The Suicide Gene by CJ Zahner

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  • She thought they were her siblings. By the time she realized they weren’t, one of them was dead.

    Doctor Emma Kerr had no right counseling them. Adopted and her birth records lost, she believed she was born a McKinney. Her face, intelligence, and depression resembled theirs. For years people mistook her for their sister. So she devised a plan.What begins as a scheme to counsel the McKinney family and determine if they are blood relatives, quickly causes Emma to wonder if she had truly done the manipulating. Is someone following her?

    Now Emma clamors to escape the McKinney world of domination and deception.

    Is she Mathew McKinney’s sister? She can’t be. Is he in love with her? He can’t be. Then how do he and his sisters know more about her than she knows herself? This is a game to them. Is the game Suicide? Or Murder?

    Rating: Sweet
    Page Count: 392
    Word Count: 86686
    978-1-5092-2126-4 Paperback
    978-1-5092-2127-1 Digital


    Chapter 1

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015


    The Funeral Parlor.


    The face in the casket was her own. It nearly freaked her out.

    She stood between her brother and sister, knees wobbling. Her high-necked dress clung to her skin, choking her throat, squeezing her long, slender body tighter and tighter until she felt her lungs might explode. Damn panic attacks.

    Her siblings moved closer, tightening their grip on her when they heard her struggling to breathe. Together their tall frames—movie-star handsome—melded into a dark mass at the foot of the casket. It took all the energy the three of them could muster to keep her upright.

    “Are you okay?” Melanie asked her.

    She nodded.

    “Try not to embarrass yourself,” Matt whispered.

    Again, a nod.

    She wasn’t sure she could get through the day without fainting. There were no breaks at a funeral, and she just wanted to get away from the grim whispery-whirrs of the bereaved and the sickeningly-sweet waft of the flowers. But she couldn’t leave. Matt would kill her and, besides, she had no cigarettes. Her sister was her supplier. Now she’s dead.

    The parade of mourners stretched out of the room and down the hall and it was only 2:05. Some faces in line she didn’t recognize, which infuriated her. Her sister had no real friends. Nosy bastards. They just want to know what happened.

    She tried to ignore surrounding conversations and remain composed. But like Medusa’s venomous mane, muffled words of hand-covered comments serpentined toward her from all directions. She couldn’t block them. They echoed in her head like garbled phrases over a worn intercom. “Why did she do it?” “Like her mother.” “Was it suicide?”

    That last question nearly sent her to her knees. Her body sagged. Melanie caught her and Matt pulled her close, so she could lean on him until it passed.

    “Don’t look if looking makes you queasy,” Melanie told her, but her glance drifted back to her sister’s pasty face. That’s what I would look like if I were dead.

    She, herself, had considered suicide for so long it was hard to believe she still feared death.She hated funerals, could barely walk through the front door of a funeral home without hyperventilating. Yet, she had to go to this one. Her own identical twin sister lie in that ugly copper box, her head sunk low in billowing white silk.

    “I’m sorry for the three of you.” Her aunt Carol’s hoarse voice coaxed her attention from the coffin. Notably thinner—grief now topping her midmorning chemotherapy cocktail,— her aunt dabbed a tissue at tear-stained cheeks. She was in the third round with breast cancer and getting her butt kicked. “I can’t believe this is happening to our family again. Did you know she was that bad?”

    “Well.” Melanie paused. “She’s always had those tendencies, but we thought—with the counseling—she was doing better.”

    “Counseling?” Aunt Carol’s cheeks pinked.

    “Yes,” Matt said. “Six months ago we started seeing a psychiatrist—all four of us.”

    “We thought a counselor might help,” sweet Melanie continued. “We decided maybe we did have some baggage about Mom’s—” She took a deep breath. Her gaze moved to her sister.

    Don’t say it, Mel, don’t say suicide.

    “Death.” Melanie looked away.

    “How horrible.” Aunt Carol straightened. She appeared appalled. “You should sue him—that counselor.”

    “Her.” Matt shook his head, eyes glaring. “She’s a psychiatrist.”

    “We will sue her.” The twin’s voice rose, but she stopped, glanced at Matt, and tightened her jaw. “She didn’t give a damn about us. Now my sister is dead. She’ll pay.”

    It happened then—at 2:10 p.m. She felt Matt’s piercing gaze and watched as he released his grip on her arm. Her aunt Carol became so emotional that Matt had to help her to the back of the room. Family members congregated there amidst her wild sobs while Matt held her, and a rush of people came toward her and Melanie at the casket. One after another. Melanie let go of her, too, and she had to stand on her own.

    For the first time in her life, she was alone.



The Suicide Gene

CJ Zahner writes a compelling story in The Suicide Gene. When Emma Kerr counsels four members in the McKinney family, she struggles to understand the siblings’ troublesome family history and make sense of their secrets. The novel’s dialogue flows naturally with believable characters who shoulder painful pasts. The reader follows Kerr’s steps into dangerous schemes and feels for Kerr as she is caught in the McKinney’s web of deceit. Zahner brilliantly draws in the reader as the plot unravels and Emma Kerr falls victim to her own fears, or rather, longings. The author addresses difficult topics of suicide, genetics/family history, and dementia neatly in one novel. An excellent read!


    A Page Turner

    The Suicide Gene hooked me from the first chapter when the book started out with the death of a woman. (I’m not giving anything away there.) But some key facts, such as the person’s identify, were held back. When the author made a leap into the past, I wanted to keep reading to find out who the person was and what series of events led to her death. The plot was unlike any other I’ve read. It touched on so many interesting things from identical twins to adoption to Ernest Hemingway, and of course, to a possible suicide gene. Every time I thought I had the plot figured out, there was a twist. I found the characters well developed and unique.

    I’d recommend this book to adults interested in a page-turner. However, the author did note on the Dedication Page that it might not be the best book if you are having suicidal thoughts because the book deals with suicide and depression. She even gave a hotline number. But I thought the author handled a difficult topic in a respectful, and likely realistic way, by interspersing chapters where a character was about to commit suicide, and then for various reasons, chose to live.

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      The Suicide Gene

      The Suicide Gene

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