Body Bags, a mystery written by Christopher Golden, opens with a killer line: Amanda Green died for a cigarette. Within a matter of pages, Amanda is a goner, having been at the wrong place at the wrong time. It just goes to prove what I've been saying all of my life: Smoking kills. Don't smoke.
But this book is not all about vices. It is about solving the crime, bringing the guilty ones to justice, and taking the most dangerous journey of all: growing up.
The Body of Evidence novels written by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala are intelligent and intriguing forensic mysteries. They offer realistic characters, captivating clues, and detailed autopsies and investigations. The line is made up of ten books, starting with Body Bags, first published by Pocket Books in 1999.
After the tragic prologue, the first chapter introduces us to Jenna Blake, the character who is the core of every novel in the series. The series begins as she travels to college, where she will be a freshman. She considered following in her mother's footsteps and work in medicine until she realized that the sight of blood made her feel out of sorts. Her father, a criminology professor, recommends that she take a job with a medical examiner. The interview takes place during an autopsy. As she settles into school and the M.E.'s office, Jenna soon finds that she has not only the stomach for the job, but the smarts. Ultimately, it is her attention to detail and her insatiable thirst for knowledge as well as her previously unrecognized capacity for daring that solves the troubling case.
The first chapter begins with the line, "It was a beautiful day to grow up." I proudly display this quote at the Bildungsroman website as well as in the sidebar of this blog.
This series is recommended to adults and to teenagers. Readers will find Jenna visiting crime scenes and autopsy rooms nearly as often as she's in her dorm. Her relatives, friends, and studies factor into the books just as much as serial killers and detectives. There's just as much here for a fifty-year-old as for a fifteen-year-old. Throughout the series, Christopher Golden - and, later, collaborator Rick Hautala - created characters who are believable but anything but cookie-cutter. They are all adults, though some are younger than others. Some are parents, some are students, some are detectives, some are doctors, but all are vital to the progress of the stories and of each other. Instead of being full of teen angst or taking on the obvious issue of the week/episode/book, the younger characters are simply dealing with life and getting through things both one day at a time and one leap at a time.
As I wrote in my article entitled Judging the Cover, the book covers in this series never have models and never show a girl dressed in hip clothes. Depicted instead are toe tags, X-rays, bones, eyes, markings and tools used within the story. The covers are dominantly grey, with each book having a different bold accent color. All have a trademark striped pattern down the left edge that repeats itself on the chapter breaks within.
The quality of Body Bags is above and beyond most suspense novels - and it continues throughout the series, versus other series which lose the momentum after a few books, or series in which the books become carbon copies.
If you watch(ed) television series such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or Profiler, then you need to read these books right now. In fact, the first six books were released before CSI was even on the air, but the ninth and tenth books had a little cover tagline: "If you like CSI, you'll love Body of Evidence." It's true - and it's true in the reverse. CSI would benefit from a BoE crossover. Greg and Dyson could have a funny scene, and Slick could exchange notes with Grissom and Dr. Robbins.
For the record, Jenna is far cooler than Sara Sidle.
I highly recommend that you read the Body of Evidence books in order:
- Body Bags
- Thief of Hearts
- Soul Survivor
- Meets the Eye
- Head Games
- Skin Deep
- Burning Bones
- Brain Trust
- Last Breath
- Throat Culture
This is the first of three entries I posted today regarding the Body of Evidence book series as part of the Recommendations Under the Radar project. (Read more about this below.) Part One gives the basic premise of the series and the first book, Body Bags. I compared notes with Jackie from the Interactive Reader blog in Part Two. Author Christopher Golden himself dropped by for an exclusive interview in Part Three.
Recommendations Under the Radar (or Radar Recommendations) is a literature blog project headed up by Colleen of Chasing Ray as a way to encourage readers to pick up some amazing books that deserve your immediate attention. People will be recommending books all week long, ranging from classic books for children to contemporary fiction for adults to inspiring non-fiction pieces.
Check out the other titles being recommended today!
Chasing Ray: Dorothy
Bildungsroman: The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala (Post One, Post Two, and Post Three)
Interactive Reader: The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala
Finding Wonderland: The Curved Saber: The Adventure of Khlit the Cossack by Harold Lamb
Not Your Mother's Bookclub: An interview with Robert Sharenow, author of My Mother the Cheerleader
lectitans: The Angel of the Opera: Sherlock Meets the Phantom of the Opera by Sam Siciliano
Bookshelves of Doom: The God Beneathe the Sea, Black Jack, and Jack Holburn by Leon Garfield
Writing and Ruminating: An interview with Tony Mitton and a review of Plum
The YA YA YAs: I Rode a Horse of Milk White Jade by Diane Lee Wilson
Chicken Spaghetti: The Illustrator's Notebook by Mohieddin Ellabad
Semicolon: Various picture books