( 8 )


“Finally, a novel of literary suspense that gets almost everything right—forensically and psychologically.”—Sarah Weinman, Baltimore Sun
In this "mystery of cold beauty and dark isolation, written with crystalline precision" (Miami Herald), a series of crib deaths in Syracuse, New York, draws the attention of police and national media. Is a serial infant murderer at large? A "haunting story, icy cold in its upstate New York setting but glowing with the unusual brightness of its heroine" (Eugene Weekly), Origin ...

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Origin: A Novel

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“Finally, a novel of literary suspense that gets almost everything right—forensically and psychologically.”—Sarah Weinman, Baltimore Sun
In this "mystery of cold beauty and dark isolation, written with crystalline precision" (Miami Herald), a series of crib deaths in Syracuse, New York, draws the attention of police and national media. Is a serial infant murderer at large? A "haunting story, icy cold in its upstate New York setting but glowing with the unusual brightness of its heroine" (Eugene Weekly), Origin stars a solitary fingerprint examiner who finds herself playing a critical role in the case. Diana Abu-Jaber, a "gifted and graceful writer" (Chicago Tribune), masterfully "transcends formula" (Kirkus Reviews) as "the tension of Origin escalates, shaped as much by beautifully nuanced prose as menacing events" (New York Daily News). Reading group guide included.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Abu-Jaber, who dealt with Arab-American themes in her earlier novels, Crescentand Arabian Jazz, shows her versatility in this gripping contemporary thriller. A spike in the number of local SIDS deaths piques the interest of Lena Dawson, a fingerprint specialist at a Syracuse, N.Y., forensics lab. Is it a statistical fluke or is there a killer at work? Determined to account for the dead infants, Lena joins the investigation, which stirs tantalizing memories from her dimly recollected early childhood. Despite her fragile mental state, Lena proves capable of surprising resolve. Her relationship with her protective ex-husband, her budding romance with a detective and her quest for her own lost past add psychological depth. Abu-Jaber's lovely nuanced prose conveys the chill of an upstate New York winter as well as it does Lena's drab existence before she was drawn into the mystery of the crib deaths. This enthralling puzzle will appeal to both crime fans and readers of literary fiction. 9-city author tour. (June)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
What appears to be a series of crib deaths might actually be murder. From the author of Crescent; with a nine-city tour. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal

Adult/High School
A baby is found dead in its crib. The police call it sudden infant death syndrome, but the distraught mother is convinced that it is murder. Lena, a fingerprint specialist known for solving a puzzling child-murder case a few years earlier, is drawn into the investigation. Her almost uncanny intuition-and the deaths of several more babies in short order-sends her searching for a killer. Lena has distanced herself from people, choosing to live in a sparse, cold apartment after separating from her philandering, controlling husband. In fact, life-threatening cold permeates this chilling tale, a metaphor for many elements of the eerie mystery, including Lena's childhood. She has strange, fractured memories of the time before she was three when she moved in with foster parents. As the investigation progresses, there is a sense of urgency to catch the killer as it becomes apparent that Lena's life is in danger, and that her mysterious childhood is somehow connected to the infant's. She is helped and protected by a young detective with his own past. As the weather thaws, Lena also begins to warm to the people around her as she learns the deep, dark secret of her origin. Teens fascinated by CSI will find this haunting mystery gripping, all the way to its surprising conclusion.
—Ellen BellCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
A moody thriller from Arab-American Abu-Jaber (The Language of Baklava, 2005, etc.) that transposes the author's usual questions of identity onto a young lab tech who believes she was raised by apes. Life is grim for Lena Dawson, a fingerprint examiner for the Syracuse police. Uncertain about her own origins, or her sanity, the delicately pretty technician has carved out a spare existence for herself since her philandering husband, Charlie, left, and has also lived down the brief flare of fame that followed her uncovering of crucial evidence in the murder of a child. Still, she knows her grasp on reality is tenuous, and she's content to live now primarily for her work. Her fragile solitude is disrupted when a grieving woman, unconvinced that SIDS was the cause of her baby's death, seeks her help. Lena's own acute senses tell her that something is amiss when other babies turn up dead. She's soon interacting more than she'd like with the desperate mother, her own brittle foster parents and a wounded detective named Keller, who sparks rough jealousy in her ex. Lena's sanity is challenged when she starts to think she's being stalked by the killer. But Abu-Jaber transcends formula, weaving the whodunit in prose as evocative as poetry. In winter-gray Syracuse, Lena's senses are heightened. Haunted, moving crime fiction.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393331554
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/5/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 459,640
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of Origin, Crescent, Arabian Jazz, and The Language of Baklava. Her writing has appeared in Good Housekeeping, Ms., Salon, Vogue, Gourmet, the New York Times, The Nation, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. She divides her time between Coral Gables, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2007

    A Complex, Well-Crafted, Immensely Readable Mystery Thriller!

