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.
He has been a writer ever since his tenth grade teacher at Corinth High School embarrassed him by saying "we just may have a writer in the class" after an assignment, but he's eternally thankful for teachers like her and the vote of confidence she gave him that day. Since that time he's won several writing awards for various short stories, poems and a poetry collection entitled Animals and Imagined Monsters which was published by Amsterdam Press in 2010.
He is a pharmaceutical executive by day and an author by night. He double-majored in Chemistry and English during undergraduate studies at Mississippi College and University College London, then studied creative writing at the University of Idaho before finishing a PhD in Pharmacology from the University of Pennsylvania. Hailing from Mississippi, it's impossible for his favorite author to be anyone other than William Faulkner… but he has been influenced by many other writers as well, including Albert Camus, Kurt Vonnegut, Dashiell Hammet, Stephen King, John Grisham, Michael Connelly and Michael Crichton. He has a great love for poetry too: his favorite poets include Syliva Plath, Ted Hughes, Anne Sexton, Theodore Roethke and Robert Smith (of The Cure).
He is a member of several writer's associations including International Thriller Writers (ITW), the Author's Guild, Poets & Writers, and The Academy of American Poets. He is also an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and a member of several scientific organizations including the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, the American Association of Cancer Research, the Society of Toxicology, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
His scientific research has been covered in The New York Times, and he has authored more than 100 book chapters, review articles and research papers on scientific topics. He is the editor of two scientific textbooks: An Introduction to Toxicogenomics was published by CRC Press (Boca Raton, FL) in 2003, and Surrogate Tissue Analysis: Genomic, Proteomic and Metabolomic Approaches was published by Taylor and Francis (London, UK) in 2005.
Part of the author’s real-life research involves scanning the 3.2 billion nucleotides of human DNA to identify tiny alterations that influence individuals’ susceptibility to disease. Because of his background in modern molecular biology, his fiction is suffused with cutting edge science and genetics. His debut novel, The Ripper Gene, introduces readers to Dr. Lucas Madden, a neuroscientist-turned-FBI profiler who applies a controversial genetic approach to behavioral profiling during a serial killer investigation in the Mississippi Delta.
The author grew up in rural Mississippi but has lived in a variety of locales including Idaho, London, Philadelphia, and Boston. He currently resides in northern New Jersey outside Manhattan.
The Ripper Gene is his first novel.
Every Halloween the ladies from Crossroads Baptist took us to different church members’ houses for trick-or-treating, so no razor blades, rat poison, or liquid Drano would end up in our candy. My mother was always one of the chaperones, and that night she rode in the front seat of Mrs. Callahan's station wagon with us.
The car rolled steadily beneath the swaying fingers of Spanish moss as we left the swamps. Glowing faces floated in the back seat around me as we bounced over the rutted, gravel road. A ghost, a cowboy, a ballerina, a ghoul. One kid even wore a devil mask beside me.
I wore a knight’s costume, replete with a wooden sword and a breastplate of armor made from an aluminum trashcan. The lid served as my shield.
Mara, my twelve year-old girlfriend, sat beside me. She was dressed like a princess, a silver tiara glinting atop her raven black hair in the moonlight. We’d stolen a kiss in the bathroom of the church basement earlier, during the apple-bobbing contest. There, in the darkness of the back seat, I could still taste the cinnamon from her glossed lips. The memory of kissing her, somehow finding her mouth with my own in that dark and forbidden bathroom, had sent pulsating waves of excitement through my young torso for the entire night.
We continued along the gravel roads not speaking, just stealing glances in the moonlight.
No man-made lights or lampposts punctuated the pine-choked countryside surrounding us. Out the windows a million stars spread away from the Milky Way like a white paint explosion across a midnight-blue canvas.
Just as Mara leaned towards me to finally speak, the car slammed to a halt, screeching in the gravel and sliding a good twenty feet on the road. All the kids toppled to the floorboard and after a moment’s silence, Mrs. Callahan’s voice whispered in the dark. “Oh, my God.
