Book Tour, Reviews

The Killing Gene

One of my favorite things as a reader, and a reviewer, is picking up a book that I’m skeptical about…and then being totally wrong. It’s the best.

That’s what happened for me with The Killing Gene, by E.M. Davey.

I was sent a request to review this by Duckworth publishing and am very excited to be participating in their #SummerReads tour for this book!

For more information on the tour, and to follow along, I’ll post a schedule at the end of this post that you can use.

And in the meantime, please enjoy my review of The Killing Gene by E.M. Davey.

When a young archaeologist goes missing in the Congo basin, Professor Randolph Harkness and troubled tearaway Ross McCartney go in search of her only to stumble upon a conspiracy to conceal ancient horrors lost to the passage of time.

Evading spies and trained killers, can they expose this cover-up in time or will they be buried with it? An unputdownable thriller The Killing Gene reveals the story of our species, the paradox of the modern mind and our innate predilection for murder…

I stumbled upon this book without knowing anything about it. And I enjoyed it a lot. The Killing Gene is a thrilling, fast-paced, well-researched piece of adventure fiction and it was a lot of fun to read.

The best thing about this book is hands-down the pace at which it carries itself. The writing is detailed, polished, and easy to read, carrying the plot with just the right amount of support. I kept reading almost compulsively. Because the chapters are short, every time I would finish one I would think to myself “It won’t take long to just read one more.” And then it was over somehow! That’s how they get you!

Moreover, this book was so well researched. I really felt that the author understood his subject matter the best that he could and that he translated that understanding to the audience well. Somewhat reminiscent of the feeling I get when reading Dan Brown’s books, The Killing Gene is rife with complex and fascinating theories that dip into history, culture, and science, among others. I feel like I learned some things while reading and I love getting that feeling from a book.

The plot was fun and unpredictable, and just “over the top” enough, in my opinion. I think that it uses the formula well, applying traditional choices when it made sense but then turning things on their heads at the next turn. This kind of writing kept the book interesting. I struggled with the Old Testament references, finding them a little heavy-handed, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the heart-stopping twists and turns on this adventure.

Finally, I enjoyed the characters in this book. Sometimes, with books like these in Historical Adventure, there is a tendency to place all knowledge, competency, and merit on the MC and not on the surrounding characters, or even cultures, that the book also talks about. I didn’t find this problem so much with The Killing Gene and it was a genuine breath of fresh air. Davey’s characters felt likable and relatable. I especially enjoyed McCartney and the complexity of writing a character with a life-changing diagnosis. He continually walked that line of endearing and reckless and I found that to be every entertaining, aware storytelling.

This book was so out of my normal reading comfort zone. I love adventure and thrillers and I used to read books like this ALL the time, but started getting away from the formula as I got older. This was one reason that I accepted the opportunity to review this book, I was excited to dive back into a known/unknown area of reading for a while! And guys, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. If you love the sound of adventure and running through the jungle and danger around every turn, this might be the book for you.


E.M. DAVEY is a journalist at Global Witness specializing in undercover investigative journalism into international corruption and environmental crime, which gives him the opportunity to travel to far-flung and unusual places. His novels incorporate real-world experiences and meticulous research, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. He has taught creative writing with the Wilbur & Niso Smith foundation and is the author of three novels: Foretold by Thunder (Duckworth 2015), The Napoleon Complex (Duckworth 2016) and The Killing Gene (Duckworth 2019). He grew up in Bristol and now lives in Kent. 

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What do you think? Sound interesting? Leave a comment letting me know what you think!

Thanks for stopping by! See you tomorrow! x — A

Reviews

Baby Teeth

“It was hard to pour endless love into someone who wouldn’t love you back. No one could do it forever...”

Seven years ago, Alex and Suzette had a beautiful baby girl, who they called Hanna. Now they aren’t sure who their daughter is or what she needs. For one thing, she still doesn’t talk, and they have no idea why.

Hanna has other things on her mind like being Daddy’s ‘sweet-but-silent’ little angel, not going to school, and getting exactly what she wants. Only now she’s decided that she only wants one thing: her own happy ending. But there’s someone in the family who isn’t included in that picture anymore…

Wow, what do I say first?? Baby Teeth was insane, it was emotional, it was disturbing, and it was so riveting. I haven’t read anything else like it.

The thing this book does best is to weedle its way into your mind and set up shop. The author knows exactly which beats to hit along the way to send a shiver down your spine or make you stare at the book in appalled disbelief. More than once, I found myself up at night just thinking about this book. It is a perfectly unsettling adventure through this family’s life, and I would bet it’d be even more powerful if you’re a parent yourself. I read this book for my mark-up book exchange so I made notes in the book while reading, and there were so many times that I stopped, searching for the right words, only to end up writing just “…wow.” Sometimes the bite of this book left me speechless.

The subjects alone are enough to disturb any self-respecting person, but that’s not what makes it special. What makes this story so special is that it takes these distressing, confusing, sinister elements, a lot of them classic tropes, and then weaves them into her characters lives with an incredible amount of heart. I didn’t expect my heart to be so conflicted or broken open by a thriller! So much happens in this book and there are times when it’s almost impossible to tell who you’re supposed to feel the most for: the parents? The child? Everyone involved? (Which is where I landed, dang.) But the beauty of it is that every reader has to decide that for themselves. Her ability to shift such intense and full empathy onto every character, especially juxtaposed with the subject matter, is one of the most compelling things I’ve read in a long time.

A third aspect of this book that I loved was the authentic and relatable way that the author wrote a character living with a chronic illness. Suzette, the mother of this family, has Crohn’s Disease and it plays a huge part in her ability to care for family, to make decisions, even to live and work and feel like she has enough energy to be a whole person. I wasn’t expecting this in a suspense novel, but I needed it so badly. As someone else living with a chronic condition, it was obvious to me that Stage was writing from firsthand experience. So many subtle moments of Suzette’s suffering made me go “me too!” and to see and acknowledge that as a valid, human part of this story was a brilliant decision on the author’s part. Very well done.

From the very first chapter I felt a driving force pulling me further and further into the book. Every time I set it down I would end up glancing back over at it a few minutes later and, before I knew it, I’d be nose deep in it again. I had to finish, I had to know what happened. And one of the brilliant, most aggravating things about this book is…I still want to know more. That ending– gah! I wish to death that this book had a sequel, I would read it in a heartbeat. Something about the way that Zoje Stage chose to write this story has made me infinitely hungry for more: the choices in how its told, the style she wrote it in, the empathy and fear that she employs so skillfully.

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fiction that doesn’t flinch. Stage has written something so addictive and hypnotic that I finished it in two days while on a busy trip to Cleveland, which is saying something! This book is visceral, intense, and never looks away from the disquieting story it has to tell you. Enter at your own risk, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did once you’re on the other side.

Now write me a sequel, Zoje!

“Sweetness can be deceptive.”