10 September 2012

The angst of an adopted forensic pathologist

Thriller | Tess Gerritsen | Body Double

Tess Gerritsen says in the introduction to one of her novels that she started writing romances with some mystery, and then moved to mysteries with a bit of romance. This is one of the transition books, heavier on the mystery.

Body Double starts with Dr Maura Isles returning from a trip to a forensic conference in Paris to find the police camped at her doorstep. Everyone acts as if they are seeing a ghost. She finds there is a dead woman in a car near her house, who looks just like her. Eeeee. OK, no eeee, you knew that from the back cover.

Things get creepier. The dead woman has been shot. She only has a six-month history, nobody can find a trace of her before that. And then her DNA turns out to match. Maura, being adopted, starts on a quest to find out more about who her twin was, why she died, and who her biological parents were.

Oh, spoilers? No, no, you can read all this off the back cover. It even says there that she finds her mother, a cruel and cunning woman. But the woman she finds in the book is actually feeble, old and schizophrenic. [Must. Resist. Spoilers.]

OK, diversion: she has a permanent love interest in a Catholic priest she fancies. (Why do Catholics have celibate priests, and why do Catholic women find them irresistible? It's a gaaah! moment, every time I run across it in any book.) Fortunately, the detective who was helping her sister is a possible romantic interest, having recently separated from his wife, except that his impossible teen daughter turns up at inopportune moments.

Maura's main help in resolving the clues, though, comes from Detective Jane Rizzoli, who, despite being 8-months-pregnant and incapable of kicking in doors anymore, unearths a bunch of true and ghastly crimes, all linked with the very first one which we get to know about way back in the prologue.

The story is as much about Maura wondering what her genetic heritage has made of her as the pair solving a set of very creepy crimes and tracking down the criminal(s).

We meet en route, an obsessive executive, a monster-seeking psychologist, and an upset forensic pathologist, a not-upset forensic ditto (with an Indian name, to boot).

This was a reasonably well-written thriller, except for the aforesaid gaaah! moment. I'll check out a couple more by T Gerritsen before coming to a less wishy-washy conclusion. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, this is ample for a lazy Sunday, and though it has awfully creepy crimes and motivations for the crimes, it's not an off-putting adrenaline creep-out. Fortunately, T Gerritsen is not as graphic as Patricia Cornwell or James Patterson. I might well be reading Gerritsens long after my Cornwells and Pattersons have mouldered due to lack of rereads since my middle-aged body can't stand the adrenaline jolts any more.

Oh, and why are female characters almost always referred to by their first names, and male ones by their last ones? Fortunately, while Dr Isles gets called Maura mostly, the detective gets called Rizzoli. Balance of sorts.

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