Category Archives: Rizzoli and Isles

Die Again – Tess Gerritsen

I have broken with tradition and indeed broken one of my own rules. I like to read a series of books in order yet have made an exception by devouring the latest Tess Gerritsen novel, Die Again, before having read the two before it – I like to space out my favourite series in case they suddenly stop or take a while for the next one to come out. I must admit that I was slightly worried this might mean I may miss something along the way yet it proved that whilst a story runs through all the Rizzoli and Isles novels they all actually can stand alone and are all completely gripping…

Bantam Press, hardback, 2015, fiction, 330 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

In Die Again, the eleventh outing for Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr Maura Isles, we are initially given two stories. Firstly we are miles away from the duo’s home of Boston and find ourselves on a safari trip in Botswana. Here a group of relative strangers, though they include a couple and two best friends, are out to have an adventure in the wilds camping amongst the animals. Things soon take a much darker turn as something or someone starts picking them off one by one. Back in Boston Jane Rizzoli is called to the home of Leon Gott where the owner, a well known hunter and taxidermist, has been horrifically killed rather like a predator might kill its prey in the wild. As Jane and Maura start working together, with some tension between them, it soon appears this might not be a singular incident for the killer. How are the two stories connected? You will have to read the book to find out of course!

I am a huge fan of this series and in Die Again Tess Gerritsen reminds me of why. First there is the way, which I think has become more prevalent and more cunning as the series has gone on, that she will set you up with two stories that couldn’t be less connected if they tried, then slowly drips us information (making us feel super clever, often before she throws in a twist to flummox us) that make the two tales connect. Never to the point where you could easily guess the killer though, which I think makes these novels all the cleverer.

She also finds some subject that oddly often I find fascinating too anyway; like mummies, cults etc (just to name two of my favourites so far) and looks at them in more depth finding out even more fascinating facts that you can regal to your partner/work colleagues/strangers on a train making you seem all the more intelligent. In Die Again the subject is big cats, leopards in particular, and who doesn’t love big cats?

She thought of the cat in her own home, and how it watched her as intensely as this cougar was doing now. The connection between felines and humans was more complex than between a mere predator and prey. A house cat might sit in your lap and eat from your hand, but it still had the instincts of a hunter.
As do we.

The other thing that, for me, sets Tess Gerritsen’s novels apart from many crime series, and also makes me so addicted to them, is the macabre. Now I am not a psycho but I find the human body fascinating, be it alive or be it dead. In Gerritsen’s novels a lot of what we learn about the murders is from the victims and their anatomies as Dr Maura Isles is a forensic pathologist. This might not be for everyone but I just find it genuinely and grimly fascinating (though my dream job is to be a forensic psychologist if I could afford to go to University – any mystery benefactors please do get in touch) and in this series there have been some amazing macabre moments (what looks like a hit and run but has too much of a splat impact/an Egyptian Mummy which has a much fresher body inside it than it should) and Die Again is no exception. Death is after all every person’s final story.

The nude man hung upside down, his ankles bound with orange nylon cord. Like a pig carcass hanging in a slaughterhouse, his abdomen had been sliced open, the cavity stripped of all organs. Both arms dangled free, and the hands would have almost touched the floor – if the hands had still been attached. If hunger had not forced Bruno the dog, and maybe the two cats as well, to start gnawing the flesh of their owner.

While all this horror, notably caused by humans, is played out there are some moments of light. There is the camaraderie between Jane and Maura, which can often be tested or get testy, and their often dark sense of humour, come on if you worked doing what they do you would need a laugh. Giving the novels that extra punch too are the stories of their lives. Jane now married with children and all that brings, Maura and her situation as a single woman… now with a cat, and both of their pasts which have moments of darkness that linger. I can’t speak for everyone but when I pick up a thriller I want something dark, creepy and chilling to escape into in the safety of my own home (even if I have to check under the bed and in the wardrobes before I go to sleep) and Tess Gerritsen does this every time without fail.

I thoroughly enjoyed Die Again and read it in just two sittings. Both the narratives in Boston and Botswana had me hooked, I felt clever when I connected them and then more than happy to be given a final twist I didn’t see coming at the end. I am now really, really keen to head back and read both The Silent Girl and Last To Die playing catch up with Rizzoli and Isles especially as I know there will be a twelfth novel coming in the not too distant future, long may they continue.

