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Bones: A Forensic Detective's Casebook

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  515 ratings  ·  33 reviews
Fascinating, educational, and highly readable, Bones takes readers into the dark world of forensic science.
Paperback, 317 pages
Published February 1st 2000 by M. Evans and Company (first published 1992)
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3.94  · 
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 ·  515 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Dec 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Dr. Douglas Ubelaker is the curator of anthropology at the Smithsonian, a consultant for the FBI in forensic anthropology, and teaches of forensic anthropology at George Washington University. (I couldn't find any reference to the other author, Henry Scammell.) presents dozens of case studies and breaks down the science used to work on them into bites. These bites sometimes become bogged down in details or include not enough information, but they're there. In fact, if it weren't for the many pho ...more
Dr. Ubelaker is a brilliant scientist, one of the best in forensic anthropology. I've read some of his scientific papers and they are great. Unfortunately I am not a huge fan of this book. I have read many forensic anthropology books, by a wide variety of authors and I certainly don't expect them all to be the same. Many books of this genre that are aimed to the general reader divide the book by cases; normally one case per chapter. I understand the logic of dividing the book by subjects relevan ...more
Beach Vacation Read #3: Scrounged from the sad pair of little wicker baskets filled with books that served as the beach house library.

While this wasn't a bad introduction on forensics, it's becoming terribly dated, teetering on historic. I had a lot of issues with how the data was laid out here, word definitions were clunky and repetitious, readability was far from smooth.

Ubelaker's entire book is fractured vignettes. I prefer meatier stories, even if they are short, and it irritated me to const
While forensics is a fascinating science and the topicss covered are interesting, the workmanlike writing does nothing to bring Ubelaker's subject to life and in fact works against him to quite a great extent. Chapters are typically laundry lists of information - one case after another with perhaps three or four paragraphs dedicated to each, often without any resolution given or without having a case fulfill the purpose/point that Ubelaker tells you it will. He or his ghost writer waste no oppor ...more
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in crime science
This was the second FA book I read, it is nearly as good as Maple's. It's been awahile since I read it and was considering skimming it again. It is awesomely written and I can't imagine anyone would have trouble "picturing the scene." The illustration with the chicken thighs was especially interesting.
A disappointing number of the cases were unsolved, vague on the details, or actually examined by someone else. I'd recommend William R. Maples's Dead Men Do Tell Tales or Michael M. Baden's Unnatural Death over this one.
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
I have read this after finishing 'Dead men do tell tales' by Dr. William Maples (also a forensic anthropologist) and as much as i really enjoyed Maples' book, I really didn't like this one.
It jumps from case to case without either cohesion or conclusion, so much so that i often found myself lost, confused and irritated. I only finished the book as I always finish reading what I started, even if i am not enjoying it, just don't like to leave a book unfinished. There were a few interesting cases,
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a informative and fascinating book! I learned lots of new things about bones, and the pictures were real eye-openers.
Becky B
Ubelaker is a forensic anthropologist who works at the Smithsonian Institute. He wrote this book to give others a picture of what it is like to be a forensic anthropologist and get a taste for the kinds of cases he works and contributions he makes to solving both ancient mysteries and modern crime.

What I did not realize when I started reading this was just how long ago "modern" was. The most "recent" case Ubelaker mentions in this book is 1990. Which also means, this book predates the ability t
Jun 24, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book took me over 6 months to read mostly because of situations in my life that interfered with reading, but also because it was a bit drier than I was expecting, having read books by the likes of Bill Bass and Janis Amatuzio, and figuring this would be as good. Although the book is from the 90s and a bit dated, most of Ubelaker's cases were from long before that and thus the details wouldn't have changes much had the book been written more recently. Instead of focusing just on the cases, t ...more
Dr. Douglas Ubelaker is the curator of anthropology at the Smithsonian, a consultant for the FBI in forensic anthropology, and teaches of forensic anthropology at George Washington University. There were 75 illustrations that didn't really lose anything by being in b&w. Like some of the other forensics books written by professionals for a popular audience Dr. Ubelaker seemed not to be quite sure what would interest us and what we either didn't need explained or didn't want to know. For examp ...more
Nov 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
By the title and the description, I thought that this book was going to be a book involving a step-by-step, from start to finish of cases that Ubelaker has worked on. However, that was not the case. I was actually pleasantly surprised by this book. He covers a lot of different forensic sciences, but he focuses on the sciences surrounding forensic anthropology.

