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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.
Published: Simon & Schuster on
ISBN: 9780743293235
List price: $7.99
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I'm afraid this didn't grab me like some books of the genre, maybe because I felt the author was showing off her neuroscience training and knowledge at the expense of advancing the plot. It is set in 1965/66 in Holloman, Connecticut, at a neuroscience research centre, when a headless young female corpse is discovered in an animal fridge, which proves to be the first of a grisly number of similar incidents. Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico is the investigating officer, whose initial attempts to solve the murder prove fruitless until he literally stumbles upon the master clue. I thought Delmonico's character would have discovered the true secret through sheer persistence, but let that one slip him by.more
I listened to On, Off by Colleen McCullough on an audio book borrowed from the library. I found myself intrigued by the story and eager to listen every day for more clues to the identity of the brutal killer of a minimum of 14 mixed race girls. The body of a victim is discovered by accident in the refrigeration unit at the Hughlings Center, a research facility. Detective Carmine Delmonico is brought in to discover the murderer. McCullough soon involves Carmine in a romantic entanglement with Desdemona Dupre, who is in a management position at the Hug as the facility is called. I felt this part of the book to be the least interesting, mainly because while Carmine is somewhat intriguing, both characters lack any real appealing characteristics. The eccentric group of suspects are far more interesting. I found that the book took longer to find its way to the end of some scenes than necessary. This caused the action to slow down and made me want to fast forward until I find another action-packed scene. I kept expecting there to be a reason why McCullough set the story in 1965. I never did find one. After some research, I did find that McCullough was a neuroscientist for twenty years before she was published, so that explains the setting in a science research facility. Ultimately, I think the book was too long. There were many passages that did not seem to move the story along in the least. While it may have served the purpose of explaining some motivations for characters actions, it was not necessary in helping to discover the identity of the murderer. The two main characters, Carmine Delmonico and Desdemona Dupre were equally uninteresting and so, seemed well-matched for each other. Still, I did ultimately listen to the whole audio book so there must have been enough happening for me to finish the story. I don't think I can highly recommend it, but I would not discourage any of her fans from giving it a try.more
On, Off is the first novel of Colleen McCullough's that I have read, and I enjoyed it very much. The book was interesting from start to finish, with plenty of suspense and romance to keep me captivated. The one dificulty I had when reading On, Off was keeping all the characters and their respective stories straight. There were the Hug scientists, their wives and families, the Parson family, the police force, the murdered young girls......there were a lot of people. The number of characters might have contributed to the sometimes less than fantastic character development. However, over all most of the characters were intrigueing. My favorite part of On, Off was the last few pages. All my lingering questions were answered, and in a way I would never have suspected. I'm a big fan of the final ending twist, and this book did not disappoint. All in all, I was very satisfied with this book and I look forward to reading more from Colleen McCullough.more
When this first came out I had every intention of buying it, but I just kept forgetting. Colleen McCullough is one of my favorite writers and even if she was taking a break from the Masters of Rome series that I love, I thought that it would be equally good. Alas, I was bored to tears. I think this was due in part to the narrator who did not vary his tone or range much to accommodate the various characters. And OMFG were there characters. Let me rephrase; there were players. I say players because try as she might to make them quirky and individual, McCullough made them all dry as chalk dust. Even the parts of them that were supposed to shock me (Bob Smith’s treatment of his sons for example) failed to do so. I think the attempt at recreating 1960s atmosphere combined with the sheer number of players foiled her. Reading this on the heels of In The Deep Midwinter by Robert Clark, I am doubly impressed by Clark’s ability to make a similar situation work for him. The 1950s came alive and was made interesting by him in a way that McCullough was unable to do. She attempted to give us a handle on the times with heavy handed bewilderment of people confronted with a multiple murderer and similar clumsy devices.The most interesting aspect of the story wasn’t the murders or the victims or even the police work; it was the relationship between Carmine and Desdemona. She appeals to him although at first he seems to resent it (we’re constantly reminded of her xenophobia, unattractiveness, largeness of frame and pedantic nature). Eventually she grows on him and he on her and a romance blossoms. But this is very late in the novel and we’ve had to wade through domestic vignettes, workplace vendettas, tedious crime scene investigation and backroom attempts to keep Carmine from discovering anything of import. After many red-herrings, blind alleys and unexplained, but seemingly important points, we come to a bizarre conclusion, complete with an underground torture chamber. But wait, there’s more! There’s disturbing family secrets, a faked death, a real death and a swapping of identities (and genders). Madness lies at the core of this psychotic swamp, but we’ve received so little preparation for it that it we feel as though we’ve walked into our quiet home only to have a mass of strangers yell “surprise!” at us. It doesn’t work and doesn’t fit with the overall tone or seeming intent of the entirety of what came before. It’s also completely unbelievable. Bah. No more thrillers for you Ms. McCullough!more
Read all 7 reviews

Reviews

