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A professor recovering from a stroke discovers that he has many half-siblings who may carry the same blood clot risk he does—but someone out there is trying to kill them all. Soon he is in terrible danger even as he must prove his innocence in a series of murders connected by one thing: DNA.
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Publication date:
February 20
Indies Today Review:


A tense and authoritative medical thriller with a sturdy warmth radiating from its core.

A new semester is underway and Dr. Martin Starling is ready to regale his organic chemistry students with as many periodic table puns as the lecture hall has seats. But instead of immersing a new class in the world of structural formulas and chemical reactions, Martin finds himself struggling to form a coherent sentence. A migrant blood clot causes the 44-year-old Boise native to suffer a debilitating stroke. Never one to give up on anything, Martin throws himself into his recovery, applying himself to physical and speech therapy, as well as educating himself on possible causes and outcomes of the stroke. A medical researcher specializing in thrombophilia pins the stroke on a unique genetic mutation and this is good news for the Starling family as they can test Martin’s mother and sons for the abnormal gene. An entrepreneurial friend with a DNA genealogy website turns conscientious Martin on to the idea of searching out unknown relatives who may be afflicted, a great idea since his biological father was a generic sperm donor. While Martin’s ancestry project is underway, a string of seemingly random murder sprees crop up everywhere from Chicago to Maui. Previously unknown branches in this family tree begin to resemble a hit list and the risks of a genetic mutation take a backseat to the fire trying to burn this tree down.

Brush up on your biology and break out your Punnett squares because Ties That Kill is a studied medical thriller with a distinctive genealogic twist. Leveraging the popularity of online ancestry sites, Deven Greene crafts an alarming tale about asking questions we may not appreciate the honest answers to. The author brilliantly paints a picture of Martin’s copacetic home life, leaving just enough time to form a bond with each family member before amping up the danger and suspense. With all of their unpredictable personalities, it is a risky and entertaining adventure as Martin meets his half-siblings for the first time. These new characters are introduced methodically, giving readers time to anticipate whether they pose a threat or might become the next victim. The narrative includes lightly technical details that give credence to the science, technology, and medicine used to expand the plot. Still, it doesn’t leave anyone feeling bogged down or completely out of their depth. Featuring an endearing family thrust into an extraordinary situation, Ties That Kill is a tense and authoritative medical thriller with a sturdy warmth radiating from its core.

Reader's Favorite Review

5 Stars 

Dr. Martin Starling was delivering a chemistry lecture when he suffered a debilitating stroke. A rare mutation, possibly inherited from his unidentified biological father, resulted in abnormal blood clotting, leading to the stroke. What if the anonymous sperm donor had fathered other children? In the hopes of warning them about the mutation, Dr. Starling uploads his genetic information on genealogy sites. The results are astounding! How can he have over two hundred half-siblings? The mystery deepens when a ruthless sharp-shooter starts killing people. Although the murders initially appear random, soon it turns out that the victims are all half-siblings of Dr. Starling. Detective Bradly Hunter, confident that the Starling family is somehow involved in these rampant killings, will do anything to implicate them. Can they solve this mystery and find the perp before the body count rises? Find out in Ties That Kill, a medical thriller by Deven Greene.

Ties That Kill would qualify as both a medical thriller and a police procedural. I liked how these two elements epically clash and then build the tempo simultaneously, ultimately merging in a crescendo at the end. The arrogant, prejudiced, and initially unlikeable detective nonetheless becomes appealing. In contrast, the kind-hearted and intellectual professor readily earned my respect. It was oddly satisfying to see the polar opposite male protagonists working together, one being the brain and the other the brawn. As a graduate student in Biology, I loved the technical details of DNA, fingerprinting, genealogy, and pedigree analysis. The logical, step-by-step approach Deven Greene used was akin to designing a scientific experiment. Although I had a hunch about the killer’s identity, the twists Greene kept hidden up his sleeves surprised me. The Starling family dynamics amazed me, with each member contributing to the case per their abilities and having each other's backs. I loved how Greene speculated about the possible consequences of genealogy research, both good and bad. The groan-inducing albeit clever puns stole the show. I recommend Ties That Kill to anyone who loves a thought-provoking thriller with a superb climax.

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