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!

The Surgeon–Tess Gerritsen (Rizzoli & Isles 1)

Gruesome. There are no other words that so succinctly summarise this book. The graphic descriptions and depictions of surgical torture left me somewhat nauseated.

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.

I’m something of a fan of the TV series Rizzoli & Isles. It was a coincidental glance at the DVD set (do I really mean coincidental? Incidental, perhaps?) that led to testing out the show, which has proved quite enjoyable. It’s a bit formulaic, and the producers should focus far more of the relationship of the titular characters (and possibly some actual crime stories), but it’s good enough.

The point? It’s based (very loosely if this novel is anything to go by!) on the series of books by Gerritsen.

The Boston Police homicide detectives are searching for a killer who preys on sexually assaulted women. He assaults them again, surgically removes their womb, and then slashes their throat. It’s quite horrid.

Our main character is essentially Detective Thomas Moore, recently widowed and a good guy. We also have Jane Rizzoli, who is far less likeable or well-described here compared to the TV show. Also featuring is Dr Catherine Cordell, a trauma surgeon, and victim of a crime with an identical modus operandi. This is most concerning, as she shot and killed the perpetrator. Moore grows close to Cordell, despite her not being completely cleared for the current series of murders. Through anonymous point-of-view descriptions, we see the killer’s obsessions, and his focus on Cordell as unfinished business. The conclusion arrived in a graphic manner, with a semi-satisfying outcome.

I was at a disadvantage, as I was unaware of just how separate the book and TV show were going to be. I can see that the book tells ome of the events that were only referred to in flashbacks.

Is it good? Yes, more or less. As noted, it’s a bit gruesome, and some of the characters are a bit cartoonish. (By which I mean only partly described; sufficient to form a vague image, and advance the plot, but nothing too substantial.) There are at least seven other books in the series. I suspect that the leading role of Moore and the involvement of Dr Cordell will be relegated to Jane Rizzoli. I am hopeful of this outcome. Additionally, further characterisation would be appreciated. I suppose I have another few thousand pages of reading to determine the veracity of that hypothesis. (I have the eight-volume omnibus.) There is quite a lot of focus on sexual politics; both Rizzoli’s struggle to be accepted in the male-dominated police force, her standards about male behaviour, as well as the horrors of sexual abuses and the psychology of such ordeals. It’s hard reading at times.

Amazon links.
Tess Gerritsen overview

(There is, of course, a Kindle version, but Amazon are still not allowing direct linking to Kindle pages!)