Some Buried Caesar (Rex Stout) — A Nero Wolfe novel

Some Buried Caesar is the sixth Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout. It was published in an abridged form in 1938, and released as a novel in 1939.

I’ve reviewed Rex Stout novels in the past. Borrowing the author bio I’ve previously used: Rex Stout (mainly cribbed from his Wikipedia page) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. He is best remembered for his creation of Nero Wolfe (more on him in a moment). He started his writing career with serialised novels in various magazines, which were not in the detective genre. He dabbled in crime, scientific romance, fantasy, and historical fiction, before settling into what would define his career. He was elected the president of the Mystery Writers of America in 1958, and received their Grand Master Award a year later. He received the Silver Dagger Aware from the Crime Writers Association in 1969. (His Amazon page.)

Nero Wolfe is an armchair detective of the Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes variety. He is supported by his assistant Archie Goodwin, who also narrates the cases of the detective (playing Watson to Nero’s Holmes, of course). He is not portrayed as a likeable character–he is obstinate, obese, refuses to leave the house except under exceptional circumstances, drinks heavily, and is singly devoted to the study and care of orchids.

The title is a reference to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interrèd with their bones.
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious.
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answered it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest—
For Brutus is an honorable man;
So are they all, all honorable men—
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me.
But Brutus says he was ambitious,
And Brutus is an honorable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill.

(I’m aware that I didn’t need to include the entire quote, but it’s such good writing that I hope that you indulge me.)

Nero Wolfe and his companion/bodyguard/private detective Archie Goodwin are on the way to an agricultural show where they intend to display Wolfe’s beloved orchids. There is a good reason that they are breaking Wolfe’s cardinal rule to never travel out of Manhattan, as he intends to win the orchid competition, thereby putting one over a rival. Unfortunately, due to a tyre blow-out, Archie crashes their car, and they are forced to walk to a nearby house to telephone for assistance. They cut across a pasture where they are threatened by a large bull. It is this bull, Hickory Caesar Grindon, that is the titular character of the story. The house that they travel to is owned by Thomas Pratt, who is planning an incredible publicity stunt for his chain of fast food restaurants by barbequing and eat the champion bull, Caesar. There is a tremendous amount of uproar about this, with breeders and stockmen aghast at the waste of potential.

The bull is implicated in the goring murder of a man, and then found to have anthrax in his system, and is quickly killed and cremated, thereby destroying any potential evidence as to whether he was responsible or not for the death of the man. Archie is vaguely interested in the outcome, as he was theoretically on guard when the murder occurred, but Wolfe has minimal interest in interfering, as he suspects that it will delay his desired return to the comforts of home in Manhatten. The plot develops nicely, with plenty of potential clues scattered about for the reader, and plenty of red herrings too.

Needless to say, with a tremendous amount of ego on the part of Wolfe, and hard work and effort on the part of Archie, the true murderer is uncovered, the local authorities are shown to be incompetent, and some minor romantic comedy is managed.

It’s fine. Honestly, it is. I stand by my previous assessment that the Stout/Wolfe books are quite even in quality, and a blanket recommendation is appropriate.

The Long Earth (Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter)

The Long Earth is the first in a series of books (three so far!) by renowned British fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett, and British science fiction author Stephen Baxter. It is anticipated that there will be five books in the The Long … series.

Author bio stuff: I’ve reviewed one of Terry Pratchett’s books previously. He really is one of my most adored authors, and I cannot help but love the vast majority of the Discworld novels. I was quite surprised to see him venturing into Science Fiction territory, though he’s dabbled in it previously. I have, however, found the last few Discworld to lack the sparkle and magic that I had come to expect. This is almost certainly because “Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease called posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) in 2007, a condition where the symptoms root themselves more in the physical rather than cognitive.” (Source) The following quote is from Neil Gaiman, Pratchett’s collaborator on Good Omens, one of my beloved books: “Terry still has all of his faculties. He’s fighting Alzheimer’s, but he has a rare kind of Alzheimer’s which means physical objects no longer make sense to him, but he still has memory, and he still has a mind, and he’s still very much the sharpest knife in the drawer. But he couldn’t read the script, so I had to give him his lines. … And it was this very strange, sad, sweet, funny, odd moment, as the two of us sat in the car with Dirk’s lines inspired by a line that one of us had written 26 years earlier. With me saying my line first and then Terry’s line. And then Terry echoing his lines. It was a little moment for me and Terry. I don’t know if we’re acting terribly well, but it’s a moment that made me extra happy.” (Source) Given that, it was quite surprising to me that Pratchett was collaborating on a new series.

