to her class and I almost became a forensic anthropologist in part because of her. Her book is a very interesting read.
Susan Louque
Totally loved this. Got to meet Mary Manhein and she signed my book. My favorite story in the book was about the coffin found with what the homeowner thought was a small child's bones. Mary Manhein said that is was small dog who had arthritis. She was proven correct a week later by a previous homeowner who said if they would dig 3 feet over the other dog's coffin would be found.
Alicia Wozniak
This book inspired me to go back to school for my Ph.D. in Forensic Anthropology. I already have a BA in Communications from OSU. I did go back and took a freshmen level Anthropology class. I cheated my way through that class and decided Dr. Wozniak sounded awesome, but wouldn't be a reality. However, this book is a good read about the author's life as a Forensic Anthropologist.
It was a GREAT book! It was not long enough for me. I read a book a long time ago in another life about Forensic Anthropology and thought if only I had time and brains...
This woman has so many interesting (but sad) stories. I have not checked to see if she has written anything else but if not, she should!
I read this book in less than a day.
This book was interesting when it told of the author's path to become a successful forensic anthropologist. It was less successful when the remainder of this short book told anecdotes from her career. They were all very short, and several of them were cases which she only knew of, or in which she was only peripherally involved.
Shannon Drake
This is okay. It's a collection of interesting stories, but that's pretty much it. I was hoping for some insight into techniques or processes or, I dunno, even a Mary Roach-level light dusting over various topics in the field. This is just a collection of her stories, like I said, which are interesting but not especially enlightening.
This was an interesting book about Manhein's life as a forensic anthropologist. Sometimes it left like I was reading a grandmother's stories to her family, but it was a fast read and described the cases she worked on. The book read so fast that I tried to pick it up to read it a few weeks later only to realize I had already read it!
This is one of the most interesting educational books I've ever read, I was never bored and I just wanted more. I will be looking more into forensic anthropology after reading this because I was so into it, The stories Manhein tells are amazing with the perfect balance between entertainment and education. Great read.
This is a very quick read; I finished it in an evening. The author's style is accessible and interesting. I enjoyed her offered glimpses into her work, but I wish she had offered more depth. Memoirs by Dr. Bill Bass and others offer a far more detailed glimpse into this fascinating field of study.
This is a light, easily readable set of short "stories" about Dr. Manhein's professional experiences.

IMNSHO, the light treatment is very appropriate in that it makes the topic readable. This is a very serious subject, and even with the lighter tone, some of the stories made me cry.
This was just ok. I was a little disappointed, the stories were all very short (2-3 pages) and didn't really go into much detail. Sometimes we were left hanging as to the outcome of the case.

This was more of an appetizer to something like Dead Men Do Tell Tales by William R. Maples.
this memoir has small chapters and reads non-frightening about mostly gruesome situations and dead people. the people who hurt and killed do not come off great in this book either. the author writes as if she is part of the family and loves mysteries, science and all goodness in mankind.
D Books
I read this book over five years ago and had forgotten all about having read it until recently when I found her follow-up book in the library recently. From what I remember this was a good book that had some interesting cases in forensic anthropology.
Ashley Logan
I liked this story from this forensic investigator/archeologist/pathologist, etc. etc. She wrote short stories about cases she'd studied, some solved some not, but they were definitely not only entertaining but you could learn a lot too.
We still talk about how this was the worst book our bookclub read. So disappointing. It had such promise and then went nowhere but boredom. Was it a publish or perish thing? Did her friends write the reviews?
Patricia Joynton
Four, because it was interesting to me. While training as a lab technologist a few of my classmates were going into forensics. I wish I had after reading this book. How interesting. I was a short, fast read.
Mar 14, 2008 Riah rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2008
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