Tess Gerritsen

Detective Jane Rizzoli, Dr. Maura Isles - Homocide Detective, Medical Examiner - Boston, Massachusetts


(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky DEC 12, 2005)

Tess Gerrtisen's Vanish has the same general theme as another engrossing novel that I read a few weeks ago-- Dead End by Mariah Stewart. Both books deal with the loathsome practice of importing vulnerable young girls into the United States from countries such as Mexico and the former Soviet Union. These girls are beaten, drugged, imprisoned, and sold into prostitution.

Vanish features some familiar faces, including Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli, who is nine months pregnant, Gabriel Dean, Jane's devoted FBI agent husband, and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. The book opens as a seventeen-year-old girl named Mila, from Belarus, tells the heartbreaking tale of how she and other like her were lured into the United States under false pretenses. Gerritsen then switches gears as a startled Maura Isles finds a corpse in her morgue who is still breathing. Next, a man and woman with a hidden agenda hold Jane Rizzoli hostage. A negotiator is brought in an attempt to bring the standoff to a peaceful conclusion. These seemingly unrelated plot lines gradually merge into one suspenseful and horrifying narrative about the abuse of power by influential, wealthy, and immoral individuals.

I have always loved Jane Rizzoli, and motherhood takes away none of her feistiness. Whether she is trying to control her pain during labor contractions, attempting to soothe her screaming baby, or confronting a vicious murderer, Jane is always thinking, planning, and looking for solutions. Gabriel, Jane's beleaguered husband, wishes his wife were just a little more laid back, but he cannot help admiring her honesty and depth of feeling. These two are an interesting and offbeat couple, and their scenes together are wonderful.

Gerritsen is in top form here. She incorporates many elements seamlessly--gentle humor, political skullduggery, terrifying and suspenseful confrontations, betrayal of trust, and a nail-biting conclusion. Using a spare style that avoids melodrama, the author's realistic dialogue, well-developed characterizations, and excellent pacing make Vanish a first-rate and thought-provoking thriller.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 134 reviews


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"Body Double"

(Reviewed by Jana L. Perskie DEC 1, 2005)

Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles returns from a Forensic Pathology conference in Paris to find four Brookline police cruisers, lights flashing, outside her home. When her neighbors, the cops, and finally friend and colleague, homicide detective Jane Rizzoli look at Maura in disbelief, she knows something is really wrong and that it must involve her. A dead woman has been found, sitting in the driver's seat of a car parked in front of her home. The Jane Doe, shot through the head, is Maura's body double. The two could be twins. And, in fact, the corpse shares her blood type and birth date. Further tests will show their DNA is a match. Maura was adopted in infancy and knows nothing about her birth mother or blood ties. The discovery that the same lawyer who handled Maura's adoption also handled the placement of the dead woman, another adoptee, is the final straw which sends Maura on a quest to discover her roots.

Boston Police Detective Jane Rizzoli, in her eighth month of pregnancy, realizes that her search for the killer converges with Maura's own personal investigation. Her findings, which are inextricably linked to Isles' past and present, are gruesome and point to many more than one untimely, violent death. As Maura delves deeply into her history, it becomes clear she may be the killer's next target.

Body Double is the first book I have read by Tess Gerritsen, but it won't be my last. Although this compelling suspense thriller is apparently part of an ongoing series featuring Dr. Isles, Detective Rizzoli, etc., it is definitely a stand alone novel. As I found myself riveted to this dark tale, I was glad to know that if I wanted to read more about the fascinating characters, I could do so in the author's previous books. Gerritsen's narrative is extremely well written, and at times, downright scary.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 126 reviews


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"The Apprentice"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer OCT 13, 2002)

"She sat listening to the sounds of traffic on the street below, which only seemed to emphasize the utter stillness inside her apartment. She looked around, at the starkly furnished living room, at the blank walls where she had yet to hand a single picture. The only decoration, if it could be called that, was a city map, tacked to the wall by her dining room table. A year ago, the map had been studded with colored pushpins marking the Surgeon's kills. She'd been so hungry for recognition, for her colleagues to acknowledge that yes, she was their equal, that she had lived and breathed the hunt. Even at home, she had eaten her meals in grim view of the killer's footprints."

The crime is as mysterious as it is horrifying. A man is found dead, sitting against the wall with a teacup on his knee, his throat slashed. His wife is missing; only her neatly folded nightgown with its handful of blood spatters gives any clue as to her fate.