Stephen Baxter, Wikipedia page and Amazon page. I will admit to not having heard of Baxter prior to this collaboration. He writes hard science fiction (emphasis on scientific accuracy or technical detail), and has been quite prolific over the past two decades.

The basis for the story was from an unpublished short story by Pratchett, The High Meggas, details of which can be found in a collection of his short stories, A Blink of the Screen. The Discworld series took off, and the story was never pursued.

The Long Earth is a (potentially infinite) series of parallel worlds similar to Earth that can be reached by almost anyone who has build a “Stepper” device, the plans for which were released anonymously on the internet. It is believed that each of these worlds are present on some probability tree, with the defining changes occurring longer ago as a person travels further from the original Earth (or “datum” Earth). Humans in the form of homo sapiens appear to be unique amongst the Earths, though not the only form of sapient life. The story primarily follows Joshua Valienté, a level-headed young man who is a natural stepper–that is, he can step between worlds without the use of a stepper box. He is co-opted to an exploratory journey by Lonsang, an artificial intelligence who claims to be the reincarnation of a Tibetan motorcycle repairman. (I’m sure that there are references there to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values that I’m missing.) As they explore more than a million parallel Earths they encounter other sapient humanoids (the peaceful “trolls” who carry their history through song, and the violent “elves”), as well as humans who discovered that they were natural steppers prior to “step day”, and an extinct race of dinosaur descendants. There is plenty of political commentary and social and scientific speculation on how humanity would act and develop if freed from the constraints of limited land and resources.

The book is good. Fantastically good. And I’m surprised. As I mentioned in my author bio section, Pratchett is sick, and his writing has been suffering badly as a result of that (in my opinion). But this book is strong! The pacing is good, the story is well-crafted, there are sufficiently many storylines interweaving with each other, and there is a good overall arc to the narrative. I’m sure that a lot of that is due to the strong influence of Stephen Baxter as a coauthor.

I really hope that Terry Pratchett remains healthy enough to finish the series. At the moment it is at three books: The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars. The Long Utopia is scheduled for release mid-2015. The novels have been released on a fairly strict yearly schedule (second week of June each year). With Pratchett’s failing health, I don’t hold out too much hope, sadly.

Of course, the book is available on Amazon: (I read it on Kindle, but Amazon is still refusing Affiliate links to Kindle titles):

Too Many Cooks (Rex Stout) — A Nero Wolfe novel

Too Many Cooks is the fifth Nero Wolfe novel by Rex Stout (Amazon Link). It was published in 1938 as both a novel and as a serial.

Rex Stout (mainly cribbed from his Wikipedia page) was an American writer noted for his detective fiction. He is best remembered for his creation of Nero Wolfe (more on him in a moment). He started his writing career with serialised novels in various magazines, which were not in the detective genre. He dabbled in crime, scientific romance, fantasy, and historical fiction, before settling into what would define his career. He was elected the president of the Mystery Writers of America in 1958, and received their Grand Master Award a year later. He received the Silver Dagger Aware from the Crime Writers Association in 1969. (His Amazon page.)

Nero Wolfe is an armchair detective of the Hercule Poirot or Sherlock Holmes variety. He is supported by his assistant Archie Goodwin, who also narrates the cases of the detective (playing Watson to Nero’s Holmes, of course). He is not portrayed as a likeable character–he is obstinate, obese, refuses to leave the house except under exceptional circumstances, drinks heavily, and is singly devoted to the study and care of orchids.

