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The Keepsake


The Keepsake

It is becoming increasingly easy for fans of thrillers and
mysteries to select their favorite novel by Tess Gerritsen. All
they have to say is “her newest one.” She consistently
has been topping herself --- particularly over the course of her
last five or six books --- and her latest, THE KEEPSAKE, keeps that
string intact.

Gerritsen has made a practice of basing her novels on subjects that
are somewhat out of the mainstream. The central theme of THE
KEEPSAKE is archaeology, beginning with the excitement surrounding
Madam X, a mummy presented to Dr. Nicholas Robinson of the Crispin
Museum in Boston. Madam X is scheduled to undergo a CT scan in
order to possibly determine her age, condition and cause of death.
Robinson has invited Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles to the
procedure for the purpose of obtaining a medical
pathologist’s perspective of the results.

When modern medical science meets antiquity, however, anything can
happen, especially the unexpected. Among other things, the CT scan
reveals that Madam X sustained a bullet wound, indicating that her
death occurred much more recently than originally thought. As a
result, Boston police detective Jane Rizzoli is assigned to the
case. Her investigation slowly begins to reveal that other women
have been murdered, and preserved, in similarly unique ways.

The focal point of the killings seems to be a young, attractive
Egyptologist at the Crispin Museum named Josephine Pulcillo, who is
disturbed by the discovery of the deaths (one of which involves her
in a very bizarre manner). As the reader soon learns, Pulcillo is
carrying the burden of a number of secrets with her, the revelation
of which may well mean her life. Rizzoli and Isles ultimately
discover that the corpses that are turning up blaze a trail into
the past marked by passion, obsession and revenge, as secrets kept
for decades are inexorably revealed --- or not --- in a final
showdown that will reunite some individuals and separate others

THE KEEPSAKE is wonderfully plotted and exquisitely paced. Yet, for
all the attention that Gerritsen pays to her story, she never
ignores the development of her characters, keeping their individual
lives moving forward at different speeds. Isles, for example, is
involved in a passionate and frustrating affair with
Daniel Brophy, a priest wedded not to another woman but to his
clerical duties. The return of Anthony Sansone from THE MEPHISTO
CLUB --- just at a point when Isles is in danger and Brophy is
unavailable --- portends some intriguing plot developments for the
future. But what is especially noteworthy about THE
KEEPSAKE is that Gerritsen’s primary focus is not so
much on her regular characters but rather on the person and
personality of Josephine Pulcillo. Pulcillo is on the run, and for
good reason. The “why” and the “who” are
the issues that will keep you reading the book from first page to

While THE KEEPSAKE is a thriller to its very core, the seed of its
center is a mystery. If you are in thrall of Gerritsen’s
ability to keep you reading while unconsciously perched at the edge
of your seat, it is almost easy to overlook the fact that she has
created a perplexing puzzle that seems to defy explanation.
Actually, she goes a step further here. Taking the reader to the
solution of the mystery that lays at the heart of the novel --- the
unseen hand behind the unseen hand, if you will --- she removes
another layer that many other authors would have left in place but
glossed over.  Gerritsen’s ability to probe, and reveal,
the nooks and crannies that might otherwise be ignored is but one
of the elements that makes her books consistent winners.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Keepsake
by Tess Gerritsen

  • Publication Date: September 9, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0345497627
  • ISBN-13: 9780345497628