The Family Tree by Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry

Blog tour: 10 to 22 June 2021

Synopsis

The DNA results are back. And there’s a serial killer in her family tree …

Liz Catalano is shocked when an ancestry kit reveals she’s adopted. But she could never have imagined connecting with her unknown family would plunge her into an FBI investigation of a notorious serial killer …

The Tri-State Killer has been abducting pairs of women for forty years, leaving no clues behind – only bodies.

Can Liz figure out who the killer in her new family is? And can she save his newest victims before it’s too late?

My review

It’s 2019 and Liz Catalano, 27, a social media associate, lives with her cousin Andrea (Andie) Catalano, 28, an X-ray technologist, in a two-bedroom ground floor apartment in a Greenpoint townhouse in New York. Andie buys Liz a 23andMe DNA ancestry test kit for her birthday and, when they compare their results, they discover that Liz is adopted. She’s shocked as she had no idea that her mum and dad weren’t her real parents as they’d never told her. She also learns that her birth mum was in prison when she had Liz.

Liz puts her details into various ancestry websites via one website, GEDMatch, in order to trace her relatives and also ticks the option to allow law enforcement to access her ancestry results. A couple of weeks later, she hears back from a grand uncle, Cristian (Cris) Dominio (65), and his wife, Rosie, in Connecticut. She arranges to meet up with them and finds out a bit more about her mum, Teresa, and discovers that there aren’t many of her close relatives left now.

Soon after, the FBI contact Liz as her DNA is a familial match to an ongoing multi-person homicide investigation. She’s horrified and quickly researches various active serial killers to try and work out who it could be. One that seems to match the timescales is the Tri-State Killer, who has evaded capture for decades and held captive, tortured and murdered numerous women over the years.

The Tri-State Killer’s first kill was in 1974 and he next struck 17 years later and from then on abducted and murdered pairs of women every two years to 2012. He’s been operating for over 40 years but the police only have vague details about his identity (grainy CCTV footage and a rough sketch) and a partial DNA sample taken from his first victim. After a gap of six years, it now seems that he’s back on the scene as two university students from Boston have been missing for nine months.

Liz is determined to investigate the case and work out what her links are to the serial killer, despite the danger she’s putting herself in. She’s feisty and determined – and rather reckless – but full of spirit. She’s in a unique position and the FBI agents tell her details of the cases in the hopes that she will discover some relevant evidence and links when talking to members of her newly found family.

Interspersed between scenes and dialogue from Liz and Andie are gruesome and disturbing chapters focusing on the Tri-State Killer’s numerous victims – how he approached the pairs of women or what happened afterwards. This works well and helps to ramp up the tension and it made me think about what must have happened to the women mentioned in the previous flashbacks.

Overall, this was a gripping and engaging read and kept me thoroughly entertained! It was over 400 pages long but it flew by and I couldn’t wait to find out if Liz would manage to work out who the Tri-State Killer was before she ended up as one of his victims!

The chilling story was cleverly plotted and well paced and I was never quite sure who was telling the truth. I suspected several different characters as they were all rather suspicious at times and there were a few hints and red herrings.

It was an intense read and I could sympathise with Liz’s feelings after discovering that she was adopted – she felt like her whole life had been a lie and that she’d been let down by everyone in her family, a lot of whom knew she was adopted. She almost rejects her parents in her desperation to discover the truth about her ancestry and she becomes obsessed with trying to work out which of her relatives is the Tri-State Killer. She’s lucky that Andie and her boyfriend, Travis, are so supportive. There were lots of tense moments as Liz kept putting herself in danger.

This was an intriguing and entertaining story and I find it fascinating that it was written by two authors! I understand they’re releasing another book in six months’ time so I’m already looking forward to that one!

Buy the book

The Family Tree by Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry can be purchased from Amazon on Kindle and in paperback, and as an eBook from Kobo and iBooks.

About the authors

Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Steph relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, they continued to collaborate creatively. Separated by 5 states, they spend countless hours scheming via Facetime and editing each other’s typos in real time on live Google docs. The Family Tree is the writing duo’s first co-authored crime novel.

Steph Mullin works by day as Creative Director for a Media, Entertainment and Digital Marketing Solutions company, using early mornings, nights, and weekends to write fiction.

Steph’s dream of becoming a writer started at age 6, followed by winning scholastic writing awards and crafting articles for her university’s literary magazine. In her 20s, she became engrossed in true crime podcasts and literature, which later became the perfect source of inspiration to launch her second career writing dark and twisty thrillers.

In 2018, Steph relocated from NYC to Charlotte, North Carolina where she currently resides with her husband and her rescue puppy. Outside of reading, writing, and playing with her dog, you may find her sipping on a soy latte, watching a new movie, or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.

Twitter: @Steph_Mullin
Instagram: @stephmullin_author

Nicole Mabry works in television as Senior Manager of Post Production in the photography department. She is the author of Past This Point (2019, Red Adept Publishing), an award winning apocalyptic women’s fiction novel. Past This Point was chosen as Best Book of the Year by Indies Today and won first place in the Global Thriller division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards.

Twitter: @NicoleAMabry
Instagram: @nicolemabry_author

Blog tour

Thanks to Avon Books for my copy of The Family Tree and for my place on the blog tour.

See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.

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