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Bookends: Mysteries at the Beginning and the End of Two Series June 2, 2012

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: Mysteries at the Beginning and the End of Two Series

By Dan Davidson

March 14, 2012

Star, March 16, 2012

The Surgeon

By Tess Gerritsen

Ballantine Books

384 pages

$8.99

When a detective series becomes a hit television show it’s inevitable that books are reissued with new covers an

d sometimes that false starts are made. If you pick up The Surgeon expecting to find the first lop-sided pairing of Jane Rizzoli (the homicide detective) and Maura Isles (the medical examiner) you will be disappointed. Isles doesn’t make it to this book at all, although something a little like her role is filled by Dr. Catherine Cordell.

This might instead be called a Rizzoli and Moore mystery, because Jane’s partner in this story is detective Thomas Moore, known despairingly to his mates as St. Thomas for his incorruptible ways. Moore is widower whose wife was a cancer victim.

TV’s Jane is a tomboyish, attractive female officer who appears to have the respect of her colleagues and decent, if tempestuous, family relationship. This book’s version is a Plain Jane (in her own eyes), insecure, combative and struggling to be taken seriously with the men’s club that is the homicide squad.

Cordell was the victim of a serial rapist/murderer two years earlier, although she managed to get hold of a gun and kill the man before he could administer his version of last rites. The attack took place in another city. She moved to Boston to get away from the memories and rebuild her life. She has accomplished this and has returned to a successful practice as a top surgeon. She is at the height of her new fame, subject of a local magazine cover story, when the killer the local police call The Surgeon begins his reign of terror.

It’s spooky. His modis operandi is almost precisely that of the man Cordell killed. It even includes those little touches that the Savannah police had kept out of the press. The only serious difference is that he uses duct tape rather than nylon rope to immobilize his victims. Since Cordell had managed to squirm free of her rope bonds, it’s as if he has upgraded his methods to take that into account.

Is it possible that this killer will be after Cordell to finish what the original killer could not? Or is it possible that Cordell, damaged more than anyone knew by her ordeal, is herself the copycat killer? Or is there some other solution?

Gerritsen (who had a first career as a doctor) began her writing career as a Harlequin romance novelist, and I’d say there were still traces of that in this book, as a love story blossoms (against regulations) between the two emotionally damaged characters, Moore and Cordell. This may explain why both of them disappear from the series, and also why this book won the Best Romantic Suspense Novel from the Romance Writers of America for the year it appeared.Her publisher is taking advantage of the popularity of the television show, now in its third season, (though it is just showing season one now on Showcase), and reissued most of the novels, bundling eight in a multipack offering as an eBook as well as issuing several paperback box sets of three or four books apiece. I enjoyed the first book and will likely read more of these.

Sixkill 

By Robert B. Parker

336 pages

Berkley

$10.99

In the last of the Spenser books to be written by Robert B. Parker things take an interesting turn as Spenser investigates the corrupt entertainment business, draws the attention of a hired assassin and takes on an apprentice.

It begins with the death of a young woman in the hotel room of a despicable movie star/comic named Jumbo Nelson. The circumstances are strange and while it looks a lot like Jumbo was somehow involved, the members of the Boston PD don’t actually believe he did it. No matter how good he looks for the crime, they actually think it’s not fair to prosecute the guy just because he’s an unlovable scum and they can’t stand him. They call on Spenser to poke around at their case and see what the holes are in it.

It seems there are quite a few.

There are two plots that run through this novel. The B plot is the murder investigation and the events that stem from it. The A plot is the rehabilitation of Zebulon Sixkill, the Native American (he prefers Indian) former college football star who had fallen – via a broken heart, booze and drugs – to becoming Jumbo’s strong-arm man.

Parker takes Sixkill under his wing and gives him a role model to aspire to.

The A and B plots overlap, of course, but the development of this relationship and rehabilitation of Sixkill (hence the name of the book) is the best part of the story. Had Parker lived to write more books in the series, I think we would have seen more of Sixkill.

Parker died of a heart attack sometime after he turned this book in to his publisher. The estate has selected an established writer of thrillers named Ace Atkins to continue the series. There has been some negative reaction to this amongst Spenser fans, but since Parker himself continued Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series, I suspect the decision would not have bothered him. The first of these books will appear in May of this year and is titled Lullaby.

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