The Mephisto Club (Review)

Title: The Mephisto Club

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2006

Pages: 464

Genre: Fiction, Crime

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:


The Latin word is scrawled in blood at the scene of a young woman’s brutal murder: I HAVE SINNED. It’s a chilling Christmas greeting for Boston medical examiner Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizzoli, who swiftly link the victim to controversial celebrity psychiatrist Joyce O’Donnell – Jane’s professional nemesis and member of a sinister cabal called the Mephisto Club.

On top of Beacon Hill, the club’s acolytes devote themselves to the analysis of evil: Can it be explained by science? Does it have a physical presence? Do demons walk the earth? Drawing on a wealth of dark historical data and mysterious religious symbolism, the Mephisto scholars aim to prove a startling theory: that Satan himself exists among us.

With the grisly appearance of a corpse on their doorstep, it’s clear that someone – or something – is indeed prowling the city. The members of the club begin to fear the very subject of their study. Could this maniacal killer be one of their own – or have they inadvertently summoned an evil entity from the darkness?

Delving deep into the most baffling and unusual case of their careers, Maura and Jane embark on a terrifying journey to the very heart of evil, where they encounter a malevolent foe more dangerous than any they have ever faced . . . one whose work is only just beginning.

(This is the sixth book in the series, after The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, and Vanish.)

The Mephisto Club definitely pushed the series into a bit of a new direction. It introduced some new secondary characters and a bit of a recurring theme of intellectual curiosity about evil into the series.

I really enjoyed the way that Maura’s personal life was dragged into this one, as well. For a while, it had been seeming as though her personal and professional lives were managing to stay shockingly separate, and this change helped to make things seem more realistic.

Even though he creeped me out, I also found the antagonist fascinating. It was just a different kind of crime than most of the others that had been tackled by Rizzoli so far, and was a nice change of pace.


Vanish (Review)

Title: Vanish

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2005

Pages: 432

Genre: Fiction, Crime

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

A nameless, beautiful woman appears to be just another corpse in the morgue. An apparent suicide, she lies on a gurney, awaiting the dissecting scalpel of medical examiner Maura Isles. But when Maura unzips the body bag and looks down at the body, she gets the fright of her life. The corpse opens its eyes.

Very much alive, the woman is rushed to the hospital, where with shockingly cool precision, she murders a security guard and seizes hostages . . . one of them a pregnant patient, Jane Rizzoli.

Who is this violent, desperate soul, and what does she want? As the tense hours tick by, Maura joins forces with Jane’s husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, to track down the mysterious killer’s identity. When federal agents suddenly appear on the scene, Maura and Gabriel realize that they are dealing with a case that goes far deeper than just an ordinary hostage crisis.

Only Jane, trapped with the armed madwoman, holds the key to the mystery. And only she can solve it – if she survives the night.

(This is the fifth book in the series, after The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, and Body Double.)

Though I have to admit that I didn’t really love the sudden pregnancy loop that Rizzoli’s character was thrown for in the series, I liked the way that this novel tied that subplot into the overall arc of the books. Whereas the pregnancy tangent in the television series was treated as kind of a throwaway plot twist that disappeared almost as quickly as it came, Gerritsen treated it with much more thoughtful attention in the books.

I also liked the conspiracy-style storyline of this book in particular. It was interesting and a bit in-your-face but not so overdone that it stretched the boundaries of what I want to read in a crime novel.

Not my favourite in the series, but not to be discounted, either.


Body Double (Review)

Title: Body Double

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2004

Pages: 432

Genre: Fiction, Crime

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

Dr. Maura Isles makes her living dealing with death. As a pathologist in a major metropolitan city, she has seen more than her share of corpses every day – many of them victims of violent murder. But never before has her blood run cold, and never has the grim expression “dead ringer” rung so terrifyingly true. Because never before has the lifeless body on the medical examiner’s table been her own.

Yet there can be no denying the mind-reeling evidence before her shocked eyes and those of her colleagues, including Detective Jane Rizzoli: the woman found shot to death outside Maura’s home is the mirror image of Maura, down to the most intimate physical nuances. Even more chilling is the discovery that they share the same birth date and blood type. For the stunned Maura, an only child, there can be just one explanation. And when a DNA test confirms that Maura’s mysterious doppelgänger is in fact her twin sister, an already bizarre murder investigation becomes a disturbing and dangerous excursion into a past full of dark secrets.

Searching for answers, Maura is drawn to a seaside town in Maine where other horrifying surprises await. But perhaps more frightening, an unknown murderer is at large on a cross-country killing spree. To stop the massacre and uncover the twisted truth about her own roots, Maura must probe her first living subject: the mother that she never knew . . . an icy and cunning woman who could be responsible for giving Maura life – and who just may have a plan to take it away.

