Alane Ferguson’s Forensic Mystery Series

Alane_FergusonAbout the author:

Born: January 1, 1957, Cumberland, Maryland

Education: Journalism -University of Utah and Westminster College


Thriller Sub-genre: Forensic Thriller

Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers

Future of the series:  According to Ferguson’s blog, the series is in publication limbo which occurred when her publisher merged with another publisher.  If the series ever comes out of limbo, she has entitled the next book The Dead Giveaway.

The Simon Review

Alane Ferguson’s Forensic Mystery Series is labeled as a young adult series mainly because the female heroine and her friends are 17 years old. It has been 36 years since I have been 17 years old, so I am not going to review the series through a young adult’s eyes but through the eyes of a more cynical and pessimistic view of a 53 year old. So why am I reviewing this series- well it’s the forensics, of course. Whether the series is for young or old, as a forensic thriller it is actually pretty good.

The main character is Cameron Mahoney, a precocious young woman, who has an interest in the field of forensics and dreams of being a forensic pathologist. Her father, Patrick Mahoney, is the coroner for Silverton, Colorado and hired Cameron as his assistant. So that means she gets to investigate the murder scene, attend autopsies, and more importantly potentially getting herself killed by being an overly inquisitive teenager. Mahoney makes me think of a very young Temp Brennan from Kathy Reich’s series, getting into trouble by being a nosy body.

When Mahoney is not attending autopsies, she is hanging out with her friends, Lyric and Adam, both which are social misfits. Lyric is on the rather rotund side and loves to wear brightly colored clothing and dyes her hair to match. Adam is a tall, pale and lanky fellow who happens to be Lyric’s boyfriend and is also known as the class oddball. Because he is odd and a little on the spooky side, he was actually considered a suspect in the first novel of the series.

When you are 17 years old, romance is always in the air or at least hoping for it, and Mahoney is no different. There are two love interests in her life, Kyle O’Neil, who is the good-looking kid at school that everyone assumes is dating girls at other schools until he takes a shining to Mahoney. It turns out that he is a lot more complicated than she had ever envisioned. Then there is Justin Crowley, the Deputy of Silverton’s police department. Crowley has it bad for Mahoney starting from the beginning and continues throughout the series. He is an older man at 21 years of age. Yea, yea, I know what you are thinking, four years is not that much difference, but when you are 17 years old, a 21 year old man seems like your grandfather. The romance stuff in the series is sickly sweet, just the thing for young adults, but a little too much for an old codger like myself who has been married forever.

Besides forensics and boyfriends, Mahoney has other problems that weigh on her mind and one of them is her mother. Mahoney’s mother left her when she was very young and her absence has been veiled in mystery. The unraveling of the mystery has been quite tedious as it spans over three novels. It reminds me of a soap opera; as a juicy tidbit of the mystery is revealed, the background music dramatically swells, and the actors mouths drop open in complete astonishment. The next little snippet of information won’t be revealed until the following week or month, until then, the viewer must wade through countless innuendos and comments like, “you better watch out for so and so, he’s not good for you.  Oh, I can’t tell you why, at least (dramatic pause) not yet.”

The best part of the series is the forensics, mainly in the arena of autopsies. Ferguson went all out in doing her research by actually attending autopsies which is quite brave for a writer. Besides the forensics, the medical examiner in the series, Dr. Moore, is a great character.  He is a crusty fellow, a bit full of himself and is very resistant to Mahoney attending his autopsies, but eventually he sees her potential and becomes her mentor.  The forensics in the series is not up to the standard of Kathy Reichs or Jefferson Bass but it is not bad and is definitely worth the read.

The series is a quick read and should be read in order. It is not clear about the future of the series. According to Ferguson’s blog page, her two unpublished books in the series, Dead Giveaway and The Enemy in the Walls, is in publisher purgatory and it is questionable on when or if they will be released. If I find out more, I will post an update.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the SeriesAngel of Death, because a perplexing murder and a really evil villain

Least Favorite Novel in the SeriesThe Christopher Killer, because it reads more like a YA novel.

What about the science?  Ferguson lost her best friend to a serial killer in 1979 and has a personal interest in forensics. She is a writer by training and not a scientist but she does seem to work hard at her homework and she has attended autopsies, so for the most part the science is sound.   There is, however, one use of technology that isn’t really feasible (see technical word in review).

The Cameryn Mahoney Technical Word in Review: Klystron tube– In the Angel of Death, a klystron tube is used as a murder weapon, so is it possible to kill a person in the manner that it did (if you want to know how, you will have to read the book)? The answer to that is most likely NO. The klystron tube was invented in 1937 by Russell and Sigurd Varian at Stanford University. The klystron is actually a specialized high powered vacuum tube that is used to amplify high frequency electromagnetic waves such as radio waves or microwaves. In the early years of development it was thought that a klystron could be used to create a death ray, however, it was found not to be practical; however the technology has found to be useful in many applications including radar technology.