I'm afraid this didn't grab me like some books of the genre, maybe because I felt the author was showing off her neuroscience training and knowledge at the expense of advancing the plot. It is set in 1965/66 in Holloman, Connecticut, at a neuroscience research centre, when a headless young female corpse is discovered in an animal fridge, which proves to be the first of a grisly number of similar incidents. Lieutenant Carmine Delmonico is the investigating officer, whose initial attempts to solve the murder prove fruitless until he literally stumbles upon the master clue. I thought Delmonico's character would have discovered the true secret through sheer persistence, but let that one slip him by.more
I listened to On, Off by Colleen McCullough on an audio book borrowed from the library. I found myself intrigued by the story and eager to listen every day for more clues to the identity of the brutal killer of a minimum of 14 mixed race girls. The body of a victim is discovered by accident in the refrigeration unit at the Hughlings Center, a research facility. Detective Carmine Delmonico is brought in to discover the murderer. McCullough soon involves Carmine in a romantic entanglement with Desdemona Dupre, who is in a management position at the Hug as the facility is called. I felt this part of the book to be the least interesting, mainly because while Carmine is somewhat intriguing, both characters lack any real appealing characteristics. The eccentric group of suspects are far more interesting. I found that the book took longer to find its way to the end of some scenes than necessary. This caused the action to slow down and made me want to fast forward until I find another action-packed scene. I kept expecting there to be a reason why McCullough set the story in 1965. I never did find one. After some research, I did find that McCullough was a neuroscientist for twenty years before she was published, so that explains the setting in a science research facility. Ultimately, I think the book was too long. There were many passages that did not seem to move the story along in the least. While it may have served the purpose of explaining some motivations for characters actions, it was not necessary in helping to discover the identity of the murderer. The two main characters, Carmine Delmonico and Desdemona Dupre were equally uninteresting and so, seemed well-matched for each other. Still, I did ultimately listen to the whole audio book so there must have been enough happening for me to finish the story. I don't think I can highly recommend it, but I would not discourage any of her fans from giving it a try.more
On, Off is the first novel of Colleen McCullough's that I have read, and I enjoyed it very much. The book was interesting from start to finish, with plenty of suspense and romance to keep me captivated. The one dificulty I had when reading On, Off was keeping all the characters and their respective stories straight. There were the Hug scientists, their wives and families, the Parson family, the police force, the murdered young girls......there were a lot of people. The number of characters might have contributed to the sometimes less than fantastic character development. However, over all most of the characters were intrigueing. My favorite part of On, Off was the last few pages. All my lingering questions were answered, and in a way I would never have suspected. I'm a big fan of the final ending twist, and this book did not disappoint. All in all, I was very satisfied with this book and I look forward to reading more from Colleen McCullough.more
When this first came out I had every intention of buying it, but I just kept forgetting. Colleen McCullough is one of my favorite writers and even if she was taking a break from the Masters of Rome series that I love, I thought that it would be equally good. Alas, I was bored to tears. I think this was due in part to the narrator who did not vary his tone or range much to accommodate the various characters. And OMFG were there characters. Let me rephrase; there were players. I say players because try as she might to make them quirky and individual, McCullough made them all dry as chalk dust. Even the parts of them that were supposed to shock me (Bob Smith’s treatment of his sons for example) failed to do so. I think the attempt at recreating 1960s atmosphere combined with the sheer number of players foiled her. Reading this on the heels of In The Deep Midwinter by Robert Clark, I am doubly impressed by Clark’s ability to make a similar situation work for him. The 1950s came alive and was made interesting by him in a way that McCullough was unable to do. She attempted to give us a handle on the times with heavy handed bewilderment of people confronted with a multiple murderer and similar clumsy devices.The most interesting aspect of the story wasn’t the murders or the victims or even the police work; it was the relationship between Carmine and Desdemona. She appeals to him although at first he seems to resent it (we’re constantly reminded of her xenophobia, unattractiveness, largeness of frame and pedantic nature). Eventually she grows on him and he on her and a romance blossoms. But this is very late in the novel and we’ve had to wade through domestic vignettes, workplace vendettas, tedious crime scene investigation and backroom attempts to keep Carmine from discovering anything of import. After many red-herrings, blind alleys and unexplained, but seemingly important points, we come to a bizarre conclusion, complete with an underground torture chamber. But wait, there’s more! There’s disturbing family secrets, a faked death, a real death and a swapping of identities (and genders). Madness lies at the core of this psychotic swamp, but we’ve received so little preparation for it that it we feel as though we’ve walked into our quiet home only to have a mass of strangers yell “surprise!” at us. It doesn’t work and doesn’t fit with the overall tone or seeming intent of the entirety of what came before. It’s also completely unbelievable. Bah. No more thrillers for you Ms. McCullough!more
While this is a solid book, interesting and engaging, it is not McCullough's best work. She does seem to be able to bring her exceptional skills in character development to any genre and, as always, the book is well-researched and very plausible. The ending raises as many questions as it resolves, and leaves the reader with a bit of a chill, thinking, "what if . . .?" If I were recommending a book to a reader unacquainted with McCullough's work, however, this would not be my choice.more
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