I have previously read Ubelaker's Human Skeletal Remains:Excavation, Analysis, Interpretation and I was pleased that he didn't repeat a g
Anna Engel
I started out reading this book on my subway commute and kept finding myself falling asleep. Not a good sign. So it got relegated to my bedside table.

Dr. Ubelaker tells a good story, but there's also a lot of science in the way. It's as though he was writing a book about the science of forensic anthropology, then was reminded of specific cases. I would have rather had it the other way around. Sometimes his scientific references are beyond the audience, which I assume is the general public. It's
Emma Tiemeyer
Oct 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
The way Dr. Ubelaker narrates puts this book on par with some of the best crime fiction I have ever read! This is a page turner that I could not put down. A thoroughly entertaining bite of nonfiction that I can reread again and again. Each chapter is filled with a lifetimes worth of crime anecdotes and includes plenty of solved and unsolved cases as well. Dr. Ubelaker makes the mundane minutiae of of forensic science absolutely fascinating-from differentiating between the skulls of an encephalic ...more
May 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
The book had an unintentionally strange message. Ubelaker talks about the tremendous strides in forensic investigation, and how much you can tell from a skeletonized corpse if you know what to look for. He and other pathologists mentioned are able to be extremely certain about cause of death..yet in approximately half of the cases he talks about, there is no positive identification of the vitim.

It just struck me as a little odd that he would construct a book with such a mixed message, but as he
Oct 08, 2012 rated it liked it
Probably 3.5 stars. The subtitle of, "A Forensic Detective's Casebook" made me think this was going to be more of a series of detailed descriptions of successive cases. It was more about what he learned while being a Forensic Anthropologist and some snippets from cases that illustrated those points. Sometimes the cases had lots of details and were solved, many times they were not. I suppose that truthfully illustrates the job... many cases are unsolved. I liked this book fine, but some in the ge ...more
Feb 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Dr. Ubelaker is the curator and senior scientist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, as well as a forensic consultant to the FBI. This book is a collection of case histories he has been privy to, and contains a lot of information on the sorts of things forensic scientists look for when examining a case. Recommended for anyone with an interest in that sort of thing.
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
At first I wondered if I was going to get through this one. The author's writing style was dry. As I got into the rythem of his writing, though, it became far more accessible. If you have any interest in forensic anthropology (or if you've seen the TV show Bones) you might find this book interesting.
Jan 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
This brought back fond memories of my college human osteology class. If I had known forensic anthropology was a career option I might have stuck to my original major. Interestingly, the author of the gook was an expert witness in the trials of Buck Walker and Jennifer Jenkins who were accused of the Palmyra murders described in the last book I read (And the Sea Will Tell). Small world.
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
anyone who has even a weak interest in forensic anthropology should read this book. i've read it thrice, prior to this last time, and never does it NOT leave me in awe of what the people who find the identities of our long lost dead do to obtain that knowledge. Simply put, a truly fascinating book.
Jul 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: true-crime
An interesting look at what all a forensic anthropologist does; at some of the considerations in determining age, race, sex, time of death, etc; and at some of the cases wherein the author and the Smithsonian have consulted.
Apr 25, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didn-t-like
Not the author's fault but the information presented is now outdated. I only gave two stars because I did not like the author's writing style. It seemed somewhat standoffish and braggy to me.

Couldn't finish this book.
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fully convinced that I'll never see this again since it's 3000 miles and a few years out of my hands.

I can't flip through and remember why I enjoyed it so much but I did. And I sort of miss it.
Read this as a kid; thought it was pretty cool.

Makes many of the CSI/FS TV dramas look dumb and dull in comparison.
Dave Hofer
Feb 19, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be every metalhead's handbook. Plenty of dry wit, murder, and unabashed brutality. Super interesting.
Oct 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ubelaker was cool before CSI.
Really good casebook of true-detection stories, all specifically using forensic anthropology to determine identity, cause of death and the name of the lawless perpetrator, if there is one.
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Sort of interesting - espeically how it is so different than what one sees on CSI or Bones on TV. The stories are not organized very well. It gets repetative after a while.
Aug 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Very good book by one of the best forensic detectives.

Feb 13, 2008 rated it liked it
Entertaining non-fiction book that is half textbook and half stories from the field. Would be interesting to anyone fascinated by CSI or bioarchaeology related work.
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