Summoned from his beloved “Body Farm” in Tennessee to Avignon, France by his protégé Miranda Lovelady under false pretenses, Dr. Bill Brockton soon forgets his anger at being mislead when Miranda reveals the real reason she needed her mentor.
While working on an excavation in the Palace of the Popes Miranda and her dig partner uncovered a stone ossuary filled with bones. Interesting, but not worthy enough in and of itself to warrant tricking the world-renowned forensic anthropologist into flying four thousand miles.
No, what turned the find from interesting into potentially world changing was the inscription on the ossuary… the one which indicates the bones contained within it are those of Jesus of Nazareth. Being scientists, Brockton and Miranda are initially skeptical. Being good scientists, however, they are willing to put in the research and let the forensic results speak for themselves.
When testing dates the bones at two thousand years and a link between them and the impression on the Shroud of Turin is discovered, Brockton and Miranda realize they could be sitting on one of the biggest archeological discoveries in history. They aren’t the only ones who realize it, however, and soon the two scientists find themselves in the crosshairs of rivals, the Vatican, and a very determined religious zealot, all of whom will stop at nothing to possess the bones.
The Inquisitor’s Key, the seventh entry in the Body Farm series by Jefferson Bass (the writing team of Dr. Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson), finds big changes in store for both series lead Dr. Bill Brockton as well as readers. For starters, the setting. Having previously only worked cases in the United States, and most of them in his home state of Tennessee at that, the transplanting of Brockton to Avignon, France makes for a dramatic change of scenery. And what gorgeous scenery it is, described in such loving detail the city all but becomes one of the characters. (My ARC even includes a wonderful two-page map of the ancient walled city at the beginning of the book).
In another departure, there is actually a bit less focus on the forensic anthropology in The Inquisitor’s Key than in previous entries in the series. Which is not to say the book lacks the great scientific investigation and detail the series has deservedly come to be known for, rather the scope and direction of the forensic investigation has expanded in this outing to include aspects of both art and religious history in addition to Brockton’s study of the bones. Being somewhat out of his natural element – both physically and scientifically – also brings a welcome new dimension to Brockton’s character as we get to watch him struggle a bit to make sense of the events unfolding around him, including his deepening questions about his relationship with Miranda.
Indeed, longtime readers will find The Inquisitor’s Key to be an exciting new entry into an already solid series. Coincidentally, the significant change in setting and tone also provides the perfect opportunity for those new to Brockton and the Body Farm to jump in and get their feet wet without missing a beat.
The Inquisitor’s Key will be published by William Morrow on May 8, 2012 (ISBN: 978-0061806797).