Botha tells the absorbing story of Frank Bender, a gifted, self-taught forensic artist. Bender had been the key to solving at least nine murders and tracking down numerous criminals. Then he is called upon to tackle the most challenging and bizarre case of his career.
There is a bewildering, frustrating quality in Botha's crackling account of a quirky, maverick forensics artist, Frank Bender, and his largely successful efforts in facial reconstruction of murder victims. The steady, no-nonsense approach of the author (Mongo: Adventures in Trash) is marred by the herky-jerky sequences of the narrative as he switches from Bender's hit-and-miss past triumphs to a monumental murder case south of the border in the sordid Mexican area near Ciudad Juarez, where about 400 women have been raped, tortured and killed. National and international recognition of Bender's uncanny skill grows, but the psychological toll wears on his home life and his interaction with authorities. What is extraordinary is Botha's writing, with his unerring depiction of Bender's painstaking work and the eventual unraveling of the brutal crimes it solves. Although Bender is not successful with every case, including the epic Mexican serial killings, the tales in this book accurately capture the dark motives and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy true-crime reader will not be able to resist the author's insightful storytelling. 16 pages of photos. (May 13) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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January 03, 2012
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Excerpt from The Girl with the Crooked Nose by Ted Botha
The Nightmare June 2003 Frank was used to the bad dreams. They came with the strange hours and the heads. It was a trio that he had learned to live with ever since the murder of Anna Duval. The dreams returned at random, like old acquaintances—the man hanging in the tree, the boy tied up and strangled and burnt and shot through the temple, the man cut in half by a train—especially when he was working on a new case. It was very early. He had come to bed only at two A.M., after working on a skull that he had just gotten from the New York police. He could hear Jan breathing faintly next to him. Boy lay at his feet while Guy, black and haughty, was barely visible on top of the video recorder in the corner, his eyes the only thing that gave him away. Frank knocked his knee against the side table as he got up. Boy shifted slightly and then settled back into place. Frank turned to see if he had woken Jan, but she hadn’t moved. He pulled on a pair of boxer shorts. He looked good for a man who had just turned sixty-two—a flat hard stomach from years of exercising his abs by hanging off the sofa, skin tanned from cycling along the banks of the Schuylkill River, an eagle tattoo on his sinewy left forearm that he’d gotten in the navy. He resembled the English actor Patrick Stewart with a goatee, or, in his more serious moments, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. Over the years he had cultivated a habit of trying to appear mysterious by bending his head forward slightly so that he looked at a person through his eyebrows. If it worked on men, it made women uncomfortable. But as soon as he smiled, the jig was up. His mischievous grin was infectious, and most people couldn’t help liking him. He had immortalized the grin in a life-size self-portrait that he’d painted several years earlier. Anyone standing close enough to it would see the silver tooth near his upper right incisor—that is, if they weren’t first struck by another part of his anatomy. Not only was Frank naked, but he had done his penis in 3-D. The unframed painting was propped up against a wall near the entrance to his studio door, which meant that anyone who came in— friends, FBI agents, artists, journalists, policemen, criminal profilers, U.S. Marshals, even his grandchildren—had no choice but to see Frank and his penis. It was as much a joke as his statement to the world:Here I am. Take me or leave me. Cocked head, wide grin, upper right incisor glinting. Frank walked from the bedroom into the studio, which was flooded by a full moon shining through the skylight. The luminescence lit up the rows of heads that either looked down from several shelves along the eastern wall or stared up from the floor, at least three dozen bodyless saints and devils. Yvonne Davi took up a corner near Rosella Atkinson, who was next to James Kilgore, the last member of the Symbionese Liberation Army. Ira Einhorn was situated comfortably far from Brad Bishop and the 5,300- year-old man. Near the front of the studio was the icy-eyed Hans Vorhauer, a version of whom Frank had done in concrete to show off the man’s pitted skin. John List hid behind Anna Duval, who looked slightly shocked under her ten-dollar wig, as if Frank had sculpted her a split second before the bullets had entered the back of her head. Some of the busts were unpainted, identified even before Frank had a chance to add their skin tone or the color of their corneas. Other busts had almost too much color, like the girl with green eyes, sculpted when National Geographicwas trying to track down the peasant from Afghanistan who had become one of its most famous cover girls. The heads that