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In case you are wondering why I broke with tradition and read the latest book before the others, I was super duper lucky to meet Tess of a lunchtime last week to have a natter about Die Again and much more, some of which I recorded for You Wrote The Book so do have a listen. Who else out there is a big fan of the Rizzoli and Isles novels? Who has yet to read them? Which are your favourite crime series and why?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2015, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

The Killing Place – Tess Gerritsen

Anyone who knows me or has been following Savidge Reads for any length of time will probably know by now that I am a big fan of Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles novels. That said though, because I am such a fan of them, I read them rather sparingly. However the other day when I was feeling in a slight bookish lull, aware I wanted something crime filled and thrilling yet familiar it seemed like it was time to catch up with the eighth in the series ‘The Killing Place’, or ‘Ice Cold’ as its titled abroad, and so I sat down and devoured the book in two sittings, starting one evening and finishing the following morning. They are utterly compelling.

Bantam Press, hardback, 2010, fiction, 322 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

Dr Maura Isles, who you will know by now if you have been reading the series a while, leaves Boston for a medical conference in Wyoming where, needing a change of scene from the disastrous love affair with Father Daniel Brophy, she meets up with an old college acquaintance, Doug, and decides on the spur of the moment (not something a control freak like Maura normally does) to join him, his daughter and friends on a skiing trip for the weekend. Alas the spontaneous adventure takes a darker twist when a sudden snow storm descends and the motley crew end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with a broken down car… Until they spot Kingdom Come a seemingly abandoned settlement of part of a religious group. At first they think they have found their salvation, but they couldn’t have been more wrong.

To give anything else away after this would be to ruin all the wonderful, and truly gripping, twists and turns that Gerritsen will delight you with as ‘The Killing Place’ continues. I was one hundred percent gripped from the start of the book until the very end which I didn’t see turning out the way it did, though knowing Tess Gerritsen’s other books I should have known there is always an added twist or two to any of her tales. Before I carry on raving about the book I should throw in a few slight issues I had with it. Firstly was one of the character names. I won’t say who ‘Rat’ is in the story, as he is quite pivotal, but having that as his name very nearly broke the spell for me. I simply couldn’t get my head around it initially however I carried on as the story was just too good. Secondly I did get a little lost at one point which doesn’t usually happen. Rare for me to say it but about a quarter of the way through too much seemed to happen at once. I was delighted there were so many threads to the novel but for a chapter or two I did find myself thinking ‘hang on a minute… what?’ This did pass though and suddenly all made sense.

What I did really like about this book, and I have noticed this more and more as the series has progressed, is that Gerritsen uses the situations she puts Rizzoli and Isles, or the crimes they investigate, Isles being the Medical Examiner to Rizzoli’s detective, to talk about issues. As the series has gone on its has remained a brilliant set of thrilling crime novels but they have become less slasher and more psychological. In the case of ‘The Killing Place’ the theme is about religious sects and how they are, and aren’t, controlled and how this effects the people in them and outside of them.

I also like to think that these books make me slightly more clever, in a fun if grisly way, as Gerritsen is/was a doctor and so when awful things happen to the victims I find myself learning all sorts of scientific words and phrases I would never normally learn but can now use at will. I am dying to throw organophosphate into a conversation over dinner sometime soon.

‘Pasternak said, “How sure are you that this organophosphate stuff is what we are dealing with?”
   “It will need to be confirmed by the tox report. But the clinical picture is classic. Gruber responded to atropine. And a STAT blood test showed a significant drop in cholinesterase activity. Again, that’s something you’d find with organophosphate poisoning.”’

I highly recommend ‘The Killing Place’, it will grip you from the start and (cliché alert, yet true) have you hooked turning the pages until the small hours. I also think that being more of an Isles story and out of its usual setting of Boston this could be a good place to start the series randomly, unless you are like me and simply have to read everything in order. ‘The Killing Place’ is also a great example of a thriller that deals with issues of our times and leaves you thinking with the questions it asks. Oh, one final thing though, I hope the next book is about the random body that Rizzoli finds in a dead (natural causes) old ladies storage unit. I was really grimly fascinated by that and then Rizzoli went off in search of Maura, I felt that was ‘to be continued…’

Who else is a Rizzoli and Isles fan? Are you a fan of the TV series, I am! Which is your favourite of the books, which would you recommend to a new to Gerritsen reader? Have you read any of the non Rizzoli and Isles tales and if so what did you make of those?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen

Keeping the Dead – Tess Gerritsen

In my book thoughts yesterday I mentioned how that book had appealed to me because as a child I really liked fairy stories. Well, something must be in the air because one of the reasons that I utterly loved ‘Keeping the Dead’ by Tess Gerritsen, or ‘The Keepsake’ as its known on some international shores, was the fact that it started with a tale of mummies and dusty old museums, something else I was fascinated by as a kid. I am wondering what is making me want to read books which have, for me not anyone else, such links with my childhood and my first early reading days. That could start a whole post of its own, so let’s get back to the book in hand.

