Review #10: On/Off by Colleen McCullough

The most unique piece of this serial killer mystery-thriller is that it is set in 1965. This is a time before DNA forensic technology, before computers, and before cell phones. Detectives and crime scene personnel had to do old-fashioned detecting, often relying on wit, instinct, and a keen eye. Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico is called in to investigate when a young woman’s body is found in the walk-in freezer of an animal research lab at a prestigious Connecticut University. As he investigates the various staff and faculty, more and more bodies pile up, leading Carmine to wonder whether this is the work of, what we now call, a serial killer.

I started reading this book last year, but gave up half-way through the first chapter, which I believe is almost sixty pages of mind-numbing character introduction (every single employee at the research lab is introduced and interrogated). However, I picked it up again earlier this year, and once I made it through the first chapter, this was easily one of the more exciting murder mysteries I’ve read in a while. The killer is not revealed until the end and it was very interesting to see how all the clues pointed towards this person. The last few pages (and what it means for the story) felt a bit tacked on, although it certainly added an additional dimension. I’m not sure if it was the right choice for this book, to be honest, but it definitely got me thinking.

I think the only part of the book that felt a bit… wasted, I think is the word I want, were the portrayal and handling of race relations. Obviously, this dynamic was core to 1965 America, but certain parts of these did not feel particularly organic to the story, although it was eventually weaved in. Throughout though, I kept forgetting that this was part of the story and feeling a bit jarred when it came back up.

Overall, though, I really enjoyed this book once I made it past the first chapter!

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