**WARNING — THIS REVIEW CONTAINS POTENTIAL SPOILERS**
Michael Ransom’s debut novel, The Ripper Gene, is a fast-paced who-dunnit thriller that should keep you glued to the pages of the book. I read this book in three sittings, and only reluctantly stopped reading the first two times.
Dr. Lucas Madden is a former neuroscientist who has become a FBI profiler. His most impressive work as a scientist is that he isolated what he coined the “Ripper gene” in the DNA sequence and proposed that this could determine a predisposition to become a serial killer. Now, as a FBI profiler, Lucas is assigned to a case that’s being dubbed The Snow White Killer due to the apple found in the hand of his young female victims. But even early on, Lucas can’t shake the feeling that these killings are targeting him , somehow. And when his ex-fiancée is not only kidnapped, but accuses Lucas of committing the crime, he knows he has to solve the mystery quickly.
This book moves along really well. Ransom knows how to hold the reader’s attention and keep us wanting to get to the next moment.
The book got off to a slow start for me. The first three or four chapters moved very slowly as our main character was being established. One incident, and Ransom’s expounding on it, had me worried early that the book would be full of characters jumping to conclusions.
Very early on, Dr. Madden is giving a lecture to a number of FBI agents. When he opens the floor for questions, he gets one question, which he answers quickly, and then a female agent asks him a question, which, through her explaining the question, prompts a second question – “have you tested it yet?” By his own admission, Madden is “perturbed, but only because she was partly right – we hadn’t tested it in the real world yet.” He then senses that the agents in the room expect some verbal sparring, and he shuts down lecture and Q&A session. Pretty quick and simple. Except, only two paragraphs later, when someone asks how it went, he says “I think I had a detractor,” and the woman is immediately identified. And later still (in the same chapter), after meeting with the woman, he thinks “Despite our bout in the Q and A session after the lecture…” Hmmm… one question, that was a sore point because it was accurate, is considered a ’bout’? I definitely had concerns that this character was going to be awfully wimpy if he can’t shake off a very tame Q&A session!
Three other moments in the book bothered me enough that I had to make note of them. Discussion of these notes definitely constitute SPOILERS!
The victims of the Snow White Killer (SWK) have letters written on their foreheads in blood, but the blood isn’t from the victims. It is determined that the blood used on the foreheads all comes from the same source. To me, this is highly significant. To Madden’s boss, not so much (even though he says it is). He says:
…I don’t know about a hunch. I don’t like it. But I can’t deny that it’s significant that the DNA in the bloody letters is coming from the same source. I’m willing to throw you a bone and let you keep working on this angle. But it’s low priority. Understood?
Blood found on the victims matches and it’s not from the victims, but it’s low priority?! That was a tough moment to accept. But also tough… not one of the brilliant FBI or local law enforcement agents ever stopped to think… they began to realize that the letters written on the foreheads were a DNA sequence, not words, and that each of the victims had small pin-pricks on their fingers. Now…I’m not a scientist, but my first thought is that someone with access to blood testing equipment is the killer. I’d be ordering checks on hospitals, clinics, and EMTs in the area! But apparently this is not normal law enforcement thinking, because no one else thinks along these lines.
And finally, near the end of the book, when Madden recognizes that his father is in danger, Madden and his partner rush to the father’s home. There is clearly evidence of a struggle (mentioned at least twice). There are papers scattered about, but on one of them, Madden’s father has written a cryptic message … a clue as to where he’s been taken. Read that again, carefully. After a struggle, he leaves a note in his own home, to give his son a clue where he’s been taken. If he hasn’t been taken there yet, how can he leave a note as to where it is? Okay…maybe we can buy the fact that the kidnapper is telling him what’s going to happen, but how is there time to write this out after a struggle? Sorry this just didn’t pan out well enough for me.
(Also…Madden saying that SWK was dead, when he wasn’t … just made no sense other than it could lead to a second climax.)
But even with these moments that struck me as not quite right, I enjoyed the read and really did get caught up in the story (which is perhaps why these moments stuck out to me so much) and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery/thrillers.
Looking for a good book? The Ripper Gene, by Michael Ransom, is a fast-paced, exciting mystery that will have you riveted to the story. An excellent first novel.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
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The Ripper Gene
author: Michael Ransom
publisher: Forge Books
hardcover, 304 pages