THE SILENT GIRL is the newest installment in Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series, the publication of which is nicely timed to coincide with the second season premiere of the popular TNT program. Fans of both the books and their dramatization will find much to love with Gerritsen’s latest, especially given her penchant for keeping the lives of her mainstay characters dynamic, to say the least.
"Those who have been tempted by the television dramatization of the books to begin reading will find THE SILENT GIRL an excellent and intriguing place to jump aboard."
This volume provides an interesting change-up in the series, featuring a rift of sorts in the friendship between Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles, occasioned by their respective professional roles. The intervening act is perpetrated by Isles, who is testifying as a prosecution witness in the homicide trial of a Boston police officer. Her testimony, which does no favors to the officer, doesn’t win her any friends with rank and file. Rizzoli is partial to the officer, and while the relationship between the two women is not fractured, it does become prickly throughout the book.
The primary plot concerns a grisly murder by decapitation that takes place in Boston’s Chinatown. A woman’s head is found on a street, and her body is subsequently located on a nearby rooftop. The crime scene is near a presently vacated restaurant where an infamous murder-suicide took place decades before. The case, long closed, was found to involve a cook who shot and killed three restaurant patrons and another employee before taking his own life.
Rizzoli works with Detective Barry Frost and an ambitious detective newbie named Johnny Tam, who has a burning desire to join the homicide squad. Tam proves invaluable to Rizzoli and Frost in navigating the cloistered streets of Chinatown, while Frost develops a slow-burning, somewhat undefined attraction to Iris Fang, the proprietress of a local martial arts academy whose husband was one of the victims of the long-ago massacre and knows more than she’s willing to reveal.
Things take a couple of interesting turns when it’s discovered that the beheading victim appears to have been attempting to locate Fang. Yet another mystery occurs when a retired Boston detective, who investigated the original murder-suicide, is himself killed while reopening the investigation on his own time. Most mysterious of all, however, is a presence detected at the scenes of both crimes, one that moves with an almost supernatural or superhuman speed and that seems bent upon a quest for swift and sure vengeance.
Isles is experiencing problems on both professional and personal fronts. Her aforementioned testimony against a police officer receives reactions ranging from cool disdain to outright hostility --- except, surprisingly enough, from Tam, who seeks her professional insight into both the beheading cases and the murders that took place so long ago. On the home front, Isles is still recovering from the end of her long-term but secret relationship with a Boston priest and has to contend with the fact that her mother, fully recovered from being dumped by her father, is now involved in a very serious relationship of her own, one that neither Isles nor her brothers entirely approve of. The primary focus, though, is Rizzoli, as she doggedly reopens the murder-suicide case and uncovers a series of unspeakable crimes played out far beyond the quiet, mysterious streets and blocks of Boston’s Chinatown.
THE SILENT GIRL is a pivotal installment in the series, one that raises a number of issues that surely will be played out in future novels. Gerritsen has demonstrated before that she is not adverse to changing not only the players on the board but also the colors of the squares. Those who have been tempted by the television dramatization of the books to begin reading will find THE SILENT GIRL an excellent and intriguing place to jump aboard.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on July 5, 2011