In 2002, Tess Gerritsen released a book that set readers on edge. Following the trials of the Boston PD as the police force searched for an allusive killer known only as The Surgeon, this book set the stage for a whole new genre in suspenseful literature.
The Surgeon is the book that introduces readers to Jane Rizzoli, the character now featured in the TNT primetime series Rizzoli and Isles (played by Angie Harmon). A formidable character of the book, Rizzoli is a detective out to prove that women belong in the police force and should be a force to be reckoned with. The bottom line: she knows her stuff. She has been knocked down by her family as “just a girl” when compared to her two overbearing brothers, pushed around by members of the PD who believe she is too “hormonal” just because she is a woman, and, more often than not, her brilliant ideas are torn from her from the upper management on the force. In retaliation, Rizzoli is bold, brazen, and ready to take on The Surgeon by herself if necessary.
While Rizzoli is one character in the novel, she is by no means the “main” character. Gerritsen has done an amazing job of making many characters in the novel primary to her audience. Is it The Surgeon himself who speaks directly to the reader in first person italics as if he were writing a diary entry? Is it Rizzoli who steps up to make her statement – calling out to those who put down women? Is it Thomas Moore, known to the officers as “Saint Thomas” for his do-good personality and his love for one of the victims? Is it Dr. Catherine Cordell the one victim of The Surgeon who got away? Gerritsen’s characters draw us in, her descriptions let us get to know them, and her dialogue builds relationships in a way no other description will.
The storyline goes something like this: Two years ago in Savannah, GA, Andrew Capra, a medical intern, was called on the carpet for some bad choices in the hospital. He then visited his supervising doctor, Dr. Catherine Cordell, at her home where he attacked, raped, and prepared to murder her as he had -presumably- killed others like her. She killed him, barely surviving to tell the tale. She moves on to address – at various points in the novel – the horrifying affects of rape on the women involved. In an effort to forget the past, Cordell moves to Boston and takes up with the local hospital. Having a thriving practice and taking time to help others proves fulfilling until the Boston PD shows up in her examination room. Rizzoli and partner have been assigned to a murder case that is eerily similar to the murders in Savannah – the murder that only Cordell survived. Shaken, Cordell begins to notice that not only are the latest murders similar to what was to happen to her, but other parts of her life are strangely out of sync. Keys are missing, stethoscope misplaced, lab coat moved. Is it all in her head or is someone new – a copycat – out to finish what Capra started? And if it is a copycat, why Cordell?
This is the question Rizzoli brings to light. She believes that as women continue to be killed – women who have a history of rape, there is more of a connection to Cordell than initially sought. With Capra dead, who could be carrying on his legacy?
Meanwhile Thomas Moore is braving everything to get closer to Cordell himself. After mourning the death of his wife, he has finally met someone who can turn his world inside out, but at what cost? This book is anything but a romantic read, but this touch of compassion is a perfect resting place after the chaos of life in Boston.
With each turn of the page, Gerritsen brings us to our knees. Grim details of each brutal killing make us wonder how someone could be so calculated and cunning. This book is a must read for anyone who has reached for a Kathy Reichs or John Saul novel. The last chapters may leave you breathless as you fight alongside Rizzoli, but it is definitely worth it. Just remember to leave the lights on and check the locks before you go to bed the nights you are reading this novel.