Released in August, Last to Die is the author’s tenth novel to feature Boston Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. Gerritsen, whose body of literary work serves as the basis for the hit TNT drama Rizzoli & Isles, will appear at The Big Book Club Getaway this weekend at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Connecticut. (See event details below.)
As the book opens, readers are introduced to teenager Teddy Clock, who has, against all odds, survived two mass murders that have claimed the lives of both his biological and foster families. Detective Rizzoli is the first responder to elicit any kind of reaction from the traumatized teen, and quickly whisks him away to the Evensong boarding school, an exclusive sanctuary for young victims of violent crime located in the expansive acres of Maine’s wilderness.
Evensong is a particularly evocative setting, as its seclusion, while intended to foster a sense of security, also heightens the potential for danger – a potential that is realized when strange incidents (bloodied dolls suspended from trees, etc.) are followed by a suspicious death. Further, the school’s mission – to teach the secrets and skills of survival in a dangerous world – allows Gerritsen to bring readers along for a fascinating glimpse into these lessons of life-or-death. This, combined with the absolute vulnerability of children who have already been victimized, makes for a provocative premise that invites intimacy along with intrigue.
Rizzoli’s investigation (and intuition) leads to the discovery that these children’s shared histories may not be coincidence – and that a cunning predator poses a risk not only to Teddy but to all the residents at Evensong. She once again teams up with Maura Isles, who is on-site visiting her surrogate child Julian “Rat” Perkins (who readers will remember from Ice Cold and The Silent Girl), in an attempt to beat the clock. Their methods are a mix of scientific inquiry, detective work, and sheer determination to deliver justice, both for the living and the dead.
Rizzoli and Isles are dynamic characters individually whose potency is only amplified by the presence of the other, and Gerritsen does a masterful job of holding the reins while their popularity continues to grow in a multitude of formats. There are some subtle nods to the show – a dash of humor here, a pointed fashion reference there – but nothing that jeopardizes the essence of the characters that live within the books. (After all, they’re at quite different points in their lives than their celluloid versions.) They’re strong, intelligent, conflicted, and able to be vulnerable without being weak. Or, to put it more simply, they’re real, and therefore relatable.
Gerritsen is at her absolute best here. Her presentation of forensics has always been top-notch, but it’s the depth of her characters coupled with the brilliance of her plotting that continues to elevate each progressive work. While Rizzoli and Isles are a match made in network TV-heaven, they existed first on paper – and they are every bit as alive here as they are in primetime. Last to Die proves one thing above all else: that Tess Gerritsen is a damn fine storyteller…
Tess Gerritsen will appear at The Big Book Club Getaway, to be held at the Mohegan Sun Resort (1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, CT) tonight, February 1st, and tomorrow, February 2nd. She will participate in The All-Star Mystery/Suspense author’s panel along with Hallie Ephron, J.A. Jance, and Hank Phillippi Ryan on Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. and will be available to sign books afterward. Event details, including ticket pricing and itinerary, can be found online at www.thebigbookclub.org.