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The Bone Lady: Life as a Forensic Anthropologist

3.64  ·  Rating Details  ·  704 Ratings  ·  76 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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(showing 1-30 of 1,716)
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Oct 03, 2012 Rachel rated it it was ok
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
Jul 25, 2012 Mary rated it did not like it
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 :/
Nov 12, 2011 Jennifer rated it did not like it
Shelves: genre-nonfiction
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.
Sep 11, 2009 Laura rated it did not like it
Shelves: memoir
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 liked it
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:
Gillian Brownlee
Mar 07, 2015 Gillian Brownlee rated it really liked it
I finally got around to finishing this book! Hooray! I started reading it when I took Ms. Manhein's introductory forensic anthropology class. I actually got to hear her talk about many of these cases in person, which was fascinating.

The Bone Lady is very short and very general, and I think that's why people take issue with it. She doesn't go into gruesome details, or share in depth processes. She simply tells the stories of the deceased that she had helped to identify. And that's why she does w
Nov 30, 2015 Melissa rated it liked it
There are a lot of bad reviews that almost turned me away from reading this book. I decided oh well and stayed up all night reading it.
This book could have been great but was a bit dry. Some of the stories were interesting but there was just no depth or emotion. I think a part of it may be is that though written in 1999 it feels a bit outdated. Living in a world of crime shows and popular true crime books this book falls flat.
I think it would make an interesting read for young adults interested
May 16, 2014 Dayne rated it really liked it
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
Manda Werhun
Aug 12, 2015 Manda Werhun rated it liked it
Shelves: mine
Some readers didn't like this book because of its length and lack of forensic depth into cases. I however did like this book. I think what most people are forgetting is that although anthropologists are scientific based they are also story tellers. I think what Mary set out to do was to tell a good story, I don't believe her focus was to write a science based book. So factoring that into my review I very much enjoyed it and look forward to reading Mary's other titles.
A nice little read in betwe
Shannon (Mrsreadsbooks)
The Bone Lady is broken up into many short chapters, after the introduction, that are each basically case studies of forensic anthropology cases. The author, Mary Manheim, worked as a forensic anthropologist in Louisiana at Louisiana State University. She worked both in historic and modern forensic cases. The book was very interesting and presented a wide variety of differ t case studies.

However, she does use a great deal of technical terminology in regards to osteology and anthropology. There w
Apr 25, 2015 T rated it it was amazing
It amazes me that each time I read a book about Forensic Anthropology, I learn more and more about the human body. This was a very quick read, but I am glad that I had read several other books on the subject prior to this book.
Sharon Dodge
Mar 27, 2012 Sharon Dodge rated it liked it
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
Feb 20, 2011 Jenn rated it liked it
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
Jan 25, 2015 Katrinia17 rated it it was ok

I gave this one 2 out of 5 stars. For me the chapters were too short and I was left always wishing for the stories to be fleshed out. Many were based around her childhood. An example would be that she starts one story out talking about how she's been sent on a mission to get horse bones for an insurance company that wants her to prove that the horses were starved to death. Within 2 paragraphs she tells us what her objective is and that she can't do it due to the fact that she really doesn't work
Nov 11, 2008 Carol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 13, 2013 Susan Louque rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 08, 2013 Alicia Wozniak rated it it was amazing
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.
Aug 15, 2012 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 09, 2014 Tim rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Corrine Hortin
Mar 30, 2015 Corrine Hortin rated it it was amazing
Insanely interesting!
Annette Roman
Sep 12, 2010 Annette Roman rated it it was ok
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.
May 13, 2015 Justine rated it really liked it
I think a lot of the negative reviews for this book come from those that watch the TV show "Bones" or one of the other crime lab shows and expect these high-profile super interesting cases and that is not what this book is. This woman is a scientist, not a writer or an actor. She reveals that cases aren't like what we see on "Bones," "CSI," and all the various other crime shows we see on TV. I really enjoyed this book and it was a great light read.
Feb 10, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
A very readable autobiography about what it is like for a woman to enter the male dominated world of forensics. She gives due credit to those who helped her on the way, then dives into telling the tales of the cases which influenced her most notably along the way. I really enjoyed readiing about this topic from a woman's point of view. The author manages to be both deep and very readable - a real feat! I highly enjoyed this book.
Mar 07, 2015 Dawna rated it did not like it
I really wanted to love this book. This writer seemed more focused on making a semi biography that made herself look like an interesting and romantic herione than on crafting a good story about forensic science and how it helped these cases. There were small tidbits of good stuff, but it was overshadowed by bad writing and disappointing content.
Stina Zombean
Mar 13, 2015 Stina Zombean rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
I enjoyed the cases discussed for the most part, it being my field of interest, however I do wish they had been more in depth. One of my favorite things was sitting in class and listening to my professor recount her stories of past cases. What factors were the most useful in the case, what challenges she faced, and how it turned out.

Manheim does something like this with one of the first cases she discusses, and the rest are abbreviated accounts. It read very much like have an idle conversation
Mar 05, 2016 Kathleen rated it really liked it
An excellent book which I found very enjoyable. Maybe it has something to do with the exciting field the author works in- and that I was an anthropology major in graduate school?
Great content but could have been put together a bit better, just a bit choppy.
I WILL read her other books and I do recommend it. ( already have to my granddaughter Emm)
Jenny McMahon
Mar 11, 2016 Jenny McMahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting forensics

If you like real life forensic cases, this is a quick and interesting read. So many unidentified bodies out there.
Gary Brooks
Jun 08, 2015 Gary Brooks rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the ' microscopic' forensic details of this work. learnt a lot about facial reconstruction and wound pathology as well.
Feb 27, 2010 Castiron rated it liked it
Shelves: library-checkout
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, 2015 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I appreciated that this book, rather than being gory stories, was super focused on the importance of forensic science as a way to give closure to loved ones, as a way to give a name and some dignity back to the victims of horrible crimes. The science aspects were interesting, too, but I can absolutely see if a reader was expecting cool murder stories and got, instead, this book, they might be disappointed.
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