Bantam Books, paperback, 2009, fiction, 448 pages, from personal TBR

Madam X is the talk of the town as ‘Keeping The Dead’ opens, though she is not initially (oh how things change) as salacious as she sounds. In fact she is an ancient mummy who has been unearthed in the archives of one of Boston’s biggest, if longest forgotten, museums. This is big news for the museum and indeed for the city and so a packed room of media and specialists, including Maura Isles, await the live X-Ray. When a filing appears on the screen they initially believe they have found a major new discovery in the field of Egyptology, who knew that the Egyptians had made these advances in dental treatment? However, when the bullet from a very modern gun appears on the screen it appears that this may have been a much more recent homicide and so Detective Jane Rizzoli is called in to investigate. Soon the Museum is searched and before long more relics are found and they appear to be much less ancient than they look. It seems someone is collection women, or bits of them and soon enough this killer strikes very close indeed.

It is an overused cliché, yet ‘Keeping the Dead’ is an incredible page turner. I read this in three sittings (all at an airport, and if you don’t love flying read a book like this, I didn’t think about landing, being in the air or taking off as I was so engrossed) during a single day. I then promptly felt guilty for devouring it so quickly when I imagine it took quite a time to write, but this was a pure reading pleasure. Well, if you can call a book about a psychopath who likes to make relics of his victims, and use ancient ways of preserving them, a pleasure that is?

‘Keeping the Dead’ is the seventh in the Rizzoli and Isles series which has made Tess Gerritsen so well known, and now of course is a major (and not to bad from what I have watched so far) TV series. It is also possibly the novel which, I think, stands alone the most if you haven’t read any of the previous novels. It’s not that Rizzoli and Isles don’t develop as characters, they just aren’t the focus of this thriller, and indeed it happens over a very short space of time, in the present day sequences, because it’s the back story that we learn as we go. So Rizzoli and Isles are necessary, and indeed it is another of their shared cases, just not on every page because the heart of the story lies elsewhere. I have heard that the next in the series ‘The Killing Place’ focuses much more on our heroines as one of them goes missing. I have had to force myself not to pick it up twice in the few weeks since I put this one down, I want to savour them.

It is always hard to try and make anyone rush out and by a crime novel when you can’t really give anything away, instead I just keep banging on and on about the series and hope that you will all take note and go and pick one up. I have been debating it a while but I think, whilst I have special memories attached with the first two; both ‘The Surgeon’ and ‘The Apprentice’ for introducing me to Rizzoli and Isles, I think that ‘Keeping The Dead’ might be my favourite one yet. They started off well,they just keep getting better and better, and more and more addictive.

Who else is a Gerritsen fan? Which of the non Rizzoli and Isles novels have you read and what did you make of them? Should I really spread out a series or just indulge when the mood takes? What do you do?

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Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2011, Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen, Transworld Publishing

The Bone Garden – Tess Gerritsen

You all probably know how much I love the books by Tess Gerritsen and you also probably know how much I love all things Victorian, so imagine if the two things were combined, it would be just the perfect read. That is exactly what ‘The Bone Garden’ is and as you might guess I won’t be recommending it to you enough. Even if you haven’t tried Gerritsen before or have never planned to give this book a whirl do give this post a read and you might just be convinced.

‘The Bone Garden’ is something a little bit different from the other Tess Gerritsen novels that I have read so far in the fact that really this is a historical mystery and a modern mystery set in alternating chapters and, you guessed it, somehow they both link to each other in a way that twists and turns as you read along.

As the book opens we read a letter regarding ‘The West End Reaper’ who terrified Boston in the 1830’s. I have to admit I did go and google to see if ‘The West End Reaper’ actually existed which shows how believable the story is. It is also a nod in the direction of the UK’s very own ‘Jack The Ripper’ a mystery which still puzzled the world today. We are then taken to modern day Boston where Julia Hamill has recently bought a new house after a messy divorce and whilst clearing the garden discovers a skeleton. Alternating between Julia’s efforts to find out who the body is and why its there and going to the events of the 1830’s which proves to be a particularly gripping romp and mystery combined, especially as you learn that one of the characters became one of the pioneers in medicine.

I liked the modern elements of the novel yet it was definitely the older period of the book which got me hooked especially when seen through the eyes of our plucky (I hope that word doesn’t put people off) heroine Rose Connelley and Norris Marshall a young farm boy who gets accepted at medicine school despite all odds and must do all he can, including grave robbing, to support himself. There is also the man Oliver Wendell Holmes (who I thought was Gerritsen’s homage to Sherlock but is actually real) and the mysterious cloaked figure who is determined to murder at any cost.

