Author of the Month
Tess Gerritsen
[December 2005]
Chosen by reviewer Beverly Rowe, MyShelf.Com

     A successful novelist must have a great plot with lots of action and suspense, no matter what the story is about, be it a thriller, a contemporary story, chick lit, romance, sci-fi, or any other genre. But the one ingredient I look for in a novel is an unforgettable character, or better yet, a cast of exciting characters. They are the folks that wring your emotions dry when you are reading the novel, and keep the story in your memory long after you have closed the book.

     Tess Gerritsen's Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles are such characters. They make you cry when things go wrong and cheer when they win a round over the villains. I just finished reading Vanished, number five in their series. I must confess that I haven't read the medical suspense or romance books that Tess Gerritsen has written...but, I plan to do that while I'm waiting for another Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles story.

      Gerritsen has given me many hours of reading pleasure, and is my nomination for Author of the Month for December. I highly recommend her novels for the upcoming cold winter nights. Throw a log in the fireplace and curl up with a Tess Gerritsen novel. You might want to pull the shades and lock the doors...some of these villians are pretty scary...


Tess Gerritsen graciously agreed to answer some questions that I wanted to ask about her books and her writing career. Here's what she had to say:

Bev: What do you enjoy for recreational reading?

Tess: I love history books, nonfiction, anything having to do with anthropology or mythology. I actually don't read many thrillers for entertainment -- maybe it's because I'm working in the genre, and I want so badly to read other things.

Bev: You had to be very busy as a physician and did you get started as a writer?

Tess: It all happened when I went on maternity leave. For the first time, I had the chance to sit down and write. My babies were good nappers, and whenever I'd put them down to sleep, I'd snatch some writing time. I also wrote late into the night, when the household was asleep. Once the kids started kindergarten, I could write all day long.

Bev: Was your first published story the short story that won first place in the Honolulu Magazine's statewide fiction contest? Have you written other short fiction?

Tess: the title was: "On choosing the right crack seed." (a title that would only make sense if you lived in Hawaii!) It was about a young boy learning to deal with his difficult mom, and the choices he makes in his life.

Bev: What do you find inspiring as far as really getting you excited about starting a new project?

Tess: An idea has to evoke a strong emotion in me -- make me angry, upset, or frightened. That's what usually gets me going on a new book. With VANISH, it was reading a news article about a young woman who was declared dead and woke up a few hours later in a body bag. I kept thinking about what it was like for her, and then began to wonder: what if no one knew who she was? What if she then did something unexpected -- say, shot a hospital security guard and took hostages? The plot rolled on from there.

Bev: You've successfully written in several different genres....romance, medical thriller, police procedural/forensic suspense, and even a screenplay. Which did you enjoy most, and why?

Tess: I enjoyed them all! As long as I can explore new topics that interest me, I'm having a good time. Of them all, I found that writing screenplays is the hardest, simply because you aren't in total control of your work. There are so many other layers involved -- producers, actors, etc. -- and what you envision may end up completely different.

Bev:Which novel has been your favorite, and why?

Tess: Gravity. It was about the space program, and it allowed me to explore topics that I'd never done before. Plus, it gave me access to people at NASA, which I've always been fascinated about.

Bev: I've been a fan of your Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles novels for quite a while. Any autobiographical traits in these ladies? Tell us about developing these exciting characters.

Tess: I identify most with Maura. She's very much like me, with a scientific bent, who always wants logical answers. I infuse her character with many of my own autobiographical details. Where she went to school, for instance, and the fact she loves the History Channel. Jane Rizzoli is very different from me. She's impulsive, forthright, and quite a bit braver than I am. Having two such different characters to work with helps the stories stay fresh for me.

Bev: I'm sure that your novels require extensive research. Tell us about that.

Tess: It depends on the book. For the medical details, I often just call on my own background as a physician, and my memories of autopsies. For forensic details, I have an extensive library on the topic, and I'll occasionally head down to Boston to talk to sources at Boston PD. But for me, the most important part of the books isn't the scientific detail, it's the characters, and what's happening with them at the moment.

Bev: When you are working on a new novel, do you plot and outline extensively, or just start writing with a partial plan in your mind? What is your working day like?

Tess: Mostly I just sit down and write, with only a vague idea of where the plot is going. If I'm surprised by the plot twists, I figure my readers will be as well. My typical working day is to try to complete four pages a day. If I can meet my quota, I'm pretty sure of finishing the book by deadline.

Bev: What are your plans for the future? Do you have another novel in the works?

Tess: I always have another novel in the works! At the moment, I'm working on the 6th Rizzoli novel (title still undecided.)

Bev: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with your fans?

Tess: Every book gets harder, not easier. I'm always striving to keep my characters off-balance and interesting. And as for Maura ever finding happiness in love ... well, I'm still working on it!

Bev: Thank you so much, Tess. I'm anxiously awaiting your next novel!


