The Surgeon, by Tess Gerritsen

>> Saturday, September 25, 2010

TITLE: The Surgeon
AUTHOR: Tess Gerritsen

PAGES: 368
PUBLISHER: Ballantine

SETTING: Contemporary Boston
TYPE: Mystery / Police procedural
SERIES: Starts the Jane Rizzoli / Maura Isles series (although only Jane appears in this first book)

REASON FOR READING: Tess Gerritsen has been on my radar for a while now, and a post by Wendy about why she thinks Gerritsen's past writing romances helps her create such good mysteries, followed by a really intriguing review of the author's latest at AAR, made me finally pick up one of her books.

In her most masterful novel of medical suspense, New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen creates a villain of unforgettable evil--and the one woman who can catch him before he kills again.

He slips into their homes at night and walks silently into bedrooms where women lie sleeping, unaware of the horrors they soon will endure. The precision of the killer's methods suggests he is a deranged man of medicine, propelling the Boston newspapers and the frightened public to name him "The Surgeon."

The cops' only clue rests with another surgeon, the victim of a nearly identical crime. Two years ago, Dr. Catherine Cordell fought back and killed her attacker before he could complete his assault. Now she hides her fears of intimacy behind a cool and elegant exterior and a well-earned reputation as a top trauma surgeon.

Cordell's careful facade is about to crack as this new killer recreates, with chilling accuracy, the details of Cordell's own ordeal. With every new murder he seems to be taunting her, cutting ever closer, from her hospital to her home. Her only comfort comes from Thomas Moore, the detective assigned to the case. But even Moore cannot protect Cordell from a brilliant hunter who somehow understands--and savors--the secret fears of every woman he kills.
I'm feeling lazy today and the description above is very nearly spot on, so I won't bother duplicating the effort. Do read it and come back.

Done? Then I'll just add the big thing that's missing, which is Jane Rizzoli. Jane is part of the team investigating the Surgeon case, and as the only female detective working in homicide, she's got something to prove. She's just as desperate to solve the case as Thomas Moore, even though she doesn't particularly care for Catherine.

Within minutes of starting The Surgeon, I was kicking myself for taking so long to try Gerritsen. This is exactly what I want out of a police procedural.

Whether you like this as much as I did will probably depend on your tolerance for graphic violence. There is quite a lot of that here, and it's truly horrific, so be warned. I didn't have a problem with it, but all I need to be able to cope is that the violence is not gratuitous and exploitative. It's certainly not that in this book.

It also develops into a case that's truly fascinating. It's not only what's actually happening that's interesting, it's also the connections to the previous case and it all combines to create a case that had me wondering how on earth this could be and how would Gerritsen manage to tie it all together and make it make sense.

She does, and how! The answer develops organically from the investigation. For a procedural to work really well for me, I need to be able to follow and understand the logic of the investigation. I need to buy that it would happen that way. Here, I did. Gerritsen's detectives don't ignore obvious avenues of enquiry just to move the plot in a particular direction. They don't make leaps of logic that just, oh so serendipitously, happen to be on the money. The work their asses off to unearth evidence and then follow it. It makes for a very satisfying (to the reader) investigation.

But best of all was that not only was I interested in the investigation, I was also even more interested in the detectives involved in it, most especially Jane. Oh, I liked the other characters well enough. Thomas and Catherine provide a really nice romance subplot, and other characters were very well drawn. It was Jane, however, who I loved. She's very not an easy character. She's prickly and defensive, with a huge chip on her shoulder. She's definitely got a reason for it, given her family and some of the sexist pigs who surround her at work, but it's still sometimes frustrating to see her deal with them. She's a good person, but sometimes isn't nice at all. She's good at her job, but sometimes makes head-bangingly wrong decisions. All of which, actually, makes her an even more real and interesting character.

I've read an interview with Gerritsen where she said that she originally meant to kill off Jane in the first book. Instead she kept her, and she's become the central character of the series, together with Maura Isles, who doesn't show up until later in the series, apparently. I'm very glad Gerritsen changed her mind, and I will continue to follow her.



Jennie,  29 September 2010 at 00:29  

I'm tempted to try Gerritsen, but I'm afraid the violence will be too much for me! And you say it's graphic. I love a good mystery, but I'm kind of a wimp about the gory details. I watched the first episode of the show that's based on these books, and it was too scary for me!

rosario001,  29 September 2010 at 08:40  

Jennie: Yeah, I'm afraid it might not be for you, then. I can see this one turning many people's stomachs. Gerritsen does have a few books that are not in this series, though, which I plan to read. Maybe those are a bit tamer, I'll let you know!

SuperWendy,  30 September 2010 at 18:45  

Jennie: If the first episode of the TV series was too much for you, the books are definitely going to be way out of your comfort zone. 

Rosario: Yeah, Maura shows up in the next book - and Thomas and Catherine get kicked to the curb.  I think they get a passing mention in The Apprentice, but after that they pretty much drop out of sight.  Which was fine by me, because I'm all about Jane :)

rosario001,  1 October 2010 at 08:16  

Wendy: That's more than fine by me, too! Thomas and Catherine were nice, but a bit soppy compared to Jane, lol!

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