(This is the fourth book in the series, after The Surgeon, The Apprentice, and The Sinner.)

To be honest, this was my least favourite book of the series so far. While I enjoyed the extensive focus on Isles and her backstory, I just felt like everything was too far-fetched and unbelievable. I can see why they would change her story so much for the television series – not only is Isles’ history in the book a bit too dark for the kind of show it is, but I think it would just fall flat as too much make-believe.

Once I got past the disbelief, though, I let myself get swept away in the craziness of the story. And crazy it definitely is! It’s a wild ride, with lots of plot twists, and the continuation of the Maura/pastor relationship (seriously! it’s crazy!) was a guilty pleasure. But Body Double definitely isn’t the same kind of realistic crime story that Gerritsen is usually so good for, so don’t expect it going in.


The Sinner (Review)

Title: The Sinner

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2003

Pages: 355

Genre: Fiction, Crime

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

Not even the icy temperatures of a typical New England winter can match the bone-chilling scene of carnage discovered at the chapel of Our Lady of Divine Light. Within the cloistered convent lie two nuns – one dead, one critically injured – victims of an unspeakably savage attacker. The brutal crime appears to be without motive, but medical examiner Maura Isles’s autopsy of the dead woman yields a shocking surprise: Twenty-year-old Sister Camille gave birth before she was murdered. Then another body is found, mutilated beyond recognition. Together, Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli uncover an ancient horror that connects these terrible slaughters. As long-buried secrets come to light, Maura Isles finds herself drawn inexorably toward the heart of an investigation that strikes close to home – and toward a dawning revelation about the killer’s identity too shattering to consider.

(This is the third book in the series, after The Surgeon and The Apprentice.)

I think this is the strongest book in the series so far. Pity that it took until the third book to really get there, to be honest – if it wasn’t for my love of all things series, and of my desire to finish what I start, I might not have lost interest before I got here.

Maybe it’s my love of all things mysterious and conspiracy-theory, particularly relating to the Catholic church, but my interest was piqued right from the discovery of the body that opened up this book. It’s definitely not Gerritsen’s writing style that hooked me. (I find it fairly cheesy and overwrought, to be honest.) Rather, it’s the plot twists and details that really manage to catch my attention.

I really liked the subplots that are introduced in this book to do with Rizzoli’s pregnancy, and Isles’ relationship with a mystery man (I won’t tell you who until I review the next book, so I don’t spoil it for you!). But I have to say that these two elements lent the novel quite a bit more of a personal touch than the previous installments.


The Apprentice (Review)

Title: The Apprentice

Author: Tess Gerritsen

Publication Year: 2002

Pages: 400

Genre: Fiction, Crime

Source: E-book version borrowed from the public library

From the cover:

It is a boiling hot Boston summer. Adding to the city’s woes is a series of shocking crimes, in which wealthy men are made to watch while their wives are brutalized. A sadistic demand that ends in abduction and death.

The pattern suggests one man: serial killer Warren Hoyt, recently removed from the city’s streets. Police can only assume an acolyte is at large, a maniac basing his attacks on the twisted medical techniques of the madman he so admires. At least that’s what Detective Jane Rizzoli thinks. Forced again to confront the killer who scarred her — literally and figuratively — she is determined to finally end Hoyt’s awful influence . . . even if it means receiving more resistance from her all-male homicide squad.

But Rizzoli isn’t counting on the U.S. government’s sudden interest. Or on meeting Special Agent Gabriel Dean, who knows more than he will tell. Most of all, she isn’t counting on becoming a target herself, once Hoyt is suddenly free, joining his mysterious blood brother in a vicious vendetta. . . .

Filled with superbly created characters — and the medical and police procedural details that are her trademark — The Apprentice is Tess Gerritsen at her brilliant best. Set in a stunning world where evil is easy to learn and hard to end, this is a thriller by a master who could teach other authors a thing or two.

(This is the second book in the series, after The Surgeon.)

Even though this book is really a continuation of the storyline of the first in the series, it was still equally as entertaining. I loved the opportunity to get deeper into the characters without the distraction of a completely new case.

In particular, I loved the addition in this volume of the character of Maura Isles. I was surprised – though not in a bad way, to be honest – with the ways in which her character is different in the books from in the television series. I think I actually strongly prefer the version in the books! Her looks and even many of her character traits are very different, and I find myself thinking that she seems much more realistic than in her television portrayal.

While I found Rizzoli a bit too abrasive in The Surgeon, I felt like The Apprentice gave her character a bit more depth and likability. It was definitely a contributing factor to my decision to continue reading the series.


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