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3.52 of 5 stars 3.52  ·  rating details  ·  860 ratings  ·  203 reviews

Lena is a fingerprint expert at a crime lab in the small city of Syracuse, New York, where winters are cold and deep. Suddenly, a series of crib deaths--indistinguishable from SIDS except for the fevered testimony of one distraught mother with connections in high places--draws the attention of the police and the national media and raises the possibility of the inconceivabl

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Published June 1st 2007 by BBC Audiobooks America (first published May 5th 2007)
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This book transcends its constituent parts. It is more than a mystery, more than a forensic thriller or police procedural, more than a love story. It is a haunting character study, an exploration of origin and identity.

Lena Dawson is the rare first-person heroine with depth, who is written with such conviction and awareness that her development isn't encumbered by the first-person perspective. She is the lens through which we view a strange, seemingly disjointed flurry of events. Her world view...more
ORIGIN (Police Procedural-Lena Dawson-Syracuse, NY-Cont) – VG
Abu-Jaber, Diana – 1st mystery
WW Norton & Company, 2007, US Hardcover – ISBN:9780393064551
First Sentence: I spot her as soon as I get off the elevator on the fourth floor.
*** Fingerprint expert Lena Dawson possesses a heightened sense of smell and intuitive abilities that help her in her job with the Syracuse Police. She has no knowledge of her natural parents and, while raised by foster parents, as memories causing her to believe...more
Sep 09, 2007 Melissa rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: ape mothers & upstaters
Chris and I heard the author read from this book on Orcas Island in Washington on our honeymoon this summer. (Yes, Chris is a good husband for going to dorky author readings on his honeymoon. There was also a morning when we went our separate ways to get tours of the Seattle ballpark & public library, respectively. You can guess who went where.) Anyway, this book was interesting to me, since it takes place in Syracuse, NY, otherwise known as "the biggest city in the frigid northlands near wh...more
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, i...more
T.L. Cooper
Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber entices the reader to think about the role of identity in the world. It’s a beautifully written novel that doesn’t shy away from intense topics. Abu-Jaber creates a main character, Lena, who is hard to know, confusing, and at times even hard to like, but who will entrance the reader. At times her thought process frustrates the reader but always with a purpose. Abu-Jaber weaves a tale around infant deaths, adoption, foster care, and mental illness that entertains the rea...more
My Inner Shelf
Origine est un thriller principalement axé sur la psychologie de la narratrice, Lena, une jeune femme à la personnalité complexe et torturée. Son personnage est particulièrement intéressant, elle nous plonge dans l’enquête de manière totalement immersive. Le style est excellent, l’écriture est fouillée, travaillée, le rythme peut surprendre, notamment lors des dialogues, très souvent entrecoupés par les réflexions personnelles de Lena. Ses impressions parsèment le récit, on pourrait presque qual...more
After taking two online PSU classes with her, I finally met Diana Abu-Jaber at a book reading, and she seems to be a lot of fun. So I will still seek out any new book Abu-Jaber writes by loyalty and because I just loved “The Language of Baklava.” So, it is with hesitation that I must admit to not liking this book as much as I’d liked her exquisite first book.
This is the (unlikely) story of a forensics fingerprint clerk who finds herself investigating some (unlikely) mysterious crib death, which...more
Christina Ramos
I purchased this book because the author was one of my regulars (back when I used to work at a restaurant inside of a book store). I picked it up off the shelf, saw the familiar face and was overcome by curiosity. Afterward I brought it home and it has lain undisturbed on my bookshelf for a couple of years, until just a few days ago. The reason I hadn't picked it up before is because crime/detective novels just aren't my thing. The first chapter or two left me cold as the Syracuse winter during...more
This might be the most dream-like book I have ever read. The sense of being in a dream is so strong throughout the book that I was not sure if we were ever in the real world. Everything is surrounded by a haze or fog and it was very strange. I am still not sure if I liked it or not.
Lena is a fingerprint analyst and extremely good at her job. She becomes involved in a case of babies that have died apparently of SIDS, but the truth is much more sinister. As Lena finds out more about the details of...more
Satisfying for its conformity to my expectations of chick-lit/murder mystery. Fun but occasionally frustratingly facile. Not that it's stupid or poorly written. It's actually original for its damaged/borderline Asbergers-y protagonist. And it was engaging enough to keep me guessing about the "answers" to the crime and the protagonist's origins and how they were connected. Maybe a little too predictable romance-wise, but that part was kind of like a guilty pleasure to the reading. Good ol'fashion...more
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-mo...more
Ryan Mishap
A literary, slightly odd, mystery novel involving a fingerprint expert, Lena, and a series of crib deaths. The winter setting in Syracuse, New York aids the chilled atmosphere of the book, and Lena’s oddness, detachment from life around her. This is contrasted with her memories of a mother, possibly an ape, and tropical heat—but she doesn’t know her origins and her foster parents—who never adopted her—won’t say. I told you it was odd, but anyway, Lena doesn’t believe that the infant deaths are...more
I’m sad to say I did not finish this novel by Diana Abu-Jaber, whose other books I’ve really enjoyed. This one… if I’d started off thinking of it as a regular novel rather than a mystery, maybe that would have worked. I think my big problem is dislike of the main character who narrates the story. Lena is a lab tech working in fingerprint forensics – but she’s also psychic & can pick up information about murder cases through smells (really?) and feelings – though my impression of her is that...more
What a departure from the other Abu-Jaber books I've read! THis one was much darker and more bleak, partly because of the story and partly because she insisted on constantly highlighting the cold/snowy/grey/overall awful climate of her hometown of Syracuse. I found that a bit much. Some of the plot was a bit far fetched but it I read through this pretty voraciously.
Really enjoyed this book and looked forward to any free time I could devote to it. Story follows a lab tech who specializes in finger print analysis who is part of the investigative team looking into infant deaths, which have been ruled SIDS but one mother refuses to accept this. I am not one to ruin one's reading experience by telling too much of the plot line. Let me just say that the protagonist, Lena, has an interesting and mystery filled past which influences her commitment to the case. I'd...more
This book is not your every day police procedural. Yes, it fits squarely into that genre. But, along with all of the usual stuff we have a very unique - and uniquely sympathetic - narrator. It will be a long time before I forget Lena.

