Friday, June 20, 2008

Ted Botha's "The Girl with the Crooked Nose"

Ted Botha's first book, Apartheid in my Rucksack, was a personal account of discovering Africa as a white African. His book Mongo, Adventures in Trash deals with the people in New York City who collect what others consider garbage. With Jenni Baxter, he wrote The Expat Confessions, about the trials and tribulations of South Africans who live abroad.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry, and reported the following:
On page 99, we meet the girl with the shattered head. She's been killed with a blast from a shotgun to the face, and Frank Bender has to piece together the 300 bits of her skull before he can start sculpting a face onto it. He's never done anything like this before – gluing together the puzzle of a skull - but he knows that if he doesn't do it no one else will. This is America of the ’80s, and forensics is a young science. Who, if anyone, puts skulls back together again? Frank, as in everything else he does in forensics, feels and intuits his way with this case, first reconstructing the skull, then putting a face on it. For him, getting an identification of a victim is the main reason he became an amateur sleuth to begin with – to see justice done, a victim ID’d, a murderer caught. The girl with the shattered head is as good a case as any in the book - and I deal with many cases that Frank has gotten involved in since 1977 - to show the kind of intuition, artistry, and sense of the macabre that it takes for him to imagine the faces of murder victims or of fugitives who've been on the run for decades. Moreover, these are all his training for the big case of his career, in 2003 – the murders of the women in Juarez, Mexico.
Read an excerpt from The Girl with the Crooked Nose, and learn more about the book and author at Ted Botha's website.

--Marshal Zeringue