Detective novels are difficult. There is an expectation that the author will provide the reader with sufficient hints and clues to solve the mystery. But, it cannot be obvious or blatant. There must be sufficient material, red herrings, that the reader is off-balance and cannot commit to a theory. There are authors (Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle, for example) who keep a little too much from the reader so that at the end of the novel you are a little frustrated that the clues weren’t presented reasonably to you. (There is an alternative explanation: I’m not very good at spotting the clues, and am somewhat oblivious!)

Nero Wolfe, detective extraordinaire, has been coaxed from New York by the only thing else he loves, gastronomy. The meeting of the Les Quinze Maîtres is convening in West Virginia, and Nero Wolfe has been invited to give the keynote speech, on the subject of American Haute Cuisine (possibly oxymoronic!) Sadly, cooks being the vindictive, petty egomaniacs that they are, one of them is promptly murdered. C’est la vie detective! Wolfe has little interest until a friend is arrested for the murder. He wishes to remain involved just long enough to exonerate his friend, deliver his speech, indulge in some light blackmail, and then depart for home. This, sadly, isn’t quite how it develops.

As with all of the Wolfe novels, the narrative is delivery by Wolfe’s bodyguard/gumshoe detective/bruiser/manservant Archie Goodwin. He has a good delivery, and enough humour and sarcasm to keep things moving.

Set in the 30s, written in 1938, the story is a product of its time. There is casual racism (this was West Virigina in the 30s after all!) and sexism. It’s eye-rolling-inducing, but raises the question of whether the time period should be factored into the review. I’m torn on this matter.

In small doses, Rex Stout and his quite objectionable lead character Nero Wolfe are quite enjoyable. I think I’ll drop something else into my reading queue before coming back to the series.

Recommended. Blanket recommendation on any of the Stout/Wolfe books, as they’re quite even in quality.

Three to get deadly (Janet Evanovich) Stephanie Plum 3

(This post was sitting in my Draft queue for months. I have no idea why I stopped mid-sentence. Completed now!)

Book three of the main storyline of Stephanie Plum, New Jersey’s accident-prone bounty hunter not-quite-extraordinaire, continues. The first novel was reviewed here, the second was reviewed in this post.

The standard author stuff: Janet Evanovich is an American crime writer. Wikipedia, personal page, and Amazon. She started off as a romance writer under a pseudonym, but came to fame when she moved to crime, winning several awards.

Story background: some recurring characters: Stephanie Plum, is a fugitive apprehension agent, more excitingly known as a bounty hunter. Joe Morelli, sex fiend, Trenton cop, Plum’s not-quite-boyfriend, and general good-guy. Ranger, whatever the male equivalent of a Mary-Sue is. Lula, bounty-hunting filing clerk. Connie, office manager, and generally described as a few inches shorter than Stephanie, a few cup sizes larger, and all Italian woman. Plum is on the wrong side of community opinion, as she has the unenviable task of tracking down Mo Bedemier, more affectionately known as Uncle Mo, a neighbourhood fixture. He has quietly sold candy and ice cream to generations of children, but has gone missing after failing to show up for court on a weapons charge. She is abused and reviled for daring to sully his reputation by chasing him down. However, the more that Stephanie investigates, the more fishy Mo’s angelic reputation seems.

It’s more of the same. Honestly, it is. And like I’ve said before, and will probably say another dozen times, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Nothing really stands out in the book. (If you check the previous post, you may note that I’ve been a bit busy recently!) It was fun, it was light, it was easy to dip in-and-out of.

I think this was the one that Ranger insisted that Stephanie go jogging with him if they’re going to work together. Now, this is definitely a vector for blogging discussion! I’ve been kinda-vaguely-but-not-really getting into the running thing over the past nine months. I ran the City2Surf in August last year. It’s 14 point something kilometres from the centre of Sydney out to the beach at Bondi. I did reasonably well on not a massive amount of training. I never feel like I’m particularly “good” at running, but there are moments where it almost feels like I have a rhythm going, and that I’m not going to die, and maybe this is a thing that I could do more often, better, for fitness and enjoyment. And then reality sets in, and I realise that I’m a sweaty, spluttering, staggering mess!