So if you are wondering if you can buy a klystron tube on eBay, the answer to that one is, YES. However, the vast majority of these tubes are used in antique radios. The high powered klystron that could potentially kill a man in the manner addressed in the Angel of Death would probably not go for a mere fifty bucks on eBay. Additionally, the practicality of setting up a klystron that would be able to do the job isn’t there, mainly because it would require a rather large klystron that would need to be calibrated and aligned every time it was moved. This would be difficult if you were trying to sneak up on somebody to kill them.  So I wouldn’t lose any sleep at night concerning yourself on whether someone outside of your house will zap you to death while you are sleeping in your bed at night, it just won’t happen.

Dr. Moore’s voice ratcheted up. “I want you to get out of there. Right now! Drop whatever it is you’re doing and go. What you’ve got there is a klystron tube”

It took a moment for Cameryn to register this. “A what?”

“A klystron tube!” he shouted. “Don’t question me, just do what I say!”

“I don’t understand-“

“I saw klystrons when I was in the army. Those things emit enough radiation to microwave a human being in less than three minutes! It would cook a man in his own bed!”Angel of Death

Books in the Series by Order:

Vote for your favorite Forensic Thriller on the Forensic Fiction List on Goodreads Listopia.

Goodreads Forensic Fiction Best List

Most Favorite in the series: The Dying Breath with a score of 4.29

Least Favorite in the series: The Christopher Killer with a score of 4.03

Based on overall ratings from Goodreads, Library Thing and Amazon (US & UK)

Christopher_Killer#1- The Christopher Killer- 2006

Listed #76 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

First Line:

“Yes, I can be there in half an hour”


Cameryn Mahoney: A 17 year old forensic prodigy that is the heroine of the series

Patrick Mahoney: The coroner of Silverton, Colorado and father to Cameryn.

Justin Crowley: Deputy of the Silverton Police Department, a native of New York and Cameryn’s love interest.

Rachel Geller: A coworker of Cameryn’s and a victim of the Christopher Killer

Lyric: Cameryn’s best friend

Adam: A suspect in the murder and friend to Lyric and Cameryn

Hannah Mahoney: Cameryn’s mother

Dr. Moore: The medical examiner and Cameryn’s mentor

Sheriff John Jacobs: The Sheriff of Silverton Police Department

The Setting

Silverton, Colorado

Fascinated by forensics, seventeen-year-old Cameryn Mahoney persuades her father, the county coroner in sleepy Silverton, CO, to take her on as his assistant. But she never expects her first case to involve the death of a friend! Rachel Geller, a beautiful young waitress, is found strangled in a field with a Christopher medal around her neck—clearly marking her as the fourth victim of a serial killer. Cameryn is determined to help find Rachel’s killer, and attending the autopsy gives her the first clue. But as she follows her instincts and gets closer to the killer, Cameryn suddenly finds herself on the verge of becoming his fifth victim!

“Yes, Cameryn, I believe it!” Lyrics forehead wrinkled and her eyes, wide and rimmed in blue, were earnest. “She told him she was another victim of the Christopher Killer! Do you remember the Christopher Killer?”

Cameryn tried to feign interest in the case because Lyric did try to follow Cameryn and her forensic statistics. But paybacks were not fun. “Um, isn’t the Christopher Killer the psychopath that leaves a Saint Christopher medal on the bodies?”

From The Best Bad Reviews:

Alane Ferguson’s Christopher Killer is part of the Forensic Mystery series but Meagen from Goodreads was surprised that there were autopsies involved.

This book was kind of interesting, but it also sort of grossed me out. The main character wants to be a forensic pathologist, so she talks her dad into letting her be his assistant by helping him check out crime scenes, and attending an autopsy (sick!). I wasn’t super interested in finishing it, but I can’t stop a book in the middle, so I had to, haha.

Here is a review by Clayton from Goodreads on Alane Ferguson’s Christopher Killer.  Captain Crunch you better watch out!

the Christopher killer is about a cereal killer and this detective has to find out who it is. what the detective doesnt know is that the cereal killer is trying to get to her.

Looking for reviews for Christopher Killer? Check out:

Guinea Pigs and Books

Flip the Switch: Teens Awake


Reading@Berkeley High

Novel Society

Awesome Book Nuts

Lili Lost In A Book

Amazon Rating-US: 4.63 out of 5 stars based on 66 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.03 out of 5 stars based on 3,586 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.76 out of 4 stars based on 160 ratings

Total Score 4.03  (updated 9/25/18)



Angel_of_Death#2- The Angel of Death- 2006

Listed #54 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

First Line:

“Do you know how many laws we’re breaking?” Cameryn Mahoney demanded.