The Apprentice
By Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books - August 2003
0-345-44786-7 - Paperback
Note: Explicit violence and medical and forensic details
Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Beverly J. Rowe,

      Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli is investigating a murder that looks very much like a mirror-killing by serial killer Warren Hoyt, but, he is in a maximum-security prison. It must be a copycat. Jane hasn't completely recovered from the near-death experience at the hands of that infamous serial killer The Surgeon. Her scars and fear are still fresh, and now she is having trouble convincing FBI agent Gabriel Dean that the similarities are too close to be ignored. He seems to know more about this new menace, dubbed "the Dominator," than anyone else. Then when Warren Hoyt escapes from prison in a daring ploy of illness and the Surgeon and the Dominator team up, the pace really picks up.

     This is a sequel to The Surgeon, and number two in the Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series.
The well-plotted action is full of surprises, vivid, tense scenes and graphic descriptions. Jane may carry her independent attitude a bit too far for some readers, but to me she seemed realistic and easy to sympathize with. Maura Isles doesn't have a big part in this novel; it's mostly Jane's story, but the addition of the intriguing Gabriel Dean is welcome. The scene where Jane's partner collapses with a heart attack is heart wrenching and unforgettable, as Jane realizes how little effort she has spent understanding her partner and his personal problems.

       Gerritsen's switch from medical thrillers to police procedural and forensic suspense was a great choice for today's trends in popular fiction. She is a master at characterization and plotting, and her medical expertise lends reality to the details of the story. Plan on time to finish this book when you start it, because it's "can't put down" exciting.

The Sinner
By Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books - August 2004
0-345-45892-3 - Paperback
Note: Explict graphic forensic detail
Buy it at Amazon

Reviewed by Beverly J. Rowe,

      The Sinner is number three in the Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series and is a departure from standard serial killer fare. Jane is dispatched to Boston's Graystones Abbey when two nuns are discovered in an abandoned chapel—one dead and the other near death—both brutally bludgeoned. Isles' discovery that the dead nun had recently given birth is followed by the discovery of the baby's body in a pond near the convent.

       Another body discovery--that of a homeless woman with her face and hands removed by her killer—adds to Jane's workload. The subsequent investigation uncovers tentative ties between this murder and the one at the convent. Leprosy rears it's ugly head, and secrets are uncovered that someone will go to any lengths to cover up...even murder. Isles' ex-husband, Victor, enters the picture with his own suspicious connection to the case. To complicate the picture, Jane discovers that she is pregnant from her tryst with the elusive FBI agent, Gabriel Dean. The struggles of both Isles and Rizzoli to balance their tough professional acts with romantic drama are satisfying and add to the enjoyment of the novel.

       This story has a complicated, multi-layered plot, with compelling characters that fans have come to love. The action is fast and exciting...just the thing for a winter weekend read. I have become addicted to Tess Gerritsen's suspense stories. She definitely has her own style, and her characters' karma comes through with clarity.

By Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books - August 23, 2005
0-345-47697-2 - Hardcover

Note: Explict graphic forensic detail
Buy it at Amazon

       Maura Isles is doing the paperwork from an autopsy when she hears a noise coming from one of the corpses. The young "Jane Doe" turns out to be very much alive and is transported to the hospital to recover. She is a young Russian violent and desperate, who suddenly grabs a guard's gun and kills him. Olena takes a group of hospital employees and patients hostage, including detective Jane Rizzoli, who is about to give birth. The determined lady manages to summon an accomplice through a terse radio message:"The die is cast."

      Jane's husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, desperately tries to negotiate with the hostage-takers, and learns that Olena only wants to bring down the Washington politician who is responsible for sexually enslaving, then murdering the girls who are being held as unwilling participants in the prostitution trade. Young eastern Europen women are being brought into the country via Mexico, then used and treated as disposable. It's up to Gabriel Dean to use all of his negotiating and investigative skills to get his wife and child out of this alive. Secrets are uncovered that are so terrible that powerful perpetrator's will do anything to keep them hidden.

      The Doubleday Book Club, Literary Guild, and Mystery Guild have all given Vanish a main selection status. Homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and "Queen of the Dead" Maura Isles are such exciting characters. I fell in love with theses two gritty ladies in the first novel, and in this, the fifth Rizzoli/Isles novel, Gerritsen has developed some surprising plot twists and the gripping action kept me reading right through the night.

Official Tess Gerritsen site on the web. Contains info on author, book tour, Creepy Biological Facts, Guest Book, Book excerpts


The Jane Rizzoli, Maura Isles Series (In Order)
The Surgeon (July 2002 - paperback)
The Apprentice (July 29, 2003 - paperback) 
The Sinner (August 3, 2004 - paperback)
Body Double (August 17, 2004)
Vanish (August 23, 2005)
Medical Thrillers
Gravity (October 1, 2000)
Bloodstream (August 1, 1999)
Life Support (August 1, 1998)
Harvest (August 1, 1997)

Romance Novels
Double Impact (with Debra Webb) (2003)
Unveiled (with Stella Cameron and Amanda Stevens) (2002)
Call After Midnight (1987)
Under the Knife (1990) 
Never Say Die (1992)
Whistle Blower (1992) 
Presumed Guilty (1993)
Peggy Sue Got Murdered(1993) 
In Their Footsteps (1994) 
Thief of Hearts (1995) 
Keeper of the Bride (1996)

2005's Honorary List

1998- 2012
All rights reserved.