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On, Off: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Colleen McCullough
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $25.99
Kindle Price: $13.99
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
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Book Description

Proving once again that she can triumph in any genre of fiction, Colleen McCullough, the bestselling author of The Thorn Birds, now presents her readers with a gem of a murder mystery about a serial killer.

At the heart of this brilliant blend of suspense, forensic science, eerie and sadistic sexuality, and good old-fashioned storytelling is a dedicated but lonely detective, Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico. The year is 1965, the setting a university town in Connecticut, and serial killers are still referred to as "multiple murderers." Profiling hasn't even begun, so Delmonico has to go it alone on a frantic learning curve that has the killer always two steps ahead of him.

The story begins when parts of the body of a young woman are found in a research center for neurology privately funded by one of the university's greatest benefactors.

It swiftly develops that the killer is very possibly a member of the research facility and that this is not his first murder. With great cunning and daring, he targets a "type" of young woman, following which the women are subjected to unspeakable torture and rape, and finally a horrible death.

The suspects are many and varied, and include a wealthy and ambitious young Indian eager to win a Nobel Prize; the professorial head of the institute, who does something peculiar in his basement; an internationally renowned epilepsy clinician; a neurochemist with a taste for fine food, wine, and music; a Japanese with rarefied and strange tastes; and a business manager named Desdemona Dupre, a tough, well-educated woman, full of common sense, for whom Delmonico feels a growing, risky attraction.

As the serial murders begin to mount -- the killer is getting more and more bloodthirsty and bold -- and the media and anguished parents begin to put pressure on the governor, Delmonico and the forceful, enigmatic Miss Dupre are drawn deeper and deeper into the secrets of the suspects and toward an old family scandal as shocking as it is bizarre. But is the scandal something quite separate, or does it lie at the roots of the present killings?

Colleen McCullough artfully maintains the suspense and holds back the truth until -- literally -- on the last page, with the impact of a thunderbolt, she presents the reader with one final terrifying and unexpected twist.

Her book is a classic murder mystery, written with all the flair and skill that have made Colleen McCullough one of the most popular novelists of her time.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australian McCullough (The Thorn Birds) portrays one of the creepiest serial killers in recent fiction in this intelligent shocker set in 1965 at an Ivy League university called Chubb located in Holloman, Conn. After an animal lab technician finds a partial corpse in the Hughlings Jackson Center for Neurological Research (aka "Hug"), police lieutenant Carmine Delmonico discovers that this murder is only one of many—with more to come—committed by a meticulous serial rapist/killer who saves the heads of his victims. The monster leaves so few clues that Delmonico calls him "the Ghost" and the newspapers "the Connecticut Monster." Despite the lack of fancy forensic tools, the determined detective discovers that the Ghost may be connected to a 1930s cold case. Adding heat to the investigation is the African-American community's outrage at the killer's preference for young women of mixed racial origins and Delmonico's growing romantic attachment to an endangered Hug employee. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Here's something new from the author of The Thorn Birds and numerous high-concept historical fiction titles: a straight-up detective thriller. It's 1965, and a dismembered body is found in a storage refrigerator at a neurological research center in Connecticut. Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico soon realizes he has got something new on his hands: a psychopath who kills for sport. In modern terms, a serial killer. McCullough, who admits to being a longtime reader of crime novels, is clearly well versed in the traditions of the genre: the novel features a working-class detective in an unfamiliar environment (sort of like Columbo) and a large cast of potential suspects (think Agatha Christie). The characters are vividly drawn, and the story itself is quite intriguing. A demon for research, McCullough packs the novel with enough information about the operation of the research center that we almost feel like we could run one. There are flaws: the prose is a bit overwritten, with phrases so out of place that they pull the reader up short ("stygian coldness," for example, on the very first page). Also, the overabundance of exclamation marks is sure to grate on many readers. But, despite these stylistic shortcomings, the novel should prove entertaining enough both to McCullough's many fans and to thriller readers who have never met a serial killer they didn't want to read more about. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • File Size: 582 KB
  • Print Length: 384 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0743286421
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; Reprint edition (June 2, 2006)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #587,456 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
As a fan of McCullough's _Tim_ (one of my all-time favorite books), and also of _The Thorn Birds_ and _The Ladies of Missalonghi_, I was incredibly surprised to spot this book at the bookstore. That didn't stop me, of course, from buying it immediately.

Briefly, the book takes place in 1965 in Connecticut and follows a detective, Carmine, as he attempts to solve a "multiple murder" case that is closely tied to the heavily endowed neurological research center, the "Hug," in the earliest days of forensic science and criminal profiling. This is a difficult case with many details and characters, and the climax and resolution, along with a surprise twist, occur in the last few pages.

McCullough is expertly detailed and accurate (from what I could tell), from the intricacies of neurological research to the 1960s setting and chronology. She is an excellent writer, but I agree with another review that pointed out that the first part of the book was overwritten - I was surprised to find quite so many details about a woman's outfit coming from a male detective, even if it was explained by one sentence, that a detective had to be observant of everything. Also, in the beginning, some descriptions are overdone. McCullough does fall into stride, however, and the writing isn't an issue within a few chapters.

Like other reviewers, I found this book to be impossible to put down - I read it in a little more than a day, even with working full-time. The story never stumbles or bores, and the characters, even though there are a lot of them, are easy to know and keep track of.