In addition to the main character, I thought the book had great atmosphere. I've lived in a very cold place, and this book takes place in the winter time in Syracuse, New York. The snow and ice and dark lent great atmosphere to this story.

I didn't love it. There we...more
I was a little skeptical of this book at the beginning. The writing pulled me right in, but the protagonist was a little strange and quite a few of the supporting characters were down-right awful (bad character, not not well written). In the end, the resolution was on-point and erased any concerns I may have had at the beginning. Also, the author's description of winter/early spring in Upstate NY was spot on, took me back to my childhood.
This was, as another reviewer said, an excellent "atmospheric literary mystery". It was very well written. The author describes the main character, Lena, her thoughts, moods, sensations, & observations so clearly & subtlely. The reader just absorbs the developments and moves along in the story. Along with the main plot, the mystery, there is the back story of Lena's origin. This develops and intersects with the mystery storyline in a compelling, page-turning way.

Storyline: Lena is a fing...more
I found this book captivating - as in stay-up-too-late-reading captivating. I'm also not sure how it ended up on my-read list; I usually track where I find recommendations because some sources are more reliable than others for my particular palette. But there you go. Reading too late, a book with anonymous sourcing and uneven reviews.

The reward? A book that transcends categories. It's a mystery, though not one with an overwhelming plot. It's a book about relationships, though most of them are d...more
This book was not as I expected and I liked it quite a bit. I thought it was quite novel for being a crime/mystery. I enjoyed the main character and her development. The thought of her as having possibly been raised in the jungle was fun and the author was able to make it seem real and not ridiculous. The ending resolved things but didn't wrap things up in a bow or have a completely happy ending. Life has disappointments and things felt real but satisfying.

