The hyper-sensitivity to smells in particular has not been exploited enough in fiction, and I soon realized that it was the perfect trait for a crime investigator. – E.E. Giorgi, at goodreads
What if a novelist took the poetic license of using epigenetics to turn back “on” some our silenced genes and create an ordinary man with extraordinary senses? E.E. Giorgi explores that intriguing premise in “Chimeras,” and continues with “Mosaics.”
Detective Ulysses “Track” Presius just dispatched a villain at the end of Book One (Chimeras). As usual, when Track catches a killer, he pays a terrible price. This time, it costs him his lover, as well as the usual police department chastising him, confiscating his guns, putting him on leave and deciding whether or not to allow this homicidal cop back on the force.
Lieutenant Gomez, at the end of Book Two (Mosaics) is once again glaring at Track with those bulging eyes, his face beet-red, yelling and smelling “of chamomile and interrupted dreams” (I love how Track identifies everyone by smell). “Will you ever–*ever*–be able to close a case following the usual police procedural?” Gomez shouts. “That’s how cowboys conduct investigations,” one of the FID goons adds, but Gomez is in no mood to laugh.
Well, I was. And I did (laugh). Elena Giorgi‘s prose is full of pithy, witty, comic, or tragic, or merely memorable lines.
The cowboy image helps explain my affection for Track. I grew up on the 1960s TV Westerns my dad watched. Go get ’em, Track! Forget procedures and rules. Never mind a fair trial and the ethics of capital punishment. Hang ’em high, Track! We are Americans, fiercely independent by nature. United we stand; united, we love you!
Sorry. I digress.
Track’s lover doesn’t die in that riveting climax in Book One. He loses her because she isn’t quite the “yay, Track!” cheerleader I am. Neither is Hortensia, the red-haired artist living along Venice Beach. Track takes her for granted, so the reader does, too. Well, hey, Hort assured him she liked it that way, and like the normal guy he could have been but isn’t, Track believed her. The other woman, though, is more vulnerable and more open about being needy. She’s suffered a lifetime of abusive men and awful relationships. When the villain uses her as a human shield to keep Track from shooting him, Track is all about satisfying his own instinct to kill rather than putting his lover’s safety above all other considerations.
Well, I might take the same risk. You just can’t let the villain get away. Sorry, honey.
Oh, there’s a million other things going on in Mosaics. The first page is so gruesome, I don’t know why I bothered to keep reading. Wait, yes I do. Book One wasn’t that lurid. Nope. By the time Track owned my soul (or my reading time, anyway), it was too late to let a little thing like a woman’s eyeballs melting in their sockets (while she’s conscious!) keep me from getting more Track.
Really, it’s a problem. Today I spent 90 minutes on the treadmill just to finish this novel. My feet hurt. (Knees, too, yada yada.) Worst of all, even though Track managed to sniff out the murderer at last, there remains an unsolved question. Track’s epigenetic condition (which makes him so much cooler than any other detective in America) is somehow backfiring on him. One geneticist tells Track he’s gonna die. Well, is he?? Normally this is where I answer my question: Of course not! But this novel does not end with that decisive assurance. If there’s no Book 3 coming, I’ll just write my own ending in my mind.
Well, you might be wondering about the plot. It’s more complicated, layered, tricky and challenging than Book One. People are connected to each other in ways that even Track can’t sniff out right away. The body count is staggering. It looks like more than one killer is at work here. Only Track has the talent to find out.
I’d love to say more, but I Kindle shared so many lines already, I got a message 3/4 of the way in that “this book no longer allows Kindle sharing.” Seriously, I read those words on my Kindle screen, and I was unable to share the comment even if I opted out of Twitter AND Facebook AND amazon sharing. I avoid spoilers when I post these excerpts. I don’t repeat an entire novel one tweet at a time. So what happened?
Just take my word for it, if you can’t find my Kindle Shares: this novel is filled with great scenes, great characters and great lines. Call me an addict. More Track, please! Oh, and I never tire of the Greek mythology (Nemesis!), nor the sound track in the background. Dave Brubeck and other jazz legends add a sultry, sexy mood if you know the music or play it while reading this sophisticated, science-laced, literary thriller.
DISCLAIMER: I bought this book myself. It wasn’t an ARC or a gift from the author with some request for a review. Lately I’ve rediscovered the joy of finding books on my own and deciding whether or not I’d like to read/review them without the obligation to do so for NetGalley, Vine or some earnest Indie Author who knows reviews can make or break sales.
BONUS: After I became a fan of E.E. Giorgi, Elena and I started emailing each other like old friends. This is the beauty of indie authors who are personable and approachable. They talk to their readers! Imagine emailing Stephen King on a regular basis.
E.E. Giorgi grew up in Tuscany, in a house on a hill that she shared with two dogs, two cats, 5 chickens, and the occasional batches of stick insects, newts and toads her dad would bring home from the lab. Today, E.E. Giorgi is a scientist and an award winning author and photographer. She spends her days analyzing genetic data, her evenings chasing sunsets, and her nights pretending she’s somebody else. On her blog, E.E. discusses science for the inquiring mind, especially the kind that sparks fantastic premises and engaging stories. Her debut novel CHIMERAS, a medical mystery, is a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner.
From her goodreads page: Where did you get the idea for your most recent book?
E.E. Giorgi To be completely honest, the inspiration for the Track Presius mystery series was a vampire book that I picked up and found so disappointing I couldn’t get it out of my head (no, I shall never pick up a vampire book again!). I guess there is such a thing as a “negative inspiration,” because I couldn’t get over how bad the book was, and how differently I would’ve written the story had I been the author.
Around the same time, I discovered that most of our genome is made of genes that have lost their function. I was reading a paper on these “silent genes,” when it occurred to me that while vampires do not exist, predators like lions and wolves not only exist—their genes are still embedded in our genome. And that’s when that alternative story brewing in my head took a completely new angle.
The idea for the main character, Detective Track Presius, came from the following question: what if the ancestral genes we have in our DNA suddenly turned on? Our predator ancestors heavily relied on their olfactory and auditory senses to hunt. Humans, instead, are most sensitive to visual stimuli. As we made the switch from olfaction to vision, evolution gradually silenced some genes and turned on others. The old genes lost their function, but they were never erased from the DNA: they became what we now call “pseudogenes.”
With CHIMERAS I took the poetic license of turning back “on” these silenced genes and created an ordinary man with extraordinary senses. The hyper-sensitivity to smells in particular has not been exploited enough in fiction, and I soon realized that it was the perfect trait for a crime investigator.(less)