<B>One woman's pursuit of justice</B>Clea Koff inherited a passion for justice. She is the child of two documentary filmmakers, one Tanzanian, one American, both human rights activists. She learned from childhood a humanitarian perspective that transcends the violent eruptions over cultural clashes and imaginary lines on maps. She cares about human beings innocent, suffering human beings, the doomed victims of our perverse tendency to periodically allow madmen to run amok.
Koff's chilling but mesmerizing first book, <B>The Bone Woman</B>, is her account of how, beginning in 1996, she became one of the few people qualified to amass evidence against claims of genocide and crimes against humanity. To prosecute such charges requires evidence that the victims were noncombatants. Prosecutors must identify the victims and prove how they died.
It was not her intention to become a world-class witness to the atrocities of her time. She trained as a forensic anthropologist, planning to study prehistoric skeletons whose lives and deaths were comfortably remote from her own era and her own mortality, but she could not ignore the atrocities in Eastern Europe and Africa. Koff's account is neither histrionic nor preachy; it's clear-eyed, hard-headed and straightforward. She anchors the horrific details in her own daily routine and her emotional responses to her work. She reports on perpetrators convicted (or not) from evidence she provides. This book works so well, is so vivid and so moving, because Koff surrounds the dead bodies with living stories. Because Koff works within an international framework of people whose job it is to pursue whatever approximation of justice they can cobble together from the rubble of ruined lives, she and her story become inspiring. Her intention here is to testify and she insists on looking atrocity in the eye. She admits to us the sadness and horror she herself experienced. In doing so, Clea Koff exhibits the very emotion lacking in the mass murderers whose crimes she unravels: empathy for other human beings. <I>Michael Sims' most recent book,</I> Adam's Navel, <I>was a</I> New York Times <I>Notable Book.</I>