Sunday, February 16, 2014

REVIEW: The Surgeon By Tess Gerritsen

The Surgeon (Rizzoli & Isles, #1)The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Original Publication Year: 2001
Genre(s): Mystery-thriller
Series: Rizzoli and Isles #1
Awards: 2002 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense
Format: Ebook from Library
Narrated By: NA

Recommended Subtitle: Sometimes, being a woman really sucks.

NOTE: This is the first book towards the Eclectic Reader Challenge (hosted by Book'd out) fitting the Medical Thriller Fiction category. 

Dr. Catherine Cordell is the picture of a successful woman. Beautiful and smart, she is a talented surgeon/doctor in Boston with a thriving career. But she also has a secret. Two years before, while living in Savanna, GA, she was the victim of a rape and attempted murder. Her captor was a wanted serial killer and she narrowly escaped by killing him. Though still suffering, she has managed to block out the bulk of the horror and put her life and career back together in Boston, until she is visited by the police. They tell her that women in Boston have begun being raped and murdered using the same unique signature of her supposedly dead attacker.

This is the hook of this medical thriller. If you are sensitive to violence against women, particularly sexual violence, I would avoid the book as it doesn’t shrink away from its depictions.

The story is told from the perspective of Detective Thomas Moore (St. Thomas), Detective Jane Rizzoli and Catherine Cordell. The focus is primarily with Moore and Cordell which threw me for a loop. All I knew about this series was based on the TV show based on the books. I’ve only watched a couple of the episodes but it is very clearly about a tough female homicide detective (Rizzoli) and a female medical examiner (Isles). Isles does not make a single appearance in The Surgeon and Rizzoli is almost a secondary character. It is something to be aware of, if coming to the book through being a fan of the show.

The mystery being solved is sufficiently mysterious though it is perhaps not terribly original in 2013 (perhaps it was though in 2001). The conundrum is how, if the original serial killer is dead, the murders are so exactly being duplicated especially some of the details that were never released to the public. Is the killer a cop? He appears to have medical training but there are no medical personnel that should have all the details. Also, if it is a different person why does he seem to be fixated on Dr. Cordell. There are many twists and turns before finally getting to the solution which is sufficiently dramatic.

This is more a procedural thriller/mystery rather than psychological. We do spend some time rummaging around in the protagonist's heads and there is some analysis of the killer but I never felt that there was any deep insight into why the killer does what he does. In some ways it seems to be making the case that there is no cause for his abnormality and in that way is more frightening. Yay for human depravity.

One element of the book I struggled with was, surprisingly, the character of Rizzoli.  She is extremely bitter with a HUGE chip on her shoulders.  There is some justification for this and I had no trouble connecting with this part of her personality.  Just call me Bitter, apparently.  However, halfway through the book, Rizzoli brutally and mistakenly shoots and kills a suspect.  This, I’m okay with, but then she shows no remorse for this act and she tries to bully Moore into lying for her to cover up her mistake.  When he doesn’t, her reaction is petulant and petty.  Considering she is meant to be the protagonist for the rest of the series, I was surprised at how truly unlikeable I found her.  Perhaps she gets a bit of a renaissance later in the series?  I think her character is meant to be defensive and bitter in general which I can get behind but not taking responsibility for one’s actions and having no remorse at taking someone’s life is a completely different kettle of fish. 

Also, I should mention, considering that this book got a romance award, that there is a romance sub-thread in the book which I didn’t find particularly compelling.  It didn’t really bother me either. 

Final Verdict: A well crafted thriller that I liked though it never really reached above average for me. I am interested in continuing to read the series if for no other reason than to find out if Rizzoli redeems herself and to be introduced to Isles (I’ve always liked medical examiners).

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