In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Assistant Marketing Manager Kate Barton writes about Trail of Bones.
For many years Mary Manhein’s official title was director of the Forensic Anthropology and Computer Enhancement Services (FACES) Laboratory at LSU, but most people know her as “The Bone Lady.” The name originated from the many phone calls received over the years at the geography and anthropology department at LSU from various law enforcement officials who hadn’t yet learned her name. It is such a simple name for someone who has done so much in her career to help solve cold cases and establish the database for unidentified and missing persons in Louisiana.
Like many others, I enjoy watching crime shows on television, so the behind-the-scenes stories told in Trail of Bones captivated me. Many of Manhein’s stories stem from those phone calls from law enforcement where remains are found and they need help identifying the victims so they can piece together what happened. Through forensic science, she is able to give a voice to the victims. I find the facial reconstruction cases, like the identification of Precious Doe, fascinating. It is remarkable how they are able to use a skull and other basic information about age and race to piece together an accurate facial reconstruction. Although there are many aspects of her work that involve measurable data from science, scans, and DNA, it is the human aspect of each story that makes this book so interesting. Every set of bones of them has a story and loved ones who care. Manhein makes you feel as if you are with her for each case, going through all of the trial and error to figure out the identity of each person. This book offers a revealing look at an intriguing profession.
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