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Rizzoli & Isles Reading Rampage

August 10, 2012

Tess Gerritsen wasn’t a mystery writer on my radar until recently. I know she’s prolific. And her book jackets started to proclaim “Rizzoli & Isles now a series on TNT.” I had watched a couple of episodes, because I do love a good crime drama. (Sasha Alexander’s turn on NCIS made me glad to see her in another show.)

And then I got a couple of Rizzoli & Isles books in the mail, from the nice publicity people at Random House. One arrived a rather shameful while ago, and has been sitting on my shelf. (Grad school will do that to a person.) And another just arrived. And I picked one up at a book swap.

I have learned an interesting thing from the publicity materials. Gerritsen’s mother immigrated to the US from China, and used horror films to learn English, so Tess watched movies like Them, and The Birds, and The Mummy as a little girl. Good background for a mystery writer.

Three novels later (my last hurrah of fiction reading before the semester?), here are my thoughts.

I got the basic gist of the series from watching on TV. Jane Rizzoli, a tough, no nonsense Boston cop with a big Italian family who causes her drama. Forthright, sometimes foul-mouthed, not really embracing things like high heels and dresses. One of the guys. Maura Isles: Medical examiner, methodical, neat, precise, educated and a fount of obscure knowledge. In the typical way of TV shows, she’s the girly ladylike one, the opposite of Rizzoli and they’re friends.

So, here are the Rizzoli and Isles books I have read:

Last to Die

Available Aug 28, 2012 352 pages

Interesting, if ghoulish, premise. A teenage boy is devastated and traumatized when his foster family is murdered. Especially so, because this is the second time something like this has happened to him. His parents were murdered just two years ago. To keep him safe, Rizzoli has Teddy moved to the exclusive and remote Evensong boarding school, where all the students are survivors of some form of violent crime. There, she finds two others whose cases are eerily similar. Survivors of murder and tragedy twice over, with seemingly no connection between the children or their families, except that they’re being hunted.

Here, the mystery itself worked for me, satisfyingly twisty, a little bit gory. I was brought up short in a number of spots by allusions to past history.Coming in at the tenth book in an established mystery series will do that to a person. I do not care for the Mephisto Society, which appears to be a recurring thing. Conspiracies, evil in the world, demons, secret society, blah blah, I do not need this in my otherwise satisfying mystery. The reason Evensong enters the picture is because Maura Isles has a connection to a boy there, Julian and his dog Bruno. Something perilous happened in Wyoming, in a previous book. And there are allusions to Isles’ past relationships, including something involving an affair with a priest? I am confused and it is time to read more.

The Keepsake

2008, 350 Pages

The small and chronically underfunded Crispin Museum is having a welcome media blitz: it seems that they’ve discovered a mummy in their own private collection, while they were doing inventory. Medical Examiner Maura Isles is one of the guests invited to watch as the mummy is examined with CT scan. But… whoops! Is that a modern dental filling? As the mummy is discovered to be a murder victim, the museum is in an uproar, and not getting the kind of publicity they hoped for. And this first faux mummy might not be the only murder victim hidden and preserved in plain sight in the collection. There’s an Archaeology Murderer on the loose.

As I read this, I mostly thought “mummies! yay!” I love a good museum mystery, with archaeology and anthropology, and Egypt mixed in. Any detectives could have been the ones solving this, and I would have been quite happy with the levels of suspense, the plot turns, and of course plenty of Egyptology and history. There’s more of the same character development and relationships, the priest, the Mephisto society, Rizzoli family dramas, but I’m in it for the mystery thanks.

The Silent Girl

2011, 318 pages

And I’ve zoomed through my third Rizzoli & Isles mystery in quick succession. This one had martial arts, Boston’s Chinatown, and family secrets galore. A body shows up on the roof of a building in Chinatown, decapitated with what was evidently a very sharp sword. There are silvery hairs on the victim’s clothes, hairs that stump the medical examiner. The building where the murder took place is said to be cursed, cursed by a senseless, violent bloodbath of a crime scene that happened years ago.

I was pretty much hooked from page one, and zipped through this. Gore, family secrets, linked crimes, interesting bits about martial arts practice and Chinese mythology… and then a spooky touch that evaded even Isles’ rational attempts to pin it down. I thought I had it figured out about 3/4 through, and it turns out I had one part figured, but the ultimate solution was a complete surprise. In a good, not implausible way.

And this concludes my day of doing almost nothing but reading mysteries. And cleaning out my closet. I did that, too.

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