The team of Dr. William Bass and Jon Jefferson, writing as Jefferson Bass,
have another clever chapter in their acclaimed Body Farm series, "The Inquisitor's Key." (William Morrow, 353 pages)
In what they consider to be their most ambitious work, "The Inquisitor's Key" takes the forensic anthropologists from the University of Tennessee's Body Farm to France where they uncover a medieval mystery with ramifications which could greatly alter American politics.
Dr. Brockton's assistant, Miranda Lovelady, is in Avignon where she is examining an ossuary containing bones which appear to be those of Jesus of Nazareth.
Under the pretext of suffering appendicitis, Miranda summons her mentor, Dr. Bill Brockton, director of the research facility known as the Body Farm, to France to help her unravel what promises to be the greatest mystery of all time.
After forensic facial reconstruction of the skull, the two discover that the Avignon man bears a striking likeness to the facial image of the man in the Shroud of Turin.
But the Avignon bones are clearly those of a much older man which would seem to rule out Jesus of Nazareth.
Brockton and Miranda unearth a mystery rooted in the dark days of the Papal Inquisition which has repercussions in the present day, as they uncover a fanatical minister's diabolical plot to conjure up the Parousia.
Those devoted to the Shroud of Turin may be offended by the discussion of how
this relic could be an excellent work of religious art, but not the actual burial shroud of Christ.
This portion is based on an article authored by anthropologist Emily Craig and textile scientist Randy Bresee published in 1994 which demonstrated how a medieval artist could have created the image in the Shroud. For this publication, they reported having received plenty of hate mail.
On the lighter side, the duo give a marvelous discussion on the medieval church's obsession with relics - can it be true that even the tail of the donkey which Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday was saved?