My biggest criticism of the book is the same as that of other reviewers, that there are a few red herrings and details that are not explained or tied up by the end of the story.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting change of genre for Ms McCullough May 14, 2006
Before Collen McCullough became Australia's most famous novellist, she was a neuroscientist who worked in many areas, including teaching at Yale before the release of her first novel "Tim" (which is just beautiful). From there she went on to many great books, and this her latest, is quite a departure from the norm. It concerns a serial killer in the 1960s who leads the local police a merry chase, leaving apparently no clues, and yet who appears to be associated with a neurological research centre named colloquially "the Hug". It is this latter connection that gives Ms McCullough the opportunity to revisit her past.

It is an easy read, and the characters are all well defined and quite interesting in themselves. However, there is a little something missing which is hard to define. For one thing, apart from a small twist which I must confess that I didn't see coming, I had figured out "who done it" about half way through, which can be frustrating as you are then waiting for the police to come to the same conclusions as you. And there are some small red herrings that are never quite resolved to my satisfaction, and an odd sub-plot relating to African Amercian rights which is a little distracting and strangely unsatisfying. But again, readers of murder mystery do like to try and figure out who the killer is - its just that I am rarely succesful in this area - usually figuring it out as the police do.

All in all it is an interesting read, but if you want something truly wonderful by Ms McCullough, go for her first and best "Tim" - you won't regret it.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars extremely well written, but lost momentum June 7, 2007
As I was reading this book I was planning to rate it with 5 stars, describe it as one of the best ever, and check the library for her other books. Her writing talent is marvelous - there were many sentences and short passages that I re-read just to savor the language. McCullough's serial killer suspects, primarily the scientists and other staff at a research facility, all have their little secrets, hideaways, peculiarities, history, making this a book with quite a few "bad guy" possibilities. The problem for me came around the last 1/3 of the book. The killer(s) changed methods, which was never explained by McCullough. S/he/they started leaving the corpses around other suspects' property, which she never developed. The police zeroed in on the probable killer(s) too soon to maintain the suspense. The cover blurb, promised a "terrifying and unexpected twist" on the last page; the twist was neither terrifying nor particularly unexpected. However, I must admit given the knowledge that there would be a final twist I spent much of the book trying to predict it and came up with quite a few possibilities.

Nonetheless, this is a beautifully written book, and I look forward to more McCullough mysteries.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars VOYAGE TO INSANITY September 15, 2007
What a departure this is for Colleen McCullough. Best known for The Thorn Birds and her historical writings, this book journeys into the genre of the serial killer thriller and the brutality of this excursion is one that will leave the reader horrified and disgusted, but quickly turning the pages to discover the identity and motivation of the murderous monster capable of committing such appalling crimes against innocent teenage females.

The story begins in October 1965 with the gruesome discovery of the torso of a young girl found at a neurological research center in Connecticut. This is back in the days before we coined the term "serial killer" or utilized DNA testing as an aid in crime solving. The protagonist of the piece is one Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico, an old fashion sleuth, who continually seems to be a few steps behind the clever murderer. His suspects are a myriad of research center employees and directors, each with obsessions and varied quirks as well as a few camouflaged secrets.

The killer is devious, driven and bold and the outcry from the media and terrified parents of potential future victims makes the Lieutenant's job a real tightrope walk.

Readers who are turned off by scenes of torture and rape should steer clear of On/Off. If, however, you would like to use your wits to see if you can arrive at the complete solution to the puzzle and can "hang in there" until the last page you will be presented with an ending that will leave you agape.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Great book!
Published 1 month ago by Michelle J. Slapion-Foote
4.0 out of 5 stars You NEVER know, even when you think you know...
Enjoyed the book, nice easy read. Hopeless case, to many suspects then the break finally comes...and all is it? Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A little too esoteric--and confusing! I read it twice, but couldn't figure out the ending...
Published 5 months ago by Frances Ames
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Love the. Twists and turns, makes the end stay in yor mind. More please!
Published 7 months ago by Theresa Wall
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Once again Colleen McCullough has written another best seller. The book was great from the first page and continued to the last. A must read
Published 7 months ago by msshavisham
5.0 out of 5 stars She always delivers!
I have loved Colleen McCullough since I first read the Thorn Birds. She, once again, tells a story filled with 3 dimensional characters. Read more
Published 7 months ago by arlyne l. gemmell
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good book it's not till the last page it all fits together
Published 8 months ago by Kenneth Carters
5.0 out of 5 stars You Can't Miss Reading This Book
Ms. Mcullough writes, writes, writes - and does it better than a lot of authors to my way of thinking. I'm biased because I love her writing. She's a must-read for any reader.
Published 8 months ago by My Three Cents
4.0 out of 5 stars compelling read
Compelling read with a storyline that is intriguing in terms of plot and characterisation. In depth scientific working knowledge added to the impact of every storyline development
Published 11 months ago by marilyn bell
5.0 out of 5 stars Could not put this one down!
Very suspenseful! The story stays with you long after you finish the book or stop reading for the night. I can't wait to read the next one in the series.
Published 12 months ago by Mary Wheeler
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More About the Author

Colleen McCullough was born in Australia. A neuropathologist, she established the department of neurophysiology at the Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney before working as a researcher and teacher at Yale Medical School for ten years. Her writing career began with the publication of Tim, followed by The Thorn Birds, a record-breaking international bestseller. She lives on Norfolk Island in the South Pacific with her husband, Ric Robinson.

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