I admit it, I did not read Tess Gerritsen before I became hooked on RIzzoli & Isles on television. I apparently have some sort of weakness for female medical examiners, because even when the R & I dialogue makes me cringe (several times an episode!), I can't stop watching. I watched the Jill Hennessy one, too, and now the Dana Delaney. I've knocked out the eight books currently in the series in the last week or so, and really enjoyed them. The next book, THE SILENT GIRL, is due out July 5. If you watch the show and you're one of those people driven mad by differences between page and screen (a la BONES and Kathy Reichs), well, you're going to want to skip this series, but I enjoyed it. Complex plots, interesting investigations, and medical detail are excellent, but what really makes this series shine is the friendship between Rizzoli and Isles. Fun, if sometimes dark, summer reading.
Here's the series in order:
THE SURGEON: Jane Rizzoli (no Maura Isles until THE APPRENTICE) and her partner, Thomas Moore, are on the trail of a serial killer. Jane is not always likable - she's gone to great lengths to prove herself as a female cop, and she can be unreasonable, oversensitive, and belligerent. This is what makes her a standout character, actually, because there's more to her than a competent cop, and Gerritsen deals with the issue of sexism head-on, but not in a preachy way. The descriptions of violence were sometimes unnecessarily brutal, but the mystery is interesting, the plot twisty, and the investigation absorbing.
THE APPRENTICE: The second book introduces Maura Isles and continues where THE SURGEON left off. A new serial killer is in town, with some eerily familiar habits. This one dragged a bit for me at first, but quickly veered into unputdownable plotting. This one explores Rizzoli's character more, which is really enjoyable, as Rizzoli, Isles, and FBI agent Gabriel Dean hunt down a new killer.
THE SINNER: The series is really hitting its stride in the third installment, which focuses on a brutal attack on two nuns in a convent. Rizzoli and Isles are both lapsed Catholics, which gives their investigation complexity and allows Gerritsen to explore the theme of blind faith. The case becomes more and more complicated, as do the personal lives of the main characters.
BODY DOUBLE: This entry opens with Maura Isles arriving home from Europe to find her street filled with police cars, responding to her death in a car outside her own house. The woman looks eerily similar to the adopted Maura, so much so that she confronts the possibility that she had a twin. Meanwhile, a very pregnant Rizzoli is on the trail of a killer who targets pregnant women, giving her an uncharacteristic vulnerability. Maura's private life becomes even more complicated, between an unlikely attraction and revelations about her birth mother.
VANISH: A woman in Isles's morgue wakes up and takes a group of hostages that includes pregnant Jane Rizzoli. This one was fantastic, with Gerritsen exploring sex slavery and post-9/11 security measures that give the government frightening power. An excellent entry. My only complaint is that I could see a key plot twist coming from a mile away, but it was still worthwhile to watch it unfold.
THE MEPHISTO CLUB: A grisly murder/dismemberment with Satanic overtones sends Rizzoli and Isles to the Mephisto Club, an odd group of scholars dedicated to fighting demons. Yes, demons. They contend that some people can commit hideously evil deeds precisely because they are not human. The skeptical Rizzoli would like to write the group off as a bunch of weirdos, but they prove too helpful to dismiss entirely. The main action takes place in the United States, with some jaunts to Europe thrown in. Burial practices and mythology round out a complex plot.
THE KEEPSAKE: Isles is involved in the x-ray examination of Madame X, a mummy unearthed in the basement of the Crispin Museum. When a bullet and modern dental work are found on the mummy, Rizzoli investigates. More "keepsakes" turn up, leading to a search for a stalker with ties to a museum employee. This one stretched credibility maybe a bit more than other Gerritsen books, but I still found it enjoyable, and the museum/archaeology angle is an interesting one.
ICE COLD: This entry was an excellent thriller, though it takes a while to hit its stride. Maura Isles, reeling from personal issues, heads to a medical conference, where she encounters an old friend. The rarely spontaneous Isles joins him, his teenaged daughter, and his friend Arlo and wife, on an ill-fated ski trip. Lost in a snowstorm, they seek shelter in an empty house whose residents seem to have vanished entirely. This one gave me the creeps, and I started to wonder if Gerritsen was wandering into paranormal territory.
THE SILENT GIRL comes out next month, and I've preordered it on the Kindle.
Source disclosure: I purchased these books.