J.T. Ellison’s Dr. Samantha Owens Series

jtellisonimgAbout the author:

Born: Near Orlando, Florida


B.A.-Randolph-Macon Women’s College- Politics & English Creative Writing

M.A.-George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management

Website: http://www.jtellison.com/

Thriller Sub-genre: Forensic/Romantic Thriller

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Future of the series: Ellison’s Samantha Owens series is still active with the next in the series tentatively entitled All Fall Down with an expected release in 2018. Ellison has recently released a prequel to her Taylor Jackson series, Field of Graves, which also features Samantha Owens.

A Review of the latest in the series- What Lies Behind

The Simon Review:

I read the J.T. Ellison’s Samantha Owens series just of few weeks ago, but when I started reading the first installment of the series, A Deeper Darkness, I had this sense of Déjà vu. As I continued reading that feeling got stronger until about a third of the way through book, I realized that I had read this book before. I am not one to read a book more than once unless I am forced into it, mainly because I am pretty good at remembering what I read and unless the book is a very complicated book, I find no merit in reading it again. I found this rather disturbing, so why did I put the memories of this book back into the deepest recess of my brain’s grey matter? I started reading this book because the heroine of the story is Dr. Samantha Owens, a medical examiner, and being a fan of Patricia Cornwell, I thought it might be a good forensic thriller. Au contraire, even though Owens is a medical examiner, there really isn’t anything much in the way of forensics. After reading the other two installments of the series I would have to conclude that this is a forensic thriller wannabe which is probably why I forgot that I read the first book of the series. The storyline to A Deeper Darkness was OK but obviously nothing to make it memorable or stand out.

I would say that this series is more of a romantic thriller and it reminds me a lot of Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan Series without the paranormal activity. The series revolves around unusual murders that fall into the lap of Dr. Samantha Owens who reluctantly feels that she needs to involve herself in investigating the circumstances behind these murders. The series begins with Owens being very psychologically and emotionally damaged after the drowning death of her husband and two small children. In the first installment of the series, A Deeper Darkness, she travels from Nashville to Washington, D.C. to perform an autopsy on an ex-lover who was a former army ranger that was shot and killed presumably during a carjacking. Of course, everything is not what it seems and she is pulled into an investigation of a cover-up that occurred during the Iraq War. During this installment, she meets her lover Xander Whitfield who was also a former army ranger. The rest of the series involves Owens and Whitfield battling the bad guys while taking frequent breaks to ogle each other.

Overall, this is a reasonably decent series especially if you want something to read that isn’t too intellectual, but is a good escape from the doldrums of life. Unfortunately, this series is not for forensic addicts looking to get a fix. I would suggest reading the series in order.

Simon’s pick:

Most Favorite Novel in the Series- Edge of Black, because this novel was the closest to having any real forensics involved.

Least Favorite Novel in the Series- A Deeper Darkness, because like I previously mentioned, I didn’t remember that I had read this book previously.

What about the science? Ellison is a financial analyst and marketing editor turned fictional writer. Even though she has attended autopsies, she is more into the drama of the experience than the details of the science that lies behind it. With the exception of a couple of tidbits of science scattered throughout the series, I am not expecting to see much in the way of scientific insight as the series progresses.

The Samantha Owens Technical Word in Review: Abrin, is a highly potent toxin that has many similarities to the toxin ricin. Like ricin, abrin originates from plant seeds, specifically the plant Abrus precatorius or commonly known as the rosary pea or jequirity pea, which is found primarily in South-East Asia and other subtropical regions.   The seeds are brightly colored red and have been used as beads by native inhabitants in the making of jewelry. The seeds have a hard shell but if broken or swallowed will release the toxin abrin which has a deadly effect. Abrin is a protein that has the ability to bind to cells, enter the cells, and then prevents protein synthesis of the cell which ultimately results in death. Abrin inhibits protein synthesis by inactivating the ribosomes of the cell which is the machinery involved in protein synthesis. Abrin is found to be considerably more toxic that ricin in mice studies. There are concerns about using abrin as a bioweapon but ironically, its extreme toxicity makes it difficult to work with and to weaponize, so the use as a weapon of mass destruction is relatively unlikely.

jequirity_beansSeeds from Abrus percatorius

“Amado, I found something. I think the toxin is abrin.”

He was quiet for a moment, and Sam could practically hear him thinking.

“Abrus precatorius. Samantha, that makes perfect sense, and it fits all the findings we’ve discovered. It would have to be inhaled to cause the exact damage to the organs we witnessed.” – Edge of Darkness

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: What Lies Behind with a score of 4.15

Least Favorite in the series: A Deeper Darkness with a score of 3.98

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

Deeper_Darkness#1-A Deeper Darkness- 2012

A Sample Clip of the Audiobook

First Line:

Eddie Donovan didn’t like crowds.


Dr. Samantha Owens: Chief medical examiner for the State of Tennessee. Loses her husband and children in a flood. Leaves Nashville to live in Washington, D.C. to start a new life.