Cameryn Mahoney, Patrick Mahoney, Justin Crowley, Lyric, Adam, Hannah Mahoney, Dr. Moore and Sheriff John Jacobs

Kyle O’Neil: The good looking at school and love interest to Cameryn

The Setting

Silverton, Colorado

As assistant to her father, the county coroner of Silverton, Colorado, Cameryn Mahoney has seen more gore than the average seventeen-year old. But even Cameryn is shocked when Kyle O’Neil, the most popular guy in school, discovers the gruesome corpse of their English teacher murdered in his own bed. Kyle is drawn to Cameryn, who wonders if she can trust him with the secret she can’t tell her father—that her vanished mother is back in her life. As her relationship with Kyle speeds into romance, Cameryn struggles to unravel her teacher’s bizarre death—but is she too preoccupied to identify the killer in time?

“Jacobs calls you the Angel of Death.” The deputy grinned as though he just given her the highest compliment. “What do you think about that?”

Looking for reviews for Angel of Death? Check out:

First Clues Mysteries for Kids

Bookshelves of Doom

Lili Lost in a Book

Novel Society

Youth Services Book Review

Amazon Rating: 4.57 out of 5 stars based on 31 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 2 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.14 out of 5 stars based on 2,228 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.75 out of 4 stars based on 71 ratings

Total Score 4.14 (updated 9/25/18)



Circle_of_Blood#3- The Circle of Blood- 2008

Listed #58 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

First Line:

Cameryn Mahoney was surprised to see the blood on her hand.


Cameryn Mahoney, Patrick Mahoney, Justin Crowley, Lyric, Adam, Hannah Mahoney, Dr. Moore and Sheriff John Jacobs and Kyle O’Neil

The Setting

Silverton, Colorado

As the assistant to her father, the county coroner of Silverton, Colorado, Cameryn Mahoney gets to witness all aspects of death, including the autopsy room. Yet somehow that feels easy, compared to her personal life. Now that her long-lost mother has made a surprise return, Cameryn’s more confused than ever. Things only get worse when she and her mother pick up a mysterious young hitchhiker. Cameryn senses that the girl is running away from something, but before she can find out more, the girl is found dead a gun in her hand. Is it suicide? Or something even more sinister?

Mixing forensic details and ripped-from-the-headlines themes, Alane Ferguson makes her readers’ hearts pound yet again with this edge-of-your- seat forensic mystery!

“The circle of blood has come back to me.” Leaving the bag of food on the counter, Ruth grabbed two more garbage bags and raced upstairs…

Looking for reviews for Circle of Blood? Check out:

Readingjunky’s Reading Roost

Books and Other Thoughts

The Flashlight Reader

Reading@Berkeley High

Amazon Rating: 4.59 out of 5 stars based on 15 rating

Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.18 out of 5 stars based on 1,646 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.93 out of 4 stars based on 59 ratings

Total Score 4.18 (updated 9/25/18)


Sequencing gel

Dying_Breath#4- The Dying Breath- 2009

Listed #43 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

Listed #102 out of 172 on Goodreads Science Thrillers Book List

First Line:

“There’s no way I can let you in that house with the remains,” Sheriff Jacobs told Cameryn.


Cameryn Mahoney, Patrick Mahoney, Justin Crowley, Lyric, Adam, Hannah Mahoney, Dr. Moore and Sheriff John Jacobs and Kyle O’Neil

The Setting

Silverton, Colorado

Cameryn’s ex-boyfriend is back . . . and ready to kill! Cameryn had thought she was in love with him. He was smart, strong, and would do anything for her, even kill. Kyle O’Neil disappeared after his first attempt on Cameryn’s life at the end of The Angel of Death. Now he is back for his second. He’s leaving macabre love notes for her everywhere, on her computer, on her cell phone, and on the body of a dead man. And while everyone is determined to keep Cameryn safe, only she knows that it’s up to her to keep Kyle from killing again, and again.

To Cameryn, my anum cara,

I will love you until your dying breath. Please believe that I will find you, my Angel of Death. We are bound by cords you cannot break. Two worlds, intersecting separate pieces that the fates will never break apart. Trust that I will be with you soon.

In eternal adoration,

Kyle O’Neil

Looking for reviews for The Dying Breath? Check out:

Readingjunky’s Reading Roost

Youth Services Book Review

Amazon Rating: 4.62 out of 5 stars based on 31 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 5.00 out of 5 stars based on 1 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.29 out of 5 stars based on 1,321 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.10 out of 4 stars based on 25 ratings

Total Score 4.29 (updated 9/25/18)

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