Tess Gerritsen's Rizzoli & Isles detective thrillers sit near the top of the genre, and Gerritsen has often shown herself to be a master of her craft. The characters have become so popular that there's even a television series based on them now. The latest book in the series, The Silent Girl, continues the string of hits, being much more interesting than last year's Ice Cold.
A female's severed hand turns up in an alley in Boston's Chinatown one evening. Up on the roof is the body it belongs to, a red-haired woman dressed all in black, with two hairs on her body that aren't human. The brutal murder may stem from a horrific act of violence in Chinatown nineteen years ago, a murder-suicide that involved a massacre at a Chinese restaurant. Detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles must figure out what's going on, how a mysterious martial arts master may be involved, and what chilling evil may be reaching forward from the past to envelop them.
The Silent Girl allows Gerritsen to delve into some intriguing Chinese mysticism and legend, even as she grounds the tale in reality (this isn't a fantasy book). It's fun watching Rizzoli and her partner Frost try to piece together all the parts of the puzzle, as well as deal with an adversary who they believe might be supernatural. Along for the ride is a new detective, Tam, first brought in to help translate for the people who live around the alley where the initial body is found. He helps Rizzoli understand some of the Chinese legends that they may be dealing with but also ends up assisting in a more substantial way.
The previous book was mostly Isles' story, but she takes second billing to Rizzoli and Frost in this one. Rizzoli comes face to face with her own mortality, saved at the last second by an unseen presence. It's not something that her husband is happy about. Frost, meanwhile, develops an interesting relationship with martial arts master Iris Fang, and we learn a little more about him and what makes him tick as well.
These kinds of characterization details are what make Gerritsen's books so great to read, over and above the gripping stories. Even though Isles isn't quite as involved this time, we watch the developing relationship with the boy that she rescued in Ice Cold, a son-like figure that she never expected and is still learning how to deal with. She reflects back on her now-ended relationship with the priest but she doesn't dwell on it too much, making her much more interesting to read about.
Gerritsen's prose is as good as ever, drawing the reader into the story and making you believe - just for a second - that there might be something to these supernatural fears. She ends chapters in such a way that you have to keep reading to find out what happens next, which is what the best writers do.
While The Silent Girl isn't Gerritsen's best book, it is one of the best stories she's told, bringing together so many disparate elements that you would think the story would turn into a mish-mash of mismatched elements. Gerritsen navigates those waters effortlessly, from the Irish mafia to Chinese legends and martial arts, as well as a truly horrific modern-day evil that goes back to that fateful massacre at the restaurant. It's almost like Boston society is another character in the novel, and it's riveting.
When Gerritsen does tie it all together, the climax will keep you reading the last fifty pages without being able to put the book down. It's a tense situation with bursts of violence, something that Gerritsen usually doesn't do. There's a bit more action in the finale than usual, but she handles it well.
The Silent Girl adds to Gerritsen's reputation as a must-read in the thriller genre.