I poked my head above the back seat just as my mother replied, the thick curls of her black hair spilling over the seat and filling my view. “Oh, just some young boys horsing around up there. Wait. Is that blood, Marjorie? Drive on up.”
Mrs. Callahan shifted into drive, but didn’t take her foot off the brake. “Probably just a Halloween prank, Mrs. Madden. We best go on around.” Mrs. Callahan’s eyes were so intensely focused ahead that I craned my neck away from my mother’s hair to follow her gaze.
Two teen-age boys, both in white T-shirts and jeans, stood illuminated on the road ahead. One of them turned toward us, shielding a hand in front of his eyes, the front of his T-shirt stained a deep red. A moment later the other boy staggered and fell sideways into the shallow ditch along the far side of the road.
“Margie, I think they’re really hurt,” my mother said. “Maybe they were in a car wreck.”
Mrs. Callahan's eyes narrowed and her voice fell to a growl. “Ain’t no cars around here, Mrs. Madden. Why don’t we just go to the next house and call an ambulance?”
I inhaled the air behind my mother’s hair. She used Prell, and her hair smelled just like the green liquid in the bottle. She faced Mrs. Callahan, but caught sight of me out of the corner of her eye and cupped my chin in her hand as she spoke. “It wouldn’t be Christian, Margie. Drive on up, and I’ll roll down the window and ask them what happened. Go on.”
Mrs. Callahan eyed my mother as if to speak, but instead released the brake and we rolled forward in the night slowly, approaching the boys. The one boy still lied face down in the ditch, unmoving. The other one stumbled at the edge of the road, moving in circles back and forth as though tracing the symbol for infinity.
My mother rolled down her window.
The boy who was still standing was crying. His blond hair hung in front of his face, and he whined. “Help us, please. There’s another boy on the other side of the hill. He ain’t moving, either. We had an accident. We were riding motorcycles.”
My mother unlocked and opened her door. “Margie. You stay with the children–” she began, but Mrs. Callahan’s hand shot across the seat and clutched my mother by the sleeve of her white sweater.
“Mrs. Madden. Really. I don’t know.”
My mother leaned back inside and smiled. But it wasn’t the genuine kind, rather the kind she always used whenever she was about to end a conversation. I knew it, and Mrs. Callahan knew it, too.
“Margie, these boys are hurt,” she said, “and I’m a nurse. It’s the only thing I can do. Ya’ll go on up to Nellie’s. Call 911 and the ambulance. Then call Jonathan and let him know I’m all right. Leave the children at Nellie’s for the time being. When the police get there, bring them here. We’ll be waiting right here on the side of the road. Hopefully that poor boy in the woods isn’t hurt too bad.”
“Mama,” I said.
“Hush. Go on up with Mrs. Callahan and I’ll help these boys, then I’ll see you and daddy up at the house. I love you, Lucas.”
The memory always goes fuzzy then. The next thing I remember is my mother’s face receding into the dark woods as Mrs. Callahan drives away. I press my face against the glass of the window, a tear trickling for some reason over my cheek as the one bloodied boy holds my mother’s wrist and leads her into the overgrown grass and small trees. My mother looks back at me one last time, smiling the way only women can, the one that’s sad and frightened and turned in the wrong direction but is supposed to reassure you that everything will be fine.
It’s the last time I’ll ever see my mother’s face.
They disappear into the woods.
And just before our station wagon crests the hill, I see the other mortally wounded boy suddenly stand up in the ditch, not looking at all as sick and hurt as he’d appeared before. He looks furtively about to make sure no one is watching, then runs into the woods, sneaking behind my mother and her bloodied companion.
I wrestle and thrash in the car, begging Mrs. Callahan to stop, until she finally screams at the top of her voice, swearing at me with a stream of profanities that stun us all into silence, screaming at me to be quiet because I’m scaring the other children. She drives faster and I can still hear the sounds of children crying all around me as the dark forest envelopes the empty gravel road behind us, separating me farther and farther from my mother, forever.
Thanks to the publisher, I have one (1) copy of The Ripper Gene to give away.
Giveaway open to residents of the US only.
Giveaway ends on September 27th
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