Mystery author #37 Tess Gerritsen

Title: The Surgeon
Series detective: Jane Rizzoli – in this book with Thomas Moore
No. in series: 1
Year of publication: 2001
Type of mystery: Serial murder, police procedural, thriller
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Boston, USA; modern timeless

SPOILER Warning: if you haven't read the books, there is a minor spoiler for book 1 in the synopsis for book 2. There are also minor spoilers in the reviews.

A serial murderer is on the loose in Boston and his handiwork is chillingly similar to that of another serial murderer who has been dead for 2 years, killed in self-defense by his last victim, Dr. Catherine Cordell. Police detectives Jane Rizzoli and Thomas Moore begin to suspect that there might have been two killers working together, but Cordell has no memory of another man. Before long, it becomes apparent that the killer has fixated on Cordell and has plans for her. The killer is relentless and when he captures Cordell, it is a race against time to find his lair before he kills her.

Since I actually read The Apprentice first, I can’t help comparing the two books. The Apprentice is the better of the two, but that is not to say that The Surgeon isn’t a good thriller. It is, and I might have found it better if I had not known who the killer was. Having read the second book first, the story was for me less about finding out who the killer was (he features in the second book too), than seeing the police discover his identity.
While it is Jane Rizzoli who is the series detective, it is not really that obvious here, as Moore is actually the better developed of the two detectives. This may originally have been intended as a stand-alone book, or perhaps the beginning of a series about Moore and not Rizzoli.

Rating: 3 stars.

Title: The Apprentice
Series detective: Jane Rizzoli
No. in series: 2
Year of publication: 2002
Type of mystery: Serial murder, police procedural, thriller
Type of investigator: Police
Setting & time: Boston, modern timeless

Story: It's been two years since Detective Jane Rizzoli captured a serial killer, nearly losing her own life in the process. Now someone is using some of his methods when killing young married women, but also some new methods, and Jane and her team suspect that they are either looking for a copycat who has blended his own methods with the other man’s, or the known killer has an apprentice. When he escapes and it becomes clear that he and the other murderer are working together and their dream target may be Jane. The Boston police have to race against time to stop the murderous tag-team from killing more people, and to find out the identity of the second killer.

Review: It's been a while since I have read a serial murder thriller this good – in fact I think the last one was an early Patricia Cornwell novel. The writing is well-paced and the suspense is nearly relentless and conforming to the classic formula each climax is bigger than the previous one. The episodes (or should I call them 'acts'?) are seamlessly connected and the characters believable, except perhaps the mysterious FBI man who remains wooden throughout, and the mystery killer who is always merely a dark, nameless shadow, a bogeyman to spice up the race to track down the known villain.

I do have a gripe with one storytelling technique used in both books. Of course I am no expert on the mentality of serial murderers, but I know enough to think that the serial killer seems realistic, even though his thoughts – which we get to see now and then throughout the story – are somewhat too literary and coherent (very few if any people think in coherent sentences all the time when not formulating something to say or write down), but I suppose this must be forgiven as it is a well-known literary device and stream-of-consciousness writing is not a device that goes well with the thriller form except in very small dozes..

Rating: 4 stars.

I am definitely adding Gerritsen to my “continue to read” list.


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