    Diana Abu-Jaber continues to polish her craft as a storyteller par excellence. Writing with artful prose, well-integrated scientific facts, an understanding of criminology details, and a gift for creating fascinating characters, she has, in ORIGIN, created a story that is not only a superb novel, but also one that is bound to please a wide readership. ORIGIN is a winner at every level, a novel that exercises the brain while exploring the heart. Lena Dawson is a young woman who despite minimal formal education has become a successful interpreter of fingerprints with the criminal investigation unit in Syracuse, NY. As the novel begins she is separated from a fractured marriage with police officer Charlie, a raucous womanizer who continues to 'stalk' Lena despite their obvious incompatibility. Lena now lives a lone Spartan life, one more committed to her job than to a social existence. Her knowledge and sharp intuition in breaking a case of criminal implications in an apparent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) case has sharpened her interest in other unexplained cases, and her extraordinary investigative gifts fall into place with the rather sudden onset of multiple SIDS cases. Her acumen and skills uncover the possibility of the implication of a serial killer who may be using poisoning techniques to murder infants of a strangely random assortment of couples - a discovery that results in paparazzi-type response from the media. Lena's only consolation and warmth in the frozen wintry Syracuse is her alignment with the tender, caring detective Keller, and as they both pursue the clues and investigation of the morbidly fascinating serial killer, each of them uncover and share personal demons that have shaped their lives. Running skillfully alongside the linear investigation of the crimes is a detailed and touching story of Lena's search for her birth parents (she was 'adopted' by an odd couple as a very young child but has never felt a genetic connection: her dreams of her true beginnings are bizarre yet meaningful). It is the parallel investigation that introduces many fascinating characters and the discovery of a shaded past that has created a woman fearful of connecting in meaningful relationships. And it is to Abu-Jaber's credit that she intertwines both of these highly inventive stories so adroitly that they ultimately blend with a surprising, highly satisfactory ending. Reading Abu-Jaber is a feast for the mind and the heart. Her imagery is richly colorful, cinematically unfolding the frozen landscape of Syracuse as the perfect setting for the two enigmas that eventually melt as they are resolved. This is a writer of enormous talent who has given us a multi-layered novel as fine as any in recent years. Where will her rich imagination and brilliant prose take us next? Grady Harp

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A reviewer

    Origin is one of the most creative and original books that I have ever read. Diana Abu-Jaber is very talented, she is a great writer. This book is impossible to predict, which makes it worth your time and money. Origin is one of my all time favorite books. Trust me on this book, you will like it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Well written page turner

    Once I started this book I was hooked! Could not put it down. The central character, a crime lab worker with an extraordinary skill and a mysterious origin, is tasked with analyzing evidence from SIDS cases and determines there's more to meet the eye [or nose]. The unsolved case combined with her unusual interpersonal relationships form the setting for a tale that will hold your interest until the last page is turned. One talented author, one excellent book!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 25, 2012

    Please, Please, Please write a Lena Dawson series.

    Please, Please, Please write a Lena Dawson series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Different mystery, but excellent

    This is the first book that I have read by Ddiana Abu-Jaber so was unfamiliar with her work, and did not know what to expect. I was very pleasantly surprised.

    This book was very different from the usual mystery book but being different in this case, it was very good. The story developed a little slowly for me at first but then it hooked my attention.

    The heroine was an unusual character.

    Overall, a great and pleasant read.

    J. Robert Ewbank, author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the 'Isms'"

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    strong well written police investigative thriller

    In Syracuse, New York grieving mother Erin Cogan somehow got past the Wardell Center for Forensic Sciences guards to reach crime lab technician fingerprint examiner Lena Dawson. The obviously upset intruder pleads with Erin to look into her baby¿s death officially from sudden infant death syndrome. The distraught mom swears her six month old child Matthew did not die from SIDS. While police officer Ed Welmore escorts Lena from the building, Erin looks at the Dawson file, which reads classic SIDS. --- Lena prefers cases involving loss, hurt or damaged children, which is probably associated with her own murky orphaned early childhood. However, although a loner, Lena follows her intuition, which leads her to take a glance at recent SIDS cases that in turn sends alarms in her stunned mind when she sees how much an outlier Syracuse has recently become compared to the national average and the city¿s trends. She begins to wonder if perhaps the near hysterical mother might be right that there is something more humanly sinister than SIDS at work here something tied back to her own miraculous infant survival when the odds of her living was zero. --- Lena makes the tale as she has a ton of psychosis yet needs to know the truth about herself and the sudden spike in SIDS cases. The story line has plenty of action, but is fully driven by Lena, who refuses to quit on either of her quests although mentally she knows her precarious hold on sanity is slipping. Her tentative romance with a detective and her former¿ spouses need to keep her safe enhance the look at this unlikely heroine. Besides a deep look at SIDS and somewhat other causes of infant mortalities (shockingly America ranks 42nd in the world when it comes to infant mortality rate a worse placement than Cuba), ORIGIN is a strong well written police investigative thriller. --- Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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