My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Note: This review written as part of my Amazon Vine Voice series for Amazon
In “The Silent Girl”, Tess Gerritsen delivers another tale of mystery, murder, and mayhem, starring TV-famous Jane Rizzoli–detective with a heart–and Maura Isles, a medical examiner who searches only for truth (a contender for Patricia Cornwall’s early caricature of Kay Scarpetta, now abandoned for a darker, more depressing person I barely recognize). The story is told through the eyes of both the people solving the crime and the person suspected of committing it. This book, though, comes with a twist. More on that later.
Rizzoli and Isles are called to the scene of a heinous murder which Rizzoli quickly ties to one nineteen years ago. Rizzoli’s the star of this story with only cameo help from Isles, delivered with none of the ME’s usual magic uncovering clues from dead bodies no one else notices. Why? Isles is distracted by ending her relationship with a boyfriend and testifying in a trial against a policeman. The former breaks her heart, the latter breaks the Blue Code of Silence and alienates her from the men she must work with on a daily basis. But it’s Isles core reasoning–that truth is justice–which sets up the story’s theme: Is truth a barometer of right and wrong or a moving target? There are several appealing scenes between Isles and the boy who saved her life in an earlier book that contribute to Isles part in solving this puzzling mystery, but nothing like the usual partnership we have come to relish between Rizzoli and Isles, crime solvers extraordinaire.
While Gerritsen does a good job sharing the juxtaposition of man’s law vs. nature’s, leaving it to the reader to decide if they side with Maura’s black and white view or Rizzoli’s more tempered ‘Do we really know’, it’s not enough. True the book is a satisfying read with lots of Gerritsen’s trademark characterizations, plot twists and clever solutions, but it isn’t a five-star. The reason is the new twist I mentioned in the first paragraph. Gerritsen uses the paranormal as a plot device. She couches it in authentic Chinese fables, but it’s presented as creatures that do things no man can do, aka para-normal. That genre is popular right now, so she could be hoping to broaden her audience, but doing so risks alienating her traditional readers. Mystery thrillers don’t normally respect mysticism like the ghosts and man-monkeys and wispy spirits I found in ‘Silent Girl’ even if they are defenders of justice. By halfway through the book, I was tired of phrases about ‘icy fingers, ‘chilled her’, ‘a cold breath’, ‘chill rippled through her’–enough! It’s OK to have the metaphysical as a character trait, even a subplot, but not an integral part of the main plot. While I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion of Chinese history, I didn’t like it in the Boston PD world of Jane and Maura, or as a structural part of the novel. My suggestion (I know she’s reading this): If this is important to her evolving identity as an author, create a new character line of paranormal thrillers, but don’t mix the two.
Overall, I offer a mixed recommendation. If you read detective stories and paranormal, you’ll love this. If you are a dyed-in-the-wool thriller reader, skip it.
Jacqui Murray is the editor of a technology curriculum for K-fifth grade and creator of two technology training books for middle school. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy midshipman. She is webmaster for five blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com, and a weekly contributor to Write Anything and Technology in Education. Currently, she’s working on a techno-thriller that should be ready this summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.