I managed to hit up Park Run during Winter. (There are international versions too, it’s definitely not just an Australian thing.) Five kilometres, community-run, it’s a good thing.

Anyhow. The book. It’s alright. Evanovich is finding her rhythm, the characters are developing, the story is still grounded in something approximating reality (the later stories veer a little towards slapstick in places).

Obligatory Amazon Links

Three to get deadly isn’t available on Kindle, but there is a box-set of the first three Stephanie Plum novels here: Plum Boxed Set 1, Books 1-3 (One for the Money / Two for the Dough / Three to Get Deadly) (Stephanie Plum Novels).

Ice Cold–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 8)

Ice Cold (or The Killing Place) by Tess Gerritsen is book eight in the Rizzoli & Isles series.

Amazon DVD and Amazon Play links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles First Season (Amazon Play) and on DVD. Rizzoli & Isles Season 2 DVDs and on Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 3 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 4 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 5 on Amazon Play. Enough of that!

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author writing romantic suspense and medical thrillers, as well as the Rizzoli & Isles series. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. I have previous reviews of The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, Vanish, The Mephisto Club, and The Keepsake.

Again, I wasn’t very good at keeping notes for this one, which is something of a shame, as this book was a reasonable departure style-wise from the previous few novels. Dr Maura Isles, upset at the difficulties of having an illicit love affair with a catholic priest, takes up an offer of an impromptu ski trip after a medical conference with an old school friend, his daughter, as well as another couple. Unsurprisingly, things go quite wrong, with the car getting stuck in a snowstorm. They seek shelter at Kingdom Come, a religious community (a cult) that appears to have been very recently, very suddenly, abandoned.

Further disasters occur, with medical emergencies, one of their number trying to ski out for help, the inevitable “are we truly alone?” fears in this abandoned community, plus determining the truth behind the abandonment.

Up to this point, Detective Jane Rizzoli has nothing to do. This changes with news reaching Boston that the car has been found off the side of a cliff, with the burnt remains of Isles and her companions inside. Needless to say, this is just a red herring, but the local law enforcement and community, as well as the powerful religious leader (cult!) are determined to prevent the questions.

Stylistically, it’s a shake-up from the past few books, which is a point in its favour. It’s difficult to separate reviewing the book on its own merits from reviewing the book as part of the ongoing series. Each novel is sufficiently self-contained that a reader can pick up one at random and get the story and the backgrounds of the characters.

The Keepsake–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 7)

The Keepsake (or Keeping the Dead, depending on which region you’re in) by Tess Gerritsen is book seven of her Rizzoli & Isles series.

Amazon DVD and Amazon Play links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles First Season (Amazon Play) and on DVD. Rizzoli & Isles Season 2 DVDs and on Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 3 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 4 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 5 on Amazon Play. Enough of that!

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author writing romantic suspense and medical thrillers, as well as the Rizzoli & Isles series. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. I have previous reviews of The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, Vanish, and The Mephisto Club.

I have only moments previous put down my Kindle to write these notes, yet I’m struggling to form sentences to describe the book.

It feels awful to say, but it is kind of more of the same. It’s not bad, but nothing outstanding. Dr Maura Isles disappears from the last fifteen of the narrative. Detective Jane Rizzoli is kept in the background until needed to advance the plot. Isles’ affair with the catholic pries Fr Brophy advances to its inevitable doom. Detective Barry Frost, who is yet to develop as a character suffers marital troubles, which comes across as some clumsy social commentary from the author. Or possibly just a weak effort regarding some character development. The problem is the story never returns to this particular subplot!

We open with a media circus surrounding a CT scan of an Egyptian mummy. Dr Isles is there only as an observer. She is drawn in more significantly when the scan shows the mummy is a murder victim mummified! The archaeologist Jennifer last-name-unimportant, appears to be the target of a deranged personality, as a shrunken head, followed by a peat bog body appear; all creative disposals of murder victims.

Aside: I studied the poetry of Seamus Heaney at school. He wrote on many subjects, of course, but is well-known for his compositions on peat bog bodies of Ireland. There you go.