Eddie Donovan: Army ranger that has been murdered and former lover of Owens

Darren Fletcher: Washington, D.C. homicide detective who has a crush on Owens

Allan Culpepper: Former military colonel who is now a CEO for a defense contractor known as Raptor

Susan Donovan: Eddie Donovan’s wife

Dr. Amado Nocek: Assistant medical examiner in Washington, D.C. who becomes a significant colleague to Owens

Billy Shakes: Former army ranger and part of Donovan’s unit

Alexander ‘Xander’ Roth Whitfield: Former army ranger and close friend to Donovan. Eventually becomes Owens lover.

Maggie Lyons: Fought in the Iraq war and fell in love with Perry Fisher

Perry Fisher: An army ranger that was a part of Donovan’s unit but was killed in Iraq through friendly fire

Hal Croswell: Another former army ranger from Donovan’s unit

The Setting

Washington, D.C.

As a medical examiner, Samantha Owens knows her job is to make a certain sense of death with crisp methodology and precision instruments.

But the day the Tennessee floods took her husband and children, the light vanished from Sam’s life. She has been pulled into a suffocating grief no amount of workaholic ardor can penetrate — until she receives a peculiar call from Washington, D.C.

On the other end of the line is an old boyfriend’s mother, asking Sam to do a second autopsy on her son. Eddie Donovan is officially the victim of a vicious carjacking, but under Sam’s sharp eye the forensics tell a darker story. The ex-Ranger was murdered, though not for his car.

Forced to confront the burning memories and feelings about yet another loved one killed brutally, Sam loses herself in the mystery contained within Donovan’s old notes. It leads her to the untouchable Xander, a soldier off-grid since his return from Afghanistan, and then to a series of brutal crimes stretching from that harsh mountainous war zone to this nation’s capital. The tale told between the lines makes it clear that nobody’s hands are clean, and that making sense of murder sometimes means putting yourself in the crosshairs of death.

From The Best Bad Reviews:

Here is a review of JT Ellison’s A Deeper Darkness from Lisa on Goodreads.  It seems that Lisa has ‘indecision disorder’ when it comes to this book.

I stayed with this book through 3 library loans and finally finished it. I really tried to like it, but it was fairly confusing and actually quite unbelievable. I would like to read another book by this author to see if I like it.

Looking for reviews for A Deeper Darkness? Check out:

Book’d Out

A Date With A Book

Sam Still Reading

Nashville Bookworm

Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Caught In My Book

Amazon Rating-US: 4.46 out of 5 stars based on 198 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.47 out of 5 stars based on 19 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 3.94 out of 5 stars based on 2,559 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.83 out of 4 stars based on 49 ratings

Total Score 3.98 (updated 11/2/18)



Edge_of_Blackness#2-Edge of Black- 2012

A Sample Clip of the Audiobook

First Line:

A single beam of light illuminated the path ahead, hovering and bobbing against the concrete walls.


Dr. Samantha Owens, Darren Fletcher, Dr. Amado Nocek, and Alexander ‘Xander’ Roth Whitfield:

Peter Leighton: Congressman killed during abrin attack

Marc Conlon: Student that was also a victim of the abrin attack

Loa Ledbetter: Name for both a mother and daughter. Mother was one of the three victims that died in the abrin attack

Inez Crow: Fletcher’s assistant for investigation into the abrin attack

The Setting

Washington, D.C. and Lynchburg, Virginia

Dr. Samantha Owens is starting over: new city, new job, new man, new life. She’s trying to put some distance between herself and the devastating loss of her husband and children — but old hurts leave scars.

Before she’s even unpacked her office at Georgetown University’s forensic pathology department, she’s called to consult on a case that’s rocked the capital and the country. An unknown pathogen released into the Washington Metro has caused nationwide panic. Three people died — just three.

A miracle and a puzzle…

Amid the media frenzy and Homeland Security alarm bells, Sam painstakingly dissects the lives of those three victims and makes an unsettling conclusion. This is no textbook terrorist causing mayhem with broad strokes, but an artist wielding a much finer, more pointed instrument of destruction. An assassin, whose motive is deeply personal and far from understandable.

Xander Whitfield, a former army ranger and Sam’s new boyfriend, knows about seeing the world in shades of gray. About feeling compelled to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. Only his disturbing kinship with a killer can lead Sam to the truth — and once more into the line of fire.

Looking for reviews for Edge of Black? Check out:

The Reading Frenzy

Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Jenn’s Bookshelves


Thinking About Books

Caught In My Book

Amazon Rating-US: 4.42 out of 5 stars based on 189 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.44 out of 5 stars based on 18 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.05 out of 5 stars based on 1,865 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.92 out of 4 stars based on 37 ratings

Total Score 4.08 (updated 11/2/18)




WHEN SHADOWS FALL#3-When Shadows Fall- 2014   

First Line:

Someone is following me.