The writing was good and fairly tight....more
Lena is an very gifted fingerprint expert in Syracuse, NY. As she begins to work on the latest crime as the result of an extremely emotional plea from a mother who believes her child was murdered, Lena's past is explored and, little by little, revealed. It's her relationships with the other characters she encounters, her intuition and her hyper sensitivity to her surroundings that drew me in. There is so much depth to her character that it's enchanting, mesmerizing, endlessly fascinating. In fac...more
the intriguing aspect of this book is that Lena truly believes she was raised by apes as an infant.....and the story unfolds to the conclusion. I enjoyed this.

[close:] A fingerprint expert's investigation of a series of crib deaths leads her back to the mystery of her own childhood.

Lena is a fingerprint expert at a crime lab in the small city of Syracuse, New York, where winters are cold and deep. Suddenly, a series of crib deaths—indistinguishable from SIDS except for the fevered testimony of...more
Ooh ooh ooh! What's with the freakin' apes? (I am in the middle of the book.)

Finished audio book. The reader is very good. The so. Starts out with great promise. Lena Dawson is a forensics expert in Syracuse, NY. When a bunch of SIDS cases start showing up in the lab, Lena fears there is a baby serial killer. Lena herself was reared by a foster family that never adopted her, although they consider her their daughter. Lena also remembers (and spends a LOT of time thinking about) her ap...more
Do not read this book if you have other things you need to do because all you will think about is "What about the book I'm reading? I need to finish it now!" I got this off the new release shelf at the public library. It had the Mystery sticker on it, and I tend to avoid those. But I liked the cover and the description on the inside flap. Origin takes place in Syracuse in 2002. The main character, Lena, is a lab tech with the police. There are multiple mysteries. There are a number of dead infan...more
Jennifer Kreft
I was pleasantly surprised by this book! Since I didn't pay much attention to the back-cover description, I assumed from the title that it was a sci-fi flick. Instead I got a fascinating study on identity featuring a unique narrator. Lena is a fingerprint analyst with a supernatural talent of identifying criminals based on the evidence they've left behind but virtually no knowledge of her own roots. Although her foster parents have kept her permanently, they've never officially adopted her and a...more
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 th...more
" What do you mean the monkeys raised you?!"

"I decide to work on the meditation exercises my counselor taught me, to practice being my human self."

"The beauty of (learning) one's own origin is that it lets you walk away from everything, from history, obligations, connections."

What type of isolation do you chose and which is worse/better?

You grow up an outcast, something not even human, you believe. You allow this to define you, set you apart and take courage from it. This is your life, unlike an...more
Shonna Froebel
This novel is set in Syracuse, New York. The main character, Lena Dawson, is a fingerprint expert at the crime lab. She has a small circle of friends that she works with, is separated from a philandering policeman, and is estranged from her foster parents. Lena has always felt a bit different, and has always resented her foster parents for not adopting her, even though they promised to at different times. She doesn't know anything about her true parentsHer relationship with her husband is a comp...more
Oct 19, 2008 Sarah rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sarah by: Borders
The things that drive people thorugh life are love, meaning and identity. Who am I? Where did I come from? And what does that say about the person I am today? These are questions we all ask ourselves constantly, not just in adolescence when these question frame our entire lives but also through adulthood. These questions also frame our political dialogue. Look at how much time we spend thinking about evolution/creation. In Origin, Abu-Jaber explores this idea through Lena.

Lena is a foster child...more
A Gentle Crime Novel

Abu-jaber, Diane. (2007). Origin. New York: W.W. Norton

This novel is in the rarified category of “literary” crime novel, which means the characters are well-developed and the writing is above average (that’s the literary part) AND, it has a good, plausible crime story without too many loose ends (the crime genre part).

The main character and protagonist and first-person narrator is Lena, a thirty year-old fingerprint expert with the police crime lab in Syracuse, N.Y. She inves...more
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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.

More about Diana Abu-Jaber...
Crescent The Language of Baklava: A Memoir Birds of Paradise Arabian Jazz Intuïtie

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