The book is fine. Honestly. It’s solid detective fiction, I’m just being finicky and picky. (So unusual, that!)

The Mephisto Club–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 6)

The Mephisto Club is book six of the Rizzoli & Isles series of books by Tess Gerritsen.

Amazon DVD and Amazon Play links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles First Season (Amazon Play) and on DVD. Rizzoli & Isles Season 2 DVDs and on Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 3 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 4 DVDs and Amazon Play. Rizzoli & Isles Season 5 on Amazon Play. Enough of that!

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author writing romantic suspense and medical thrillers, as well as the Rizzoli & Isles series. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. I have previous reviews of The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, Body Double, and Vanish.

Okay, again I was a little slack and didn’t take good notes for this one. We are back in Boston with homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr Maura Isles. And unfortunately, the painful subplot involving Isles and the catholic priest Fr Brophy has been returned to, and there is only so much lusting that can be written about before the author has to take things to the next logical step. So lusting has turned into a surreptitious affair and hiding from the congregation. Good grief.

A series of disturbing murders, that’s far more palatable! There are overtones of satanism, and the occult, and better still, weird symbols (oh Dan Brown, the damage that you caused!), all of which draw in a mysterious sleuthing society who also hunt demons. (Jinkies!)

Re-reading the plot summary I wrote above, it sounds a whole lot worse than it actually is. The plot is clunky, and the character development is more stilted than the last few novels, but it is still actually not bad.

It’s readable, it’s enjoyable. There are worse books out there.

Oh! Just like the previous few novels, there are passages told from other character’s first-person perspective to help the story along. It’s a good technique, and thankfully Gerritsen doesn’t overuse it.

Vanish–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 5)

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen, the fifth book of the Rizzoli & Isles series.

I, unfortunately, didn’t take notes during the reading or immediately after reading this book, so this review is going to be sketchy at best.

Amazon DVD and Amazon Play links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles First Season (Amazon Play) and on DVD. Rizzoli & Isles: Season 2 DVDs and Amazon Play. Ahem.

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. I have previous reviews of The Surgeon, The Apprentice, The Sinner, and Body Double.

In short, Boston Homocide Detective Jane Rizzoli is thoroughly pregnant and ready-to-go at the hospital. Unfortunately, a corpse that turns out to be alive wants to take some hostages, and the book wouldn’t be all that exciting if one of those hostages wasn’t one of the titular characters. All this mystery woman wants is to tell her story, and fears that she will be silenced before she can do so. There is a house of sex slaves who were brutally murdered, and the requisite cover-up. It progresses like a crime thriller novel.

There is a deviation from the previous standard style: some of the story is presented from the point-of-view of one of the enslaved sex workers. It allows for a variation in the storytelling, and it allows the plot to develop more naturally, and somewhat more closely to “real time”. One of the problems with crime and detective novels is that so much has to be presented through analysis and exposition. Very rarely do we see the story unfold as it happens.

There is a lot more of Dr. Maura Isles lusting after the priest, Father Brophy. It’s jarring, to be honest. I know that I need to divorce the character from the TV show from the novel character, but even here, it is a stretch.

Less surgery and gore in this novel, but an increase in horror from sex slavery. These books are pretty tough-going at times, which isn’t out-of-the-ordinary for the genre, but I find that it’s taxing on me as the reader.

Amazon linky!

Body Double–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 4)

Body Double, the fourth of the Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen.

Amazon DVD links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete First Season (Amazon Play) and Rizzoli & Isles: Season 1 (DVD). Rizzoli & Isles: Season 2 DVDs and Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete Second Season (Amazon Play). Ahem.

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. I have previous reviews of The Surgeon, The Apprentice and The Sinner.