Read excerptThis is not the first time Jane Rizzoli has had to face a crime like this. The Surgeon, who she herself put in jail at great price to her mind and body was the only man who had this kind of MO. Except for one important change -- this killer takes out couples instead of single women -- their methods are nearly exact, and so Rizzoli is convinced there has to be a connection. No one is willing to listen to her theory, except for Detective Korsak, the detective in charge, who also sees the grim resemblance between these victims and the Surgeon's, but can't understand how anyone could know the modus operandi so intimately. When FBI agent Gabriel Dean tries to take over the case without anyone's asking, Jane finds her job all the harder, both because she's upset at his highhanded secrecy, and also because she's attracted him.

Fans of crime scene investigation will find this book a definite treat. CSI plays a huge part in the action, as Jane carefully takes every piece of evidence in account to help her track down the clues. There's a great deal of forensic technology used in this book, and Gerritsen manages to make the mundane act of searching, gathering and processing evidence into a major plot motivator, keeping the reader moving at a quick pace to see where clues, even as small as carpet fibers on duct tape, lead.

Rizzoli is a strong character. The thing that makes her special is that since her involvement with the Surgeon, she has lost her immense sense of self-confidence and replaced it with an equal amount of fear. Her biggest challenge is to put that fear aside and act like all is usual, which she does well. She has no choice really, as head detective and token female of the Boston Homicide department, any signs of slipping would mean that she'd lose her job, and her job means a lot to her. It takes all of her strength to prevent Dean from taking over her case, but she manages to keep him from doing so. Special Agent Dean doesn't mean any harm, he simply feels she is too close to the case, and fears that perhaps she won't be objective. He is very intense, wanting to find the Surgeon's apprentice before he strikes again. When Dean realizes that Rizzoli is still completely in control, he even apologizes. He is simply doing his job, and even though it's obvious that he's withholding information, which can be frustrating for both the reader and Rizzoli, he is a good guy whose actions make sense to the story.

While they track the apprentice, the Surgeon, A.K.A. Warren Hoyt has plans of his own. The first item on his list is his escape, which he pulls off with the deftness of Houdini. Hoyt, a blood technician before his capture, is convincing and charismatic; he can persuade people into doing just about anything. His incredible charm combined with his total lack of emotions make him very creepy. Creepy enough, I'd say, to venture that Hoyt and Hannibal Lechtor would probably enjoy a glass of Chianti together at a dinner party.

Even if you haven't read The Surgeon, you will enjoy this book, and I think that The Apprentice is spoiler free enough (well, to an extent...I mean, you know that she catches the Surgeon in the end, but otherwise...) that you can go and read the previous book later.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 124 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Apprentice at MostlyFiction.com

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)

Medical Thrillers:

Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles Series:

Romance Novels:

* Originally published as the Tavistock Series
** Originally published as an Harlequin Intrique


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Book Marks:


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About the Author:

Tess GerritsenTess Gerritsen was born and raised in San Diego, California. Her mother was the granddaughter of a well-known poet in China and her father owned a Chinese seafood restaurant on the San Diego waterfront.

She was a doctor before she became a best-selling author. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Stanford University, and went to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, and was awarded her M.D. in 1979. After completing her internal medicine residency, Tess worked as a physician in Honolulu, Hawaii. While on maternity leave, she began to write fiction. On a whim, she submitted a literary short story to Honolulu Magazine's statewide fiction contest -- and won first place.

In 1987, Tess's first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was soon followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, "Adrift," which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.

It was a chance dinner conversation that inspired Tess to write her first medical thriller. The man sitting beside her at the restaurant was an ex-cop who ran a security service protecting American businessmen in Russia. On his last trip abroad, Moscow cops had told him that Russian orphans were vanishing from the streets. They believed the children were being kidnaped by the Russian mafia and shipped abroad as organ donors.

The story so horrified Tess, she immediately called her brother-in-law, a reporter for Newsweek, suggesting he investigate. Newsweek was unable to track down any proof.

Weeks later, Tess was still unable to forget those missing Russian orphans. They became the inspiration for the plot of her first medical thriller, Harvest.

Harvest was released in hardcover in 1996, and marked Tess's debut on The New York Times bestseller list. Film rights were sold to Paramount/Dreamworks, and the book was translated into twenty foreign languages. Since then, Tess has wrote several more medical thrillers, all equally well received. Tess retired from medicine and to write full time. In her free time she enjoys gardening and playing the fiddle.

She and her family live in Maine.

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