The Shape of Night, by Tess Gerritsen

Seven stars

After reading a number of Rizzoli & Isles novels by Tess Gerritsen, I was drawn to her latest piece, a standalone, to see if it held as much excitement for me. Definitely full of mystery, this book will leave those who have loved the aforementioned series with many questions and potential concerns if this is the new path Gerritsen is set to take. Ava Collette has decided to leave the busy life she led in Boston, settling in a small Maine town. With many secrets in the rear view mirror, Ava has a deadline to complete her latest cook book, which she will fill with sea-themed New England classics. After renting a property, Ava discovers some disturbing things that have her wondering about her choice of accommodation. She learns that the house was built by Captain Jeremiah Brodie, who is a local seafaring celebrity. When she is visited by an apparition late one night, the haunting takes on a new level of concern, though things are also a lot more intense for Ava on other levels too. As she digs into the background of the previous owners and renters of the house, Ava discovers something highly disturbing, leaving her little choice but to take immediate action. Question is, will it be enough? A very unique piece by Tess Gerritsen that will surely get people talking, but perhaps not for the right reason.

While I have always enjoyed the Tess Gerritsen books I’ve read, this one was surely out in left field for me. I cannot be sure if this ties in to some of her other standalone novels, but other reviewers seem to be on the same page as I am. Paranormal soft-core pornography is not a genre I want to read about, especially from someone like Tess Gerritsen, so I will have to be very careful about what I read of hers in the future. Ava Collette began as quite the interesting protagonist. Fleeing issues in her life, she settles in a rural community to lose herself, or perhaps find her writing groove. Her backstory emerges throughout the book, which tells an interesting narrative all its own. The development that occurs, particularly in relation to the haunting/paranormal activity. I felt this really lessened the impact of the story, adding to that the sexual encounters that occur throughout. Other characters helped try to make this a strong story, but it was as though Gerritsen could not help returning to this silly theme that really sullied the story for those who have enjoyed her thrillers in the past. The story could have been great, as it had all the needed ingredients, but it flopped on a few occasions and left me wondering why she might want to go in these directions. All the power to those who want to read ‘his pulsing member’ novels, but when you add ‘his pulsing apparition member’, you lose even more level-headed readers. Not all is lost, but some readers like me may not be able to simply ignore it.

Kudos, Madam Gerritsen, for the attempt, but let’s stick to Boston’s crime scene and more Rizzoli & Isles, if you please.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

I Know a Secret (Rizzoli and Isles #12), by Tess Gerritsen

Eight stars

Returning with the twelfth novel in her popular series, Tess Gerritsen shows that she is still able to captivate audiences with her Rizzoli and Isles police procedurals. When the body of Cassandra Coyle is discovered, her eyes surgically removed, Detective Jane Rizzoli is concerns that there is a new and sadistic killer on the loose. The detail of the bilateral globe enucleation has even Dr. Maura Isles baffled, especially with no real clues as to who the killer might be. When another body is discovered a few days later, Rizzoli and Isles wonder if Timothy McDougal’s arrow riddled body could be the work of the same killer. With nothing linking the two victims, Rizzoli and her team try to find anything that might prove similar, finding a scrap of something in their funeral attendees. When Isles mentions the cases to a close personal friend, he makes the sweeping suggestion. Might these killings be tied in that both victims were killed in a way by which certain Catholic saints met their demise? Rizzoli cross-references the murders and makes some disturbing parallels, only further exacerbated when she makes another connection between them from decades past. Could there be a degree of retribution at play here and, if so, how might they locate the next victim? Meanwhile, Isles must come to terms with the realisation that her birth mother, Amalthea Lank, is a sadistic serial killer whose days are numbered as she suffers with end-stage cancer. Forced to come to terms with her feelings on numerous levels, Isles must face the reality that this is the last connection to her bloodline, real or adopted. As the case heats up and suspects emerge, Rizzoli and the rest of the Boston PD Homicide DIvision race to find a killer with deep-seeded resentments, but nothing is quite as it seems. Gerritsen returns to her former glory with this captivating piece that taps into the depths of the cat and mouse game found in superior police procedurals. Series fans will surely be pleased to see the caliber of writing is back and the plot is filled with twists to keep the reader guessing.

I have long been a fan of Gerritsen’s work, particularly with this series. I was a fan of the television programme when it aired as well, though did find myself trying to place the two protagonists into a small box as I watched or read, which might have hampered my ability to enjoy the characters in these two mediums. The banter between Rizzoli and Isles usually proves the most interesting aspect of the novels, working together and yet in their own sphere to solve these murders. What some might consider the greatest secret of all is how Gerritsen took a series that was beginning to turn stale and breathe new life into it. I was forced to play a little mental catch-up to reacquaint myself with the characters (not helped by the alternate development made on television) before I could feel entirely comfortable with the larger plot, remembering how I skimmed through the lesser quality novels preceding this one. Gerritsen does well to pace this story and keeps the reader wondering, while plucking breadcrumbs from the early narrative to spin wonderful branch-offs throughout. The story’s development is slow and methodical, taking the reader on a few major twists before revealing what seems like the true path towards the killer. These literary forks in the road serve to advance the story and keep the reader unsure what awaits them. While some past novels fell flat, Gerritsen seems to have found her groove and one can hope this will continue for as long as the series remains an active project.

Kudos, Madam Gerritsen for a wonderful novel that keeps the reader guessing and shows that you have not lost your writing spark.