Hmmm. A lot of pregnancy in this one. And the meaning of family. The second of those points I can relate to. The former? Not so much. Again, the chief protagonist of this novel is Dr Maura Isles, with Detective Jane Rizzoli relegated to a more supporting role. Rizzoli is currently happily married, massively pregnant, and completely unwilling to compromise on, well, anything. After hints dropped in the last novel about Isles’ mysterious parentage (we knew that she was adopted, and very little else), this is essentially the focus of the novel. Her birth mother (or not, the story takes a pretty impressive twist) has been revealed to be a particularly unpleasant woman. Her murdered (twin?) sister was very likeable indeed, but unfortunately crime novels need a healthy supply of unhealthy acts. Pregnant women are being kidnapped, murdered, and the fetusses (fetii?) are being sold. Isles’ “family” are intimately tied up with this rather nasty business.

The majority of this novel was read on a train journey to and from Sydney. I went up for a tech expo. I have no buying power for my work for tech stuff, mind you, I was attending as a curious enthusiast, even if I have no need for POS machines, servers, embedded devices, marketing … stuff, 3D printing, connectivity, startups, and a crazy myriad of other things. This aside was brought to you by the ridiculous amount of sugar I consumed that day, and the effect it had on my note-taking ability.

The book was good. I remain a little squeamish about some of the surgery scenes. The characterisation is solid, the pacing steady, the romance not too intrusive (though Isles lusting after a priest is … odd. Disconcerting, even.)

Amazon linky

The Sinner–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 3)

The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen, is the third book of the Rizzoli & Isles series.

Amazon DVD links to the TV Series. Click on them. Buy stuff. Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete First Season (Amazon Play) and Rizzoli & Isles: Season 1 (DVD) Alright, enough of that!

Author notes in brief: Tess Gerritsen is a living Chinese-American author. Her Amazon page, Wikipedia page, and personal page have plenty of personal details. (Of interest, her first name is actually Terry, but she feminized it when she was writing romance novels. Source.) She initially wrote Romantic Suspense, through the 80s to the mid-90s, changed to Medical Thrillers, before embarking in 2001 into Crime Thrillers with the (at time of writing) eleven-book series featuring Detective Jane Rizzoli and Dr Maura Isles.

The third of Gerritsen’s series of novels focusing on the Boston police department, detectives, medical examiners, murder and mayhem. Book 1 (The Surgeon) focused on Thomas Moore, with Detective Jane Rizzoli a secondary character, and Dr Maura Isles not appearing at all. Book 2 (The Apprentice) has Jane Rizzoli taking over protagonist duties, and the Queen of the Dead, Dr Maura Isles making her debut. Here, with the The Sinner, Isles is finally sharing co-star duties with Rizzoli.

Note how I said finally? I’m still expecting somehow that the novels will spontaneously acquire the characters of the TV series. It’s definitely not going to happen. The glossy TV versions are too far away from the flawed novel characters.

A brutal attack on two nuns has left one of them dead, and the other in a coma. It is the depths of winter, and everything and everyone is affected by the cold, the snow, and the ice. Dr Isles’ ex-husband returns, and manages to worm his way back into her life, much to her libido’s pleasure common sense’s horror. Detective Rizzoli is trying to convince herself that her affair with Gabriel Dean ending is for the best. A state of affairs complicated by a, uh, complication. The majority of the novel is much more complicated and nuanced than the romantic highlights I’m giving. A Jane Doe who was murdered and then dismembered was found to have leprosy, and probably had been present in a village massacre where one of the nuns was performing aid work. (Good grief that was a complicated sentence.) Isles’ ex-husband is connected as well.

The plotting is improved over the first two books. The characterisation is better too–the characters are better-described, more nuanced, and the story is more complex. Gerritsen still has moments where a scene plays out, and then the characters react to the scene, and there is something of a disconnect between the two. It’s clear that the reaction is what is required for narrative purposes, but the writing wasn’t quite there on the scene.

My mind wandered a bit whilst I was reading this. It’s A Wonderful Life and Slumdog Millionaire (snow and winter, and poverty in India, respectively). It was an odd combination to be sure. There was a lot of religion in general, and Catholicism in particular, which I have opinions on. These opinions vary dramatically given the day and the length of time it’s been since I read about any of the horrors committed by members of the clergy or in the name of the church.

The book ends in a most unexpected way. Not wishing to spoil anything, but Rizzoli’s complication could be quite dramatic, and Dean appears more permanently present.

Amazon linky!