by Diana Abu-Jaber


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"Finally, a novel of literary suspense that gets almost everything right—forensically and psychologically." —Sarah Weinman, Baltimore Sun

Secretly, in her heart of hearts, Lena Dawson hides the strangest of beliefs about her childhood. Hiding behind a cool competence as a superb fingerprint analyst in a crime lab in snowy Syracuse, New York, she feels totally out of place in the ordinary world of human interaction. Especially since the controlling husband who guided and protected her, then cheated and left her (though now he wants her back). Her uncanny ability to read a crime scene draws her into investigating a mysterious series of crib deaths—but ultimately the most difficult puzzle she must solve is the one of her own origins.

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).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393064551
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/25/2007
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.30(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Diana Abu-Jaber is the award-winning author of four novels, including Crescent, and two memoirs, Life Without a RecipeandThe Language of Baklava. She and her family divide time between Miami, Florida, and Portland, Oregon.

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Origin 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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
ClarkP More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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!
RCharles70 More than 1 year ago
Please, Please, Please write a Lena Dawson series.
whoizme88 More than 1 year ago
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'"
harstan More than 1 year ago
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
Jenners26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brief Description: Lena Dawson is a fingerprint specialist who has an odd gift for communicating almost telepathically with crime scenes. When a series of SIDS deaths strike an odd note within her, Lena feels compelled to look deeper into the cases. However, the more she explores, the more convinced she is that a serial killer of babies is on the loose and, odder yet, the killer seems to have a connection to Lena herself. As Lena investigates her past and the current crimes, she is drawn into the confusing web of her own past, including the stories told to her by her adoptive parents. As she confronts her own origins, Lena learns how the past has followed her into the present.My Thoughts: Although the book description may sound like a straightforward mystery, it is anything but. The book had the strangest and most elusive tone to it. It is like a standard mystery was wrapped inside a cotton blanket and then pushed out through the fibers of the blanket into the book. Lena is aloof and distant from us as readers, and there is an almost dream-like feel to the book. Although I was almost convinced that Lena¿s long-held and fantastical origin story about herself was true, Abu-Jaber is giving us cold hard reality but wrapping it up in a strange dream-like texture. This makes for an odd read. To this day, I¿m not what to make of this book. It definitely isn¿t your standard mystery in tone and feel. If you¿re looking for a mystery with a literary and dream-like feel to it, this would be a good choice.
kdenissen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story of a woman who aches to know more about her past. She grows up in a foster family that never formally adopted her and this fact is a huge emotional tension between her and her family. She grows up to work in a crime lab focusing on fingerprint identification. A case of babies written off as SIDs cases turns out to be something else altogether. The main character's search for a baby killer is linked to her need to know about her personal history. The book also weaves in the childish office politics with her co-workers, her love life which includes a new love interest with a detective and a strained relationship with a husband she is separated from, and some goofy neighbors.The book was engaging enough and the mystery itself kept me through to the end to find out "whodunit". Looking back, some of the elements were a little odd and I don't know if they worked. There was some whimsy- like the theme that she may have been raised by apes. It was a bit out there and was made even more out there when you learn the conclusion to that story line. I could not stand the main characters passive personality- she was walked on by her coworkers, her ex-husband and on and on. When she started to stand up for herself it did not seem believable because she was portrayed as such an "out-of-touch" person. It was as if life happened to her and she stood outside herself and watched. I like a little more of a sense of agency in my characters.
co_coyote on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting mystery I found on the bookshelf in a friend's bedroom when I was visiting and recovering from an illness. This book was a pleasant companion for the several days I was stranded there.
lizzybeans11 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was very pleasantly surprised by this novel. I had trouble getting into the story at the beginning as I was only able to read in fits and starts. But once I got about 100 pages in I was hooked and couldn't put it down. The lead character, Lena, is wonderfully complex and remains consistent, but somehow progressive, throughout. Her supporting characters are also spectacularly rich and well defined.I found the plot riveting in its strange - but plausible - twists and turns, and by the end my emotions had run the gamut. If you are a fan of murder mysteries - or strong female leads - you will not be disappointed.
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is, without a doubt, the most well written mystery novel I have ever read. The characters are deeply engaging, the plot is fascinating on multiple levels, and the writing was lovely. The title, "Origin", speaks to all levels of the plot. The primary themes are: identity, trust, intuition, courage, and determination. Wonderful read!
amanderson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend this atmospheric literary mystery. The fascinating main character, Lena Dawson, is a lab tech in snowy, frigid Syracuse, NY, who has an uncanny ability for intuitive leaps of deduction and an exceptional sense of smell. She's also kind of socially out of step with coworkers and the rest of the world. When multiple SIDS cases start coming into the lab and a distraught mother barges in to beg Lena to help, she starts to think that perhaps something suspicious is going on. And, it may be connected to her own past as a difficult foster child with strange memories of the jungle and apes. The story of her investigation into the babies' deaths and her own origin is riveting; the depiction of the frigid weather adds to the dark, suspenseful mood. I became so involved with Lena's story and wanting the mysteries explained that I couldn't put the book down. Abu Jaber is a great writer.
historycycles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fingerprint expert in the Syracuse, New York police crime lab, Lena notices a strange rise in the number of crib deaths occurring in and around the city. Though others in the police department, even those she works with in the crime lab, don't believe her theory of a serial baby killer, Lena pursues the evidence with the help of detective Keller Duesky. Her investigation becomes all the more strange when the deaths seem to connect to her own memories of the past spent in the care of an "ape-mother" in the rain forest. Soon, hunter becomes the hunted, as the killer has the need to eliminate Lena, not to stop the investigation, but to stop Lena from investigating her own past.Although an interesting plot, it lacked characters that could be identified with. Lena in particular seemed withdrawn from the reader in a way that, although I read her story, I didn't really feel anything for her. The supporting characters all seemed like a group of whack jobs, from the people in Lena's apartment building to everyone she worked with, to her soon to be ex-husband (but then, what else would you expect from a fictional ex?).The writing was occasionally filled with too many metaphors and similes that were a stretch, or just didn't make sense. Abu-Jaber frequently put so many similes out there, I found myself counting them. Lena's strange, Tarzanic memories of the past, made the first half of the novel an almost unbelievable story. It felt as though I was reading something from Edgar Rice Burroughs, but at least he explained Tarzan's origins in a way that was believable. Ultimately, the "ape-mother" story line was explained somewhat satisfactorily.Readable, but not instantly engaging. Sterile settings, and unsympathetic characters- yet, the one thing that ultimately saves the book and compelled me to finish was the story itself.
Sengels on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fascinating tandem mysteries--one solving the mystery of a fingerprint analyst's infancy and the other solving a series of suspicious crib deaths. The winter Syracuse setting is bleak and evocative. Abu-Jaber's writing is beautiful. One of the best literary mysteries of 2007.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worst book I ever read