Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “missing persons”

Speaking in bones

Speaking in BonesSpeaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was a rather disappointing book. It features Dr Temperance Brennan, who, like the author, is a forensic anthropologist, trying to assist in the solving of crimes through the examination of human remains, especially bones.

It started off quite well, and introduced me to several things that I didn’t know — that there were such things as websleuths, amateur detectives who use information from the Internet to try to match unidentified dead bodies with reports of missing persons. It sounds like quite a good idea, until you discover that there is also a great deal of rivalry and sometimes hostility among them. But that kind of thing appeals to the family historian in me, because a lot of family history is in effect looking for missing persons.

Colin Darlington Rogers once wrote a book on Tracing missing persons and found that most of the readers were actually genealogists and family historians, so he wrote another book called The Family Tree Detective which was a pretty good how-to book for its time (pre-Internet), in England and Wales, and has followed it up with several more.

So I was thinking that this might be an interesting missing person’s mystery, but then it seemed to fall apart as I read further. The first thing that struck me as strange was that the author seemed to be enjoying commercial sponsorship. I kept wondering about that, when the protagonist didn’t just make calls on her cell/mobile phone, but we were told specifically that it was an iPhone. And when she was searching the Internet for websleuths, she opened her Macbook to do so. And her mother didn’t just go on a computer course, it was an Apple computer course. So I was wondering if she was getting paid for each mention of the brand name.

That was slightly irritating. But it was also annoying when the author tried to end every chapter with a cliff-hanger, and when you read the next chapter the “cliff” turned out to be nother more than a nine-inch wall. One was led to expect dire and perilous happenings that turned out to be quite banal.

And then quite a lot of the plot turned on the beliefs of a weird religious sect that majored on exorcism. Now there are lots of weird religious sects out there that do very strange stuff, like spraying people with insecticide and getting them to drink rat poison. But the one in the book seemed inauthentically weird. It struck me that that is one of the problems of using the web for research. It is great for verifying information when you have a framework of knowledge to put it into, but if you try to research from scratch without knowing what you are looking for, but can get seriously led up the garden path. And while there is a considerable difference between social anthropology and physical anthropology, reading a book by a social anthropologist, like Demons and the devil by Charles Stewart might have been a better preparation.

So yes, it was disappointing in the end.

View all my reviews

UKZN professor missing

There have been reports on Twitter that Professor Steve de Gruchy has been missing since Sunday after tubing at Mooi River.

Professor Steve de Gruchy is an ordained minister in the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA), Professor of Theology and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He also serves as Head of the School of Religion and Theology, and has been Editor of the Journal of Theology for Southern Africa since 2003.

The most recent news on Twitter, at the time of writing, was:

delmelinscott Please pray for Prof Steve De gruchy. He is missing after a tubing incident in Mooi River yesterday. http://myloc.me/43IkH

posted 19 hours ago.

I have been working with Steve de Gruchy’s father, Professor John de Gruchy of the University of Cape Town, on a research project on the history of the charismatic renewal movement in Southern Africa.

Update 24 Feb 2010

New reports say that since there has been no sign of him since Sunday, he is presumed to have drowned.

Memory eternal!

Post Navigation