- Author: Tess Gerritsen
- First Published in 2001 by Bantam Press
- Category: Crime, Thriller, Suspense
IN BOSTON, THERE’S A KILLER ON THE LOOSE…
A killer who targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on them before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician – a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them.
Having been a long time fan of Rizzoli & Isles, the TV series, I decided to give the books a go. Very late in the day, I know, since this book was published in 2001. It was strange to read the description of Detective Jane Rizzoli as small, square-jawed and insecure in her position as part of a male dominated team, among other less than flattering characterisations. The only similarity is the dark, curly hair. The only other name I recognise is Frost and in the book he’s white. Maura Isles doesn’t appear in this book either.
Anyway, on with the review. The Surgeon begins with two unsolved murders in the Boston area. Detectives Thomas Moore and Jane Rizzoli are investigating. They discover a surgeon working at a trauma centre in Boston, Dr Catherine Cordell, was the victim of a similar attack two years ago in Savannah. She survived by shooting and killing her assailant. But it seems someone has picked up where he left off. ‘The Surgeon,’ so called because of his methods of torture, is targeting Catherine.
Only after the elevator door had closed did she address Detective Moore. ‘Is this about the hit-and-run that just came in? Because it looks like he’s going to survive.’
“We’re not here about a patient.’
‘You did say you’re from Homicide?’
‘Yes.’ It was the quiet tone of his voice that alarmed her. A gentle warning to prepare herself for bad news.
‘Is this – oh god, I hope this isn’t about someone I know.’
‘It’s about Andrew Capra. And what happened to you in Savannah..’
For a moment she could not speak. Her legs suddenly felt numb and she reached back towards the wall, as though to catch herself from falling.
Although I realise the author is a doctor and without a doubt knows her stuff, the medical procedures and aspects are too graphic and detailed for me. Tess Gerritsen writes with vivid imagery. Those passages, some of which I thought weren’t necessary or relevant to the story, interrupted the flow. Sometimes less is more. Having said that, the writing is good. And, of course, I can see the improvement from this to Playing With Fire, a much more recent, and completely different book, which I enjoyed very much.
The plot, in the main, is well executed, suspenseful and keeps up the pace. The narrative comes from several perspectives, including the killer’s. Good characterisation, whether they’re likeable or not, and there’s room for much more development in future books.
It can sometimes be difficult to adjust from books to screen/TV adaptations, or vice versa, as there are bound to be differences. Based only on this first book, I much prefer how the TV characters are portrayed. Jane Rizzoli isn’t a likeable character in the book. She has a huge chip on her shoulder and is mostly sullen and prickly throughout. She’s bitter about so many things, her family’s dynamics, her position in homicide and the attraction that develops between Catherine and Thomas. Hopefully she’ll mellow as the series progresses. Some of the attitudes, particularly regarding women, seem outdated which probably stems from the fact it was published a while ago. Most notably the assumption that a uterus is the defining feature of a woman. I’ll probably skip a few books and start again with a more up to date one.
About Tess Gerritsen
Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.
While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.
Tess’s first medical thriller, Harvest, was released in hardcover in 1996, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list. Her suspense novels since then have been: Life Support (1997), Bloodstream (1998), Gravity (1999), The Surgeon (2001), The Apprentice (2002), The Sinner (2003), Body Double (2004), Vanish (2005), The Mephisto Club (2006), The Bone Garden (2007), The Keepsake (2008; UK title: Keeping the Dead), Ice Cold (2010; UK title: The Killing Place), The Silent Girl (2011), Last To Die (2012), Die Again (2014), and Playing With Fire (2015). Her books have been published in forty countries, and more than 30 million copies have been sold around the world.
Her books have been top-3 bestsellers in the United States and number one bestsellers abroad. She has won both the Nero Wolfe Award (for Vanish) and the Rita Award (for The Surgeon). Critics around the world have praised her novels as “Pulse-pounding fun” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “Scary and brilliant” (Toronto Globe and Mail), and “Polished, riveting prose” (Chicago Tribune). Publisher Weekly has dubbed her the “medical suspense queen”.
Her series of novels featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the TNT television series “Rizzoli & Isles” starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.
Now retired from medicine, she writes full time. She lives in Maine.