In some ways ‘The Bone Garden’ has been described as a spin off from the Isles and Rizzoli novels which have become one of my favourite series to read. Realistically though there is no Rizzoli in this novel and not as much Isles as you might think from the blurb, though Isles does appear on and off in the modern alternating part of the story and its always nice to see a friendly character now and again. Yet I would say if you haven’t given Tess Gerritsen a whirl and you fancy trying her out then this would be a great starting point (though I would of course say start the series with ‘The Surgeon’ if you are after the modern storylines alone).

I really enjoyed this and it has been the perfect read to help cure a rather depressing period of reading difficulty. It is also yet further proof of why Gerritsen deserves to be the number one best seller in the UK which she has been with her latest novel. So should you want a gripping historical mystery, some winter escapism or to give Gerritsen a whirl; then you can’t go wrong with this. 8/10.

Anyone else given this a whirl or any other of Tess Gerritsen’s novels? There will be a special post tomorrow which will give you much more insight into the world of Tess Gerritsen. I shall say no more for now!!

I was bought this book as a present a couple of years ago, I am savouring the series as they come though (even though I now realise its actually a seperate novel rather than part of the series).

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Filed under Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen, Transworld Publishing

The Mephisto Club – Tess Gerritsen

It might look like I am taking a small detour from the weeks ‘Summer Reads Season’ but I’m not really (though I will be on Thursday a little) because Tess Gerritsen novels are actually wonderful summer reads, compelling, page turning, both character and plot driven and a little bit gory. In fact they are really all year round kinds of reads. In fact Tess Gerritsen is one of those wonderful writers who I know if I open any of her books I am just going to completely escape (she’s my guilt free guilty pleasure) and we all need books and authors like that don’t we?

‘The Mephisto Club’ is the sixth in what has become the Rizzoli & Isles series, though like most of the series you can read this as a standalone novel. Actually having said all that you couldn’t read ‘The Apprentice’ without having read ‘The Surgeon’ before hand as it is sort of a sequel, but I digress.  One of the things I think Tess Gerritsen always does well as the series goes on is to give you brief hints of what has gone on before rather than any catch ups and means that the books don’t suffer from too much retrospective unless its part of the plot, and believe me Gerritsen is all about the plot.

The book opens with the murder of a woman which looks to be sacrificial, dismembered parts of her are surrounded by words in Latin and satanic looking symbols. What becomes more ominous is when Dr Maura Isles has the body in one place she realises one of the hands doesn’t belong to the woman they found and Detective Jane Rizzoli is going to have to find a serial killer. That’s sort of the opening state of play though actually not only does Gerritsen create a fast paced thriller from all this and move Isle’s and Rizzoli’s lives forward (Maura’s love life gets ever more complicated and scandalises Rizzoli testing their already ropey friendship) she does more with this novel.

Through symbolism at the crime scene and as the story moves on a much bigger story, which leads us to Italy, is going on. Mythology and legends come into play through the mysterious ‘Mephisto Club’ which I will say no more about as you won’t read the book if I do. I will say that Gerritsen looks at how humans become evil and if there is the God people say there is, then surely there must be demons and the devil too? It never gets supernatural, though it does get quite scary, but looks at the possibilities behind certain beliefs. I was hooked from start to finish and read it in two sittings. I shouldn’t be surprised though as this happens with every single Gerritsen I pick up. 8/10

Do you have any faithful authors of any genre that you know as soon as you open the pages you will be lost in the book and devour in a few sittings? What or who your guilt free guilty pleasure all year round? This was the book I read o the plane to the Isle of Man last week to stop myself being aware I was on the plane, it worked! Which other series do you think I might like if I enjoy Gerristen so? I am well aware I am catching up with the Gerritsen books far too quickly as have started the next one, which interestingly has Isles in it but is completely and utterly different from this series, more on that soon…

Savidge suggests perfect prose partners;

The Surgeon – Tess Gerritsen (to start at the very beginning)
Postmortem by Patricia Cornwell (I liked this a lot and know she has a huge readership, I do think Gerritsen’s books read better and are more addictive – is it bad to say that? Too late!)

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Vanish – Tess Gerritsen

I hate flying but from now on whenever I have a big trip coming up I am going to have to make sure that I take a Tess Gerritsen book with me. I had been unsure of which book to read as I flew to and from Switzerland and most of my contenders seemed too heavy (especially as I was on a little bit of vallium) but my latest read in the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles novels ‘Vanish’ was absolutely perfect. I always say that a Tess Gerritsen book for me is my favourite ‘Guilty Pleasure’ but actually I am going to remove that tag from her books now as frankly literary or not (dependent on what you believe is and isn’t literature) she writes brilliant books that completely grip me and have me turning pages like crazy.

