Friday, June 20, 2008

Pg. 99: Ted Botha's "The Girl with the Crooked Nose"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Ted Botha's The Girl with the Crooked Nose: A Tale of Murder, Obsession, and Forensic Artistry.

About the book, from the publisher:
In The Girl with the Crooked Nose, Ted Botha tells the absorbing story of Frank Bender, a gifted, self-taught artist who can bring back the dead and the vanished through a unique, macabre sculpting talent. Bender has 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.

Someone is killing the young women of Juarez. Since 1993, the decomposing bodies of as many as four hundred victims, known as feminicidios, have been found in the desert surrounding this gritty Mexican border town. In 2003, prodded by local political pressure and international attention, the Mexican authorities turn to the United States to help solve these horrific crimes. The man they turn to is Bender.

Through breathtakingly realistic sculptures, Bender reconstructs the faces of unknown murder victims or fugitives whose appearances are certain to have changed over years on the run. The busts are based in part on the painstaking application of forensic science to fleshless human skulls and in part on deep intuition, an uncanny ability to discern not only a missing face but also the personality behind it.

Arriving in Mexico, Bender works in secrecy, in a culture of corruption and casual violence where the line between criminals and law enforcement is blurry, braving anonymous threats and sinister coincidences to give eight skulls back their faces and, hopefully, their histories. Drawn to one skull in particular–"The Girl With the Crooked Nose"–Bender gradually comes to suspect that perhaps he is not meant to succeed, and that the true solution to the mystery of the feminicidios is far more terrible than anyone has dared to imagine.

Ted Botha brilliantly weaves Bender’s story–the cases he has solved, the intricacies of his art, the colorful characters he encounters, and the personal cost of his strange obsession–with the chilling story of the Juarez investigation. With a conclusion as shocking as its story is gripping, The Girl with the Crooked Nose will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.
Among the early praise for the book:
“Ted Botha has offered us a compelling glimpse into a gruesome profession that all of us wish didn’t have to exist. He has done justice to a calling that itself brings justice into the darkest corners of the world.”
--Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman

“Botha has written an extraordinary and timely book. Partly the portrait of an impassioned man, partly a true-crime story, partly the heartbreaking tale of the murdered women of Ju├írez – this is also the story of how, at heart, life’s most important work has nothing to do with making money but every thing to do with making a difference.”
--Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight

“Extraordinary … The tales in this book accurately capture the dark movies and complexities of senseless murder, and even the most savvy crime reader will not be able to resist the author’s insightful storytelling.”
--Publishers Weekly

“Fans of crime-solving procedurals will love it.”
--Kirkus
Read an excerpt from The Girl with the Crooked Nose, and learn more about the book and author at Ted Botha's website.

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.

The Page 99 Test: The Girl with the Crooked Nose.

--Marshal Zeringue