I admit it. I didn’t love Tess Gerritsen’s Ice Cold, and I was nervous that I might be about to lose a favorite author. But with the ninth in her Rizzoli & Isles seris, The Silent Girl, she’s returned to the realistic dialogue and strong sense of place that has always made me look forward to picking up her books.
Don’t be confused by the TV show. The Maura Isles of Gerritsen’s books doesn’t speak like a nerd, and her relationships are considerably more complex.
For example, consider this bit between Maura and a teenage boy she met in the previous novel, who, by the time of this passage from The Silent Girl, has become very close to her:
“Have you made friends at school?” she asked. “Do you like the other students?”
“They’re a lot like me,” he said. He opened a dresser drawer and placed socks and underwear inside.
She smiled. “You mean they’re special.”
“They don’t have parents, either.”
This was news to her. When Sansone had told her he was offering the boy a scholarship to the Evensong School, he had emphasized the institution’s academic strengths and rural campus, its international faculty and superb library. He had said nothing about it being a school for orphans.
“Are you sure about that?” she asked. “There must be some parents who come visit.”
“Sometimes I see someone’s aunt or uncle. But I’ve never met anyone’s mom or dad. He says we’re each other’s family now.”
“Mr. Sansone.” Rat closed the dresser drawer and looked at her. “He asks about you all the time.”
Maura felt her face redden and she focused on Bear, who was turning around and around in the dog bed, getting a feel for this new luxury. “What sort of things does he ask?”
Maura begins the novel in court, testifying against a police officer, and the tension that testimony causes runs through the entire book, creating a new and appealing tartness and tension between her and Jane Rizzoli. Their conversations are more strained than we have previously seen them.
As usual, Boston itself is a character in this book. In fact, it plays perhaps a more important role here than in any previous story, for the crime takes place in Chinatown and the community is foreign to both Rizzoli and her partner, Frost. The murder they are investigating is connected to one almost two decades old, and they have to go back to the scene of the original crime. Here is how Gerritsen describes the experience:
“We have it cleaned, painted,” said Mr. Kwan. “Make it just like it was before, but still no one wants to buy.” He shook his head in disgust. “Chinese people too superstitious. They don’t even like to come inside.”
I don’t blame them, thought Jane as a cold breath seemed to whisper across her skin. Violence leaves a mark, a psychic stain that can never be scrubbed away with mere soap and bleach. In a neighborhood as insular as Chinatown, everyone would remember what had happened in this building. Everyone would shudder as they walked past on Knapp Street. Even if this building were torn down and another erected in its place, this bloodied ground would remain forever haunted in the minds of those who knew its ugly past. Jane looked down at the linoleum, the same floor where blood had flowed. Although the walls were repainted and the bullet holes plastered over, in the seams and nooks of this floor, chemical traces of that blood still lingered. A crime scene photo that she had earlier studied suddenly clicked into her head. It was an image of a crumpled body lying amid fallen takeout cartons.
Creeped out yet? I know I was! This kind of description, which not only tells you what is where but also adds to atmosphere and tension, is all too rare in thrillers nowadays.
For fans of the Rizzoli and Isles series, this entry is a treat. For those who haven’t yet experienced the books, it will stand on its own, though I recommend starting at the beginning of the series with The Surgeon.
Laura K. Curtis lives in Westchester, NY, with her husband and 3 dogs who’ve taught her how easily love can co-exist with the desire to kill. She blogs at Women of Mystery and maintains an online store at TorchSongs GlassWorks. She can also be found on Twitter and poking her nose into all sorts of trouble in various spots around the web.