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Clay and Bones
Clay and Bones

Clay and Bones

My Life as an FBI Forensic Artist


248 Pages, 6 x 9

Formats: Cloth, PDF, EPUB, Trade Paper

Cloth, $28.99 (US $28.99) (CA $38.99)

Publication Date: February 2024

ISBN 9781641606516

Rights: WOR

Chicago Review Press (Feb 2024)


eBook Editions Available

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Price: $28.99


Told with unflinching honesty and a touch of gallows humor,Clay and Bonesis the personal memoir of the first female forensic sculptor in the FBI.

Lisa Bailey never considered a career working in death until she saw the FBI job posting for a forensic artist. The idea of using her artistic skill to help victims of crime was too compelling to pass up.

Soon she was documenting crime scenes, photographing charred corpses, and digitally retouching the disembodied heads of suicide bombers. But it was facial approximation—sculpting a face from the remnants of an unidentified victim’s skull—that intrigued her the most. Bailey knew that if she could capture that person’s likeness in clay, she just might help them be identified, and that might help law enforcement track down their killer.

Bailey worked on hundreds of cases and grew to become a subject matter expert in the field. It was the most challenging and fulfilling work she could have imagined, and she never thought of leaving. But her life changed when she became the target of sexual discrimination and harassment. She was stunned when FBI management protected the abusers and retaliated with threats, slander, and an arsenal of lawyers. Trapped in an increasingly hostile work environment, and infuriated at the hypocrisy of the FBI’s tactics, Bailey decided to fight back.

Clay and Bones is a memoir with a mission, and a fascinating exploration into the surreal and satisfying work of a forensic artist.


A fascinating account! Lisa Bailey deserves both our deepest respect and our profound admiration. I say this, first, in tribute to her incisive intellect, as revealed in these astonishing pages, that led to groundbreaking work in forensic investigation. And, importantly, I say this in honor of her unflinching courage in face of the flagrant gender discrimination and despicable administrative dishonesty she was forced to endure in her FBI workplace. The Bureau prides itself on being one of the world’s top law enforcement agencies, but the lack of any sense of internal justice within the ranks of its upper management reveals an organization that has much to answer for.” —Douglas Schofield, coauthor of Giovanni’s Ring: My Life Inside the Real Sopranos

“Lisa Bailey’s story covering her fascinating career as a forensic artist and the bizarre treatment she endured while employed at the FBI is as compelling as a crime novel. In Clay and Bones, readers have a front row seat to the real world of forensic art and the real fight for justice Ms. Bailey braved through for years at the very agency that claims justice as the primary goal.” —Melissa Ross, author of Forensics for Kids

“You know you’re in for a wild ride when a book drops you into the Body Farm on the first page. From investigations of charred corpses to intensive work on boxes of unidentified skulls, Clay and Bones is a gripping account of the day-to-day duties of an FBI forensic artist. And if you think reconstructing someone’s face from decades-old remains is Bailey’s most difficult challenge, you’re in for a big surprise.” —Lindsey Fitzharris, New York Times bestselling author of The Facemaker 

“After performing thousands of autopsies and writing dozens of articles and three books on the subject of messy death, the two of us learned things from Lisa Bailey about the grotesque decomposition of the elements of a human face that can happen as a consequence of certain violent, fatal events. Clay and Bones surprises even us. And that’s really saying something!" —Judy Melinek, MD, and T.J. Mitchell, authors of Working Stiff

“A gruesomely vivid book.” — Kirkus Reviews

"...Bones fans will enjoy the insider’s view of forensic analysis” — Publishers Weekly

"Clay and Bones shines a light on a crucial position in law enforcement while also revealing systemic flaws at the premier U.S. law enforcement agency... Readers will be mesmerized by her work and angered by the targeted harassment she received." — Booklist

“Bailey’s writing is profound and personal, with a narrative voice that is intimate, relatable, and a touch wry, making Clay and Bones intensely readable.” —C. S. Poe, author of the award-winning Memento Mori mystery series

Author Biography

Lisa Bailey is a retired FBI forensic artist, adjunct faculty member of the FBI Academy, and instructor of the FBI Forensic Facial Imaging Class. She has been featured prominently in major news outlets such as the Washington Post, National Public Radio, America’s Most Wanted, Dateline NBC, and A&E Real Crime. Bailey and her forensic art also appear in Mental Floss, Medium, and the National Museum of Health and Medicine.