Dr. Samantha Owens, Darren Fletcher, Dr. Amado Nocek, and Alexander ‘Xander’ Roth Whitfield:

Timothy Savage: Murder victim that sends a letter posthumously to Owens requesting for her to investigate his murder

Curtis Lott: Leader of a cult known as Eden

Adrian Zamyatin: Serial killer that is under the spell of Curtis Lott

The Setting

Washington, D.C. and Colorado

If you are reading this letter, I am dead and I would be most grateful if you could solve my murder…

Forensic pathologist Dr. Samantha Owens thought life was finally returning to normal after she suffered a terrible personal loss. Settling into her new job at Georgetown University, the illusion is shattered when she receives a disturbing letter from a dead man imploring her to solve his murder. There’s only one catch. Timothy Savage’s death was so obviously the suicide of a demented individual that the case has been closed.

When Sam learns Savage left a will requesting she autopsy his body, she feels compelled to look into the case. Sam’s own postmortem discovers clear signs that Savage was indeed murdered. And she finds DNA from a kidnapped child whose remains were recovered years earlier.

The investigation takes Sam into the shadows of a twenty-year-old mystery that must be solved to determine what really happened to Timothy Savage. Nothing about the case makes sense but it is clear someone is unwilling to let anyone, especially Samantha Owens, discover the truth.     

Looking for reviews for When Shadows Fall? Check out:

Book Reader’s Heaven

Tea With Marce   

The Loopy Librarian

Book Sp(l)ot Reviews

The Big Thrill

Reading, Writing, and Reisling

Amazon Rating: 4.37 out of 5 stars based on 191 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.62 out of 5 stars based on 13 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.03 out of 5 stars based on 1,814 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 3.96 out of 4 stars based on 28 ratings

Total Score 4.06 (updated 11/2/18)



What_lies_behind#4-What Lies Behind- 2015

Listed #98 out of 121 on Goodreads Forensic Fiction Book List

Listed #134 out of 168 on Goodreads Best Science Thrillers Book List

My Review of What Lies Behind

First Line:

He watched.


Dr. Samantha Owens, Darren Fletcher, Dr. Amado Nocek, and Alexander ‘Xander’ Roth Whitfield:

James Denon: A wealthy British industrialist who has hired Whitfield to protect him

Thomas Cattafi: A brilliant MD/PhD student who is found mortally wounded in what appears as a suicide/murder case

Amanda Souleyret: Murder victim found in the presence of Thomas Cattafi

Robin Souleyret: Amanda’s sister

Regina Girabaldi: Head of Arms Control and International Security of State

Chalk: Whitfield’s partner in the their security protection firm

The Setting

Washington, D.C. , New Jersey, Virginia

Waking to sirens in the night is hardly unusual for Samantha Owens. No longer a medical examiner, she doesn’t lose sleep over them, but a routine police investigation in her neighborhood has her curious. When her homicide detective friend, Darren Fletcher, invites her to look over the evidence, she jumps at the chance and immediately realizes the crime scene has been staged. What seems to be a clear case of murder/suicide—a crime of passion—is anything but. The discovery of toxic substances in hidden vials indicates that something much more sinister is at play…

As Fletch and Sam try to understand what and who they are dealing with, they are summoned to a meeting at the State Department. High-level officials are interested in what they know and seem to be keeping secrets of their own. It’s up to Sam and Fletch to uncover what lies behind the deception as the threat of bioterrorism is exposed, and her boyfriend, Xander Whitfield, may be in the line of fire.

Unsure who to trust, Sam and Fletch find themselves up against very powerful people at every stage in the investigation. No one is who they appear to be and with every minute that passes, the danger escalates. It’s Sam’s most complex case yet and the terrifying reality is beyond anything she could have imagined.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what is within us. – Emerson

Looking for reviews for What Lies Behind? Check out:

Book Sp(l)ot Reviews

Book Reviews and More By Kathy

Kristen’s Book Jungle


The Reading Frenzy

Cuz I’m a Nerd

Romancing the Book

Genre Go Round Reviews


Amazon Rating: 4.64 out of 5 stars based on 125 ratings

Amazon Rating-UK: 4.56 out of 5 stars based on 9 ratings

GoodReads Rating: 4.10 out of 5 stars based on 1,257 ratings

Library Thing Rating: 4.20 out of 4 stars based on 15 ratings

Total Score 4.15 (updated 11/2/18)



#5- All Fall Down- Expected release 2018

6 thoughts on “J.T. Ellison’s Dr. Samantha Owens Series

  1. Why is this blog white on black? I cannot read it, and it hurts my eyes. Wanted info on the books. Too bad

    1. Good question. She posted awhile back that a new book was coming out in 2017, but, of course, that didn’t happen. The latest comment on a blog post of Ellison’s commented that maybe a book will come out this coming year. As soon as I find out, I will add it to the list, so check back later.

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