The Rizzoli and Isles Books, by Tess Gerritsen (Part 3)

RizzoliIf you remember from last time, Jane Rizzoli is now a mother and a wife as we finished the sixth book in Tess Gerritsen’s detective series. Her new roles are forcing her to grow as a person and struggle to balance her newfound personal life with the career she values and has no intention of letting go. As for M.E. Maura Isles, well, she had the hots for an unattainable priest. And, um, she was courted by a mysterious secret society that believes evil is real and needs to be vigilantly watched for. So … yeah. She might be in a bit of a rut compared to her partner.

Well, get ready, you guys. She’s kinda ready for some shake-ups in the next two installments. At the very least we get some interesting characters studies of dear Maura. She may always be the Queen of the Dead on the page, but she does make for an intriguing central character when used properly. So what if she doesn’t quite get the character arc that Jane does? In fact, Gerritsen uses this difference to create some underlying tension between the two characters. Jane had change foisted upon her and is struggling to make everything sync up with the goals she had originally planned. Maura quietly longs for what Jane has. If this were the TV show, they’d open a bottle of wine and have a lengthy conversation about how each one somewhat wants what the other has, but this is definitely not the TV show. The Jane and Maura of Gerritsen’s imagination would never discuss their feelings so openly.

In this installment our intrepid heroines face down mummies, religious cults, get stranded in the frozen wilderness, and star in their very first short story. Let’s take a look, shall we?

KeepsakeThe Keepsake (2008)

Ladies and gentlemen, this was the very first Tess Gerritsen book I ever read. My husband loaned it to me shortly after I first met him. It will always have a special place in my heart for that.

It also has a pretty grisly premise. Boston’s Crispin Museum has just discovered a mummy lurking forgotten in their storage basement. Dubbed “Madam X,” the mummy has become the talk of the scientific community, which is eager to learn more about this artifact. Dr. Isles is invited to lead the forensic examination of the mummy because reasons. During the exam, they are shocked to discover that Madam X isn’t an ancient Egyptian artifact at all but the modern day victim of a murder. And when a second body is uncovered in the museum it becomes clear that a madman is on the loose.

Maura and Jane must work with archaeologist Josephine Pulcillo, who appears to have been targeted by the killer, to uncover the secrets buried in the Crispin Museum. Not to mention the dark secret from Josephine’s past that may hold the key to the mystery (of course).

As compelling as the mystery is, this installment turns out to be one of the most predictable R&I books to date. I managed to figure out the bad guy roughly halfway through. The premise was rock solid, though, and Gerritsen made the characters interesting enough that I went back to the beginning to catch up on the series. So clearly it wasn’t all bad.

Grade: B

Ice ColdIce Cold (2010)

The Keepsake may have been a bit of a lull, and I was ‘meh’ about The Mephisto Club, but with this entry Gerritsen gets the Rizzoli and Isles series to roar back to life. Rizzoli isn’t in large swaths of the book, and it turns out that this is exactly what we needed. It’s a savvy move by Gerritsen to alternate viewpoints like this because it keeps her series fresh.

Maura heads to a medical conference in Wyoming. She’s trying to forget her attraction to the unattainable (or is he?) Father Brophy and quietly resentful of the new family and life Jane has. The conference is a chance to refresh her mind and explore new opportunities, so when she gets an invite to tag along with a group of friends on a ski trip she jumps at it.

Unfortunately, things don’t go so well. The group takes that cliched wrong turn and gets lost in a snowstorm, finally seeking shelter in a tiny, unmapped village in the mountains. A village that appears to have been abandoned suddenly. A village that appears to be hiding a violent secret. A village where someone appears to be watching them … and waiting …

Gerritsen flirts with horror movie conventions and it works for her. We also get to see Maura’s calm demeanor and scientific reasoning challenged in a much more interesting, life-threatening way than we did in Mephisto Club. Turns out she has some wicked survival instincts. Topping off this excellent suspense thriller, Jane and Maura get to face off with a religious cult. We also meet a character who will pop up in the next few R&I books–a character who adds new layers to Maura’s character in the same way Jane’s unexpected pregnancy did for her.

Grade: A-

FreaksFreaks (2011)

For the first time, Tess Gerritsen released a short story starring Rizzoli and Isles, available only as an eBook. And for good measure, our intrepid heroines find themselves facing off against a possible vampire and a father eager to avenge his dead daughter.

Let’s be honest for a minute: this short story owes its existence to online marketing. It’s a way to collect a few extra bucks while also drumming up awareness of the series’ next installment, which conveniently comes along pretty soon.

Still, Gerritsen makes it fun. It’s clear that the story idea didn’t have enough firepower to last an entire novel, so it actually was wise to keep this one short. I sound like I’m being harsh on this concept, but that’s not actually the case. Like I said, the idea was kinda fun and couldn’t have sustained a novel anyway. For anyone looking to pad the time between books, you can’t really go wrong.

Grade: B

For more, remember to check out my TV vs Book series post on Rizzoli & Isles, and of course part 1 of the book series rundown. Or just head over to part 4 to find out what happens next.

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