Vanish is in fact the fifth book in what was the Jane Rizzoli series and then became the Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isle series of crime/thriller novels that Tess Gerritsen has become incredibly famous for. Every single of the previous fur I have absolutely loved and raced through and so each time I open another one I always worry that this will be the one that I don’t like or that isn’t as good as the ones that have gone before it. I needn’t have worried as I was in safe, if gruesome, hands of a master of her work, or is it mistress of her work?

Dr Maura Isles is going about her routine paperwork at the morgue when she hears a noise. Not one for getting the creeps, as she is named ‘Queen of the Dead’, even she is shocked when she checks on the bodies and one of them opens their eyes. The woman is rushed to hospital where she then (and this isn’t spoiling the plot as its in the blurb) kills a guard and takes some of the staff and patients hostage. One such hostage is Detective Jane Rizzoli of homicide who is heavily pregnant. Who is this Jane Doe and what does she want and can Jane survive long enough to find out.

In previous books, as with this one, they are quite gruesome dark and tense. What makes an interesting twist with this book in particular is that Gerritsen decides to throw in some political twists which she hasn’t done so much in the past, had I known this I would possibly have been put off a little as I don’t do politics but Gerritsen makes it compelling reading adding to the suspense and twists which I don’t find many authors manage when they cross over the political thriller with the crime thriller. I can see this book gaining Gerritsen even more fans who may not have tried her before.

Along with all this is the fact that Gerritsen herself is a doctor and so she knows what she is talking about, never for one minute do you feel any of the scenes in the hospitals or morgues are faked, in fact Gerritsen has said that finding non dead people in morgues is more common than you would think which is a bit of a scary thought. Ok so some of the story line means you really have to suspend your belief (in the last one Dr Maura Isles opens up a body bag to see herself in it), but many, many books do that. Her characters though are superb and she does something only a few crime writers do which is get the reader to know the victim, making the death not only shocking tense and chilling but also adding the feeling you know that person makes it all the more horrific to read. I can’t say a bad thing about this book and do you know what… the next book, The Mephisto Club, sounds even better!

It was also perfect after the Orange shortlist (reviews still being sorted for the final two I read… I don’t understand what blogger is playing at) which though a great read and made me read some wonderful books I would otherwise have missed was a bit like an exercise and all too planned. Now before I try and do the Man Booker Long list when its announced I am more than happy to just let my reading whims take me wherever they should lead. Bliss!

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Filed under Review, Rizzoli and Isles, Tess Gerritsen, Transworld Publishing

Body Double – Tess Gerritsen

After a few ropey classics I have decided to start October with one of my favourite authors of the moment Tess Gerritsen. It is great to know in a world filled with so many books and the possibility of so many let downs (and yes so many gems) that you can pick up a book and just know the time will whizz by and you will be hooked and lost in another fictional world.

‘Body Double’ has just done exactly that and I think in all honesty that it’s my favourite of Gerritsen’s books so far and that is saying something. Whereas the previous books have in general focused on Jane Rizzoli this one is much more about ‘Queen of the Dead’ pathologist Maura Isles who has been sneakily becoming a bigger and bigger character in the series as it has gone on. You can read these books in any order; I am just a bit funny about reading things in order. I digress, the story…

Maura Isles has been on holiday after her previous horrific adventure with Jane Rizzoli. When she arrives back from ‘vacation’ she finds the police surrounding her house and a dead woman in a car outside, when she see’s the dead woman she sees herself and they share a birth day and the same blood type. In fact when the DNA tests come in Maura finds that the woman in the car was her twin sister given away when they were both adopted. Maura goes in search of her sisters past and finds it’s full of dark and deadly secrets.

Gerritsen is amazingly clever in firstly coming up with such a clever, warped and dramatic story and secondly in pulling it off. What seems so unlikely is made completely believable once the story of the past of these twin sisters starts to come to light and also it’s incredibly creepy. This is less of a gore fest than its predecessors also and I have to say is slightly better for it, you still get quite a lot of facts and some of them quite squeamish when the autopsies are performed to various cadavers.

Plot is one of the key element, like Christie (but much gorier) the prose is fast and blunt rather than flowery but the plot is tight and you can devour a five hundred page book in one sitting. I am a complete Gerritsen fan, and while I could quite happily move straight onto ‘Vanish’ I have decided to savour the moment and leave off, I don’t want to finish this series before the new one is out do I?

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