The Ripper Gene – Michael Ransom

About the Book

A neuroscientist-turned-FBI-profiler discovers a gene that produces psychopaths in this thrilling debut novel.

Dr. Lucas Madden is a neuroscientist-turned-FBI profiler who first gained global recognition for cloning the ripper gene and showing its dysfunction in the brains of psychopaths. Later, as an FBI profiler, Madden achieved further notoriety by sequencing the DNA of the world’s most notorious serial killers and proposing a controversial “damnation algorithm” that could predict serial killer behavior using DNA alone.

Now, a new murderer—the Snow White Killer—is terrorizing women in the Mississippi Delta. When Mara Bliss, Madden’s former fiancée, is kidnapped, he must track down a killer who is always two steps ahead of him. Only by entering the killer’s mind will Madden ultimately understand the twisted and terrifying rationale behind the murders—and have a chance at ending the psychopath’s reign of terror.

303 pages (hardcover)
Published on August 18, 2015
Published by Forge
Author’s website
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This book was sent for me to review by the publisher.

I don’t typically review books like this, but every once in a while a publisher will slip one into my mailbox, and it grabs me and, well, here I am. As an added benefit, the other day I was reorganizing my bedroom and I found a HUGE pile of books that I had stashed somewhere because I had no room for them on my bookshelves. Now, suddenly, I have a whole lot of books to read that I forgot I had! Woo!

The Ripper Gene is a surprisingly intelligent thriller. While the setup felt fairly typical to me – a FBI profiler who finds himself on a case that defies explanation and quickly consumes him – I quickly realized that this really wasn’t a typical book at all. Not the least of which is due to the fact that it is incredibly well written, and very, very intelligent.

Dr. Lucas Madden was a neuroscientist who changed careers and found himself to be one of the leading criminal profilers in the FBI. At first it seems like he’s got it all under control, and lived a cushy life and then managed a successful career. Other than a very captivating prologue, Madden really seem put together. Slowly Ransom chips away at the veneer that makes Lucas Madden as polished as he is.

While Madden gains depth and a few chips and flaws to his impeccably built character, an entire mystery is unfolding all around him. It goes from interesting to riveting incredibly quickly as Madden finds himself a bit too close to all the things that are happening. He’s emotionally invested, which makes the readers emotionally invested.

The murder mystery is much like Madden himself. It starts out fairly typical, feeling pretty polished, and with the sense that eventually you’ll probably be able to predict the outcome. Slowly, deftly, Ransom peels away all of that until readers realize it’s just a façade, and exposes the dirty, unpredictability that the book is built on. Yes, you’ll be able to predict some aspects of this book. No, it probably won’t bother you much because it is so well done.

This book interested me for more reasons than just the character development and the murder mystery. While those are interesting, what really kept me going was the science that Ransom used throughout his book. He brings forward an interesting argument dealing with nature and nurture. Can science determine whether or not a person will be a serial killer, and if so, can it determine what kind of serial killer they will be?

And while these aren’t new questions posed to readers, what might actually be new about them is how they are handled, and so flawlessly woven into the book until these hypotheticals are just as interesting as the plot itself. Ransom himself has a rather extensive and technical background in science, and that is probably part of why these questions, and scientific postulations are dealt with so well. It helps to read stuff like this when it is written by someone who knows how to address these topics based on personal experience.

The Ripper Gene really surprised me. I don’t typically like books like this because I read so much they become predictable fast, and it’s a lot less fun when you can see how these things are going to end when your 1/4th of the way through. This was one of those rare thrillers that really worked for me. Superb writing, fantastic character development, and a riveting plot works together to make something that is quite remarkable. But what really hooked me was the science, and the absolutely superb ways that the author asked some provocative questions, and left his readers no real answers. He laid out a scenario, and requires the readers to figure out where they stand on the issues and questions presented.

This isn’t speculative fiction, but a thriller. Regardless, I liked it so much I felt like it deserved a place on my website. If you’re in the mood for something a bit different, and something that requires you to really think about more than just the mystery, then check out The Ripper Gene. I was pleasantly surprised.

4/5 stars

One Responses

  • I always feel like I should be reading more thrillers.

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