Thursday, January 29, 2015

Die Again?

It has finally happened. Since 2012’s Last to Die (which was a letdown), Tess Gerritsen has finally released book eleven (technically twelve if you count The Bone Garden) in her Rizzoli and Isles series, Die Again. Finally the crime-fighting duo is back!  And just for the record, I don't watch the TV show.  I saw the first episode, realized how Angie Harmon didn't even come close to how I envision Jane Rizzoli (help me Jesus was that too much for me), and decided I didn't want to spoil my personal perspective of the series and characters.  Additionally, I dislike the show's theme song.  I know.  How petty.  But I just can't get with its Celtic melody.  Something about it kills the Rizzoli and Isles universe's edge.

So I'm done being petty and, considering I haven't written much about Tess Gerritsen since starting this blog, I'll give a little background as to how I discovered the series.  Which was really quite simple, as it merged out of reading Patricia Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta series.  I wanted to read more on medical examiners and forensic pathology; while the pathologist of the duo, Isles, didn't show up until the second book, her name brought me to the series.  And yes, I fell hard for Jane after the first book.  Then WHAM: two women solving crimes.  One is a temperamental detective.  One is a distant medical examiner.  I identified with both adjectives, so how could I resist?  Furthermore, I just love reading about intelligence characters and authors with a knack for teaching me a thing or two about a life I'd probably never get a chance to live.  And seeing that Gerritsen is a doctor, I kind of trust her shit.

Needless to say, I've kept up ever since.  And I'm always, always proud to say that my favorite book in the series is Body Double (book #4).  I threw my schoolwork aside to read that book in a single night.  That's how serious the situation became.  There are a few other Gerritsen books outside of her Rizzoli and Isles series that I also recommend.  Two being Harvest and Gravity.  Both will turn into one-night reads.  Trust.

So yeah.  I'm pretty familiar with Tess Gerritsen.  Now on to Die Again.

The narrative format throughout Die Again is the same as her previous books in the Rizzoli and Isles series.  Gerritsen’s narrative jumps from different perspectives, times and settings. In Die Again, she places the series’ stars in the present investigation state of solving the gruesome murder of a taxidermist named Leon Gott. Like the big-game hunter he once was, Gott is found in a position similar to his animal conquests, hanging upside down in his garage and gutted like a forest duiker.  With a few clues and connections, the ladies back their way through his history to un-bury the truth behind his murder.  Sometimes at the slight displeasure of one another's company.  It’s an unusually gruesome murder/case, but I found it plays into the book's primal overture of finding ourselves psychologically helpless and gutted by our fears. To the point where we're paralyzed by them. (You'll probably get it once you read the book.)

Nonetheless, so where does this case lead series’ star Rizzoli and Isles? Well, here comes Gerritsen’s B-story.

Six years ago a group of multinational (from Japan to America) tourists disappeared on a safari deep in Botswana. And while you would think a herd of lions took over their camp and snatched them all into the African bush, there was actually a killer among the group picking them off one by one during the night. Naturally, this raised suspicions within the group, and as the tension and murders continued, one lone survivor named Millie flew into the African bush to escape. She survived two weeks before arriving half dead at a gaming lodge tucked into the African Delta.  And really, after reading the first book in Suzanne Arruda's African safari-themed mystery series, I have to say that Gerritsen's complete take came nowhere near as uneventful and boring.  Meaning, when Gerritsen uses words and language to put you in Botswana you were there–storywise and all.  

As for the killer, well, he’s still out there hunting from the African bush of Botswana to one of the oldest cities in the U.S., Boston.  Which all sounds like a sweep and an outliner's nightmare, but, as always, Gerritsen made it all coalesce.  With a shiny–if not far-fetched–glow.  

So yeah.  Die Again was a thrill, but at the end I thought to myself "it was good, but she was reaching high on this one."  

I think that mostly came with how I didn't really get her villain.  Apart from how the limited suspects led me to him more than partway through the book, I just wasn't compelled by his presence.  His argument.  And the rush ending didn't help matters.  So in that sense, the villain seemed wooden to me.  Even while his deathly deeds and modus operandi were documented (mainly through the eyes of others) and summarized, I didn't get enough of his personal angle.  To me, the killer's point is just as important as the good guy's.  This kind of made me wish Gerritsen shared chapters focused on the killer's psychology as well as Millie's story of survival.  And the ending of Die Again let me down in this aspect.  I would've appreciated a full fleshing out.  (Think the A&E reality show, The Killer Speaks.)

Even so, Gerritsen has mentioned before that her books contain women climbing out of horrific situations, and it's been an on-going staple to her storytelling.  Without a doubt, this is the strength of the series.  Therefore, I did find myself touched by Millie's story.  Not so much toward the end where she becomes a jittery mess (though completely understandable), but I was definitely in her corner through her narrative.  Additionally, I felt for the fate of a few of the supporting characters.  The "what could've been" at the end of the book was moving.

Die Again is another fantastic Rizzoli and Isles thriller.  It's gripping where it needs to be.  Wonderfully thematic if you pay close attention.  And overall fun riding once again with Rizzoli's mouth running and Isles complimenting her with her own theories.  They're friends.  They support one another in their common goal.  Sometimes that support is tested, but you know it's unbreakable.  

If you're not familiar with the series, I suggest you start with the first book, The Surgeon.  

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