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Saturday, 17 December 2016

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles, #1) - Book Review

4/5 Stars

Today they will find her body.

I know how it will happen.

I can picture, quite vividly, the sequence of events that will lead to the discovery...


Edition: Paperback
Pages: 416
Chapters: 27 (Plus a prologue and an epilogue.)
Publisher: Bantam Books

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Amazon
                      Author's Website

Review

The Surgeon, book one in the Rizzoli & Isles series (although this entry only features Rizzoli and not Isles), is a story with intense emotions and experiences. It has the standard crime plot, with a serial killer on the loose in Boston, Massachusetts, but its main themes and messages surround the issue of rape and the hardships faced by women who have been raped.

As a warning, even if your stomach can handle blood, gore, and psychotic fiction, the subject matter within The Surgeon is portrayed with unforgiving honesty. Something I cannot commend the author on enough.

I would say the theme of 'men bad, women good' can sometimes be a little on the nose and harsh, but a shaky balance of opposing judgements and looks at hypocrisy help paint a diverse picture.

Synopsis

Today they will find her body. I know how it will happen. I can picture, quite vividly, the sequence of events that will lead to the discovery...

In Boston, there's a killer on the loose. A killer that targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on his victims before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician - a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them.

But as homicide detective Thomas Moore and his partner Jane Rizzoli begin their investigation, they make a startling discovery. Closely linked to these killings is Catherine Cordell, a beautiful medic with a mysterious past. Two years ago she was subjected to a horrifying rape and attempted murder but shot her attacker dead. Now she is being targeted by this new killer who appears to know all about her past, her work at Pilgrim Medical Center, and where she lives. The man she believes she killed seems to be stalking her once again, and this time he knows exactly where to find her...

Plot - 4/5 Stars

Are you a fan of the Rizzoli & Isles TV adaptation? I am, and you're in for a surprise. I expected a difference in tone, but not quite to this extent. Where the show is light and comedic, The Surgeon is dark and serious. It deals with complex issues that weave their way through a thriller with developments that act like electric shocks.

The story can sometimes be alienating, especially for male readers with its penchant to vilify the gender, but Tess's brutally realistic situations justify it to some measure. But it's not all doom and gloom. Wrapped up beside the novel's horrifying tale of a killer hunting vulnerable women is a hopeful and heartwarming thread that shows the transition from victim to survivor.

So while a bleak tone permeates the plot's world, Tess reminds us of the light.

Mystery and action go hand in hand as we race to the nail-biting finale, and the conclusions for the various storylines and themes are satisfying, with an equally ominous epilogue that demands you pick up the next instalment.

Pace - 4/5 Stars

The Surgeon might be 416 pages long, but just try to pull yourself away from it. Once you've started, Tess cultivates a stellar structure that feeds questions, answers, and revelations to the reader steadily, ensuring your constant attention.

Characters - 4/5 Stars

Like its varying and contentious subject matters, The Surgeon is populated with a diverse range of divisive cast members. Despite the series' name of Rizzoli & Isles, Isles has yet to join the team. Jane Rizzoli acts as one of the mains, while Thomas Moore acts as the other. 

Again, if you're a fan of the show first and are just picking up the novels like me, suspend your mind's picture of what the characters should be like. Names and faces are here, but their personalities are radically different. Rizzoli herself seriously divides me. She's tenacious and temperamental, with brashness that is sometimes justified, but often as subtle as a nuclear explosion. In her battle to fight the sexism she faces from some of her male colleagues, Rizzoli can be cruel and highly judgemental. Of course, she's smart, smart, smart, but her likeability comes and goes.

Despite my surprise, her dark and light nature fits with the story's atmosphere and provides a fascinating character profile. Just expect a few moments of dislike for her.

Thomas, however, provides balance as the compassionate and concentrated partner. With his mellow nature and ability to empathise, he eases cooperation from all those around him. An aspect of the novel I find unfair falls on the repeated attacks he faces from women, with blame for a psychotic's crimes being directed at him simply because he's male. While I find this unfair, it's an apt drawing of the real world that showcases hypocrisy on both sides of the gender spectrum. Rizzoli faces discrimination from select members of the force, unduly, just as Thomas faces guilt for something he hasn't done. I definitely hope to see him in future instalments.

Two other characters that only impress me are Catherine Cordell and the serial killer. Okay, so impress isn't the word I'd use for the bad guy; he terrifies me. Catherine, a rape victim, embodies the challenges women face, from the unfair perceptions of others to the fractured mentality of her mind. It's a thread that aims right for the heart, and while you want to hunt for whoever hurt her, Tess takes us on a journey of self-empowerment and justice.

The bad guy, however, is simple and bland, and no, I don't mean that negatively. The killer's ability to blend shows the reader an invisible evil that you can't see coming.

A psycho could be anyone; you have no way to know.

Writing - 4/5 Stars

Pretty much perfect.

Tess delivers powerful emotions and experiences with compassion and respect. Along with that there's a morbid mystery that tantalises with twists, turns, and delicious developments.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

The Surgeon starts a series that promises to be bold. The beginning entry doesn't shy away from the hard stuff and conveys realism with stomach-churning details.

It is not for the faint of heart.


Next Instalment: The Apprentice


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