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I am a big fan of Tess Gerritsen and have previously read her earlier books The Surgeon, The Apprentice, Sinner and have just finished Body Double.
Tess Gerritsen writes very strong characters and storylines, you can imagine the sort of things happening for real which is kind of scary and more compelling. Her books are thrillers but have a bit of gore to the story especially the ones centered around Dr Maura Isles who is a pathologist so the intricate details of an autopsy are often described.
Body Double has Dr Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizzoli as the main characters, with other side characters such as Detective Barry Frost who is Rizzoli's partner. We are introduced to other characters throughout the book but not too many that you have to start flicking back through the book to remember who they are and how they fit in to the story. The book itself is not a short story at 448 pages it is a fairly long book but it doesn't drag at all.
This story mainly revolves around Maura Isles and how when she returns from a trip to Paris she has to deal with a corpse that looks terrifyingly like herself. DNA tests confirm that Maura's doppelganger is in fact the twin sister she never knew she had. The story then delves into her past which is full of dark and deadly secrets which once she knows about she may wish she had never discovered.
"Dr Maura Isles stared at the corpse in the car, at the face illuminated by Rizzoli's flashlight beam.
It's me. That woman is me..."
I don't really want to give anymore away as it would ruin the rest of the story but this book has lots of twists and turns before the dramatic conclusion.
This book is probably one of my favourites out of the ones I have read. It is quite dark in it's subject matter but is a good read none the less. At the back of the book it gives a taster of the next book which is called Vanish and after reading it, I can't wait to start it!
Body Double retails for around 6.99 but I purchased my copy from Whsmiths when it was on sale at half price.
How much you enjoy Body Double may well depend upon your experience with its author. If this is your first time round, then I would expect you to find it a very satisfying, well-paced thriller, but if (like me) you have read all three predecessors in the series, you may just feel slightly short-changed - especially after the peaks reached in The Apprentice.
Provided that you can accept the somewhat far-fetched story, this is actually the most intriguing and well-structured of the four books so far in the Rizzoli-and-later-Dr Isles series. Boston pathologist Dr Maura Isles, attractive, divorced and aged forty, gets more than a shock when a woman is shot in the head outside Dr Isles' house. She has to watch a colleague carry out an autopsy on the murdered woman who is her DNA-verified identical twin, yet until this day Maura had no idea that she had a twin sister at all. Hmm. I suppose it could happen, but it's stretching the credibility muscles a little. Anyway, Maura begins an investigation into her dead sister's past, and therefore her own, aided by the very much more colourful character of Detective Jane Rizzoli - recently married and expecting her first child anytime soon.
My problem is that Maura's nowhere near as interesting a character as Rizzoli, and although Rizzoli is the other leading character in this tale, she unfortunately takes something of a back seat in the narrative while Maura tries to put together the previously unknown pieces of her family's past, in particular her biological mother who gave Maura up for adoption and whose name and whereabouts were unknown until now. The story's very good - I won't spoil things by explaining it but it's certainly dark, sinister and well crafted - but when a character as 'vanilla' as Maura Isles is burdened with the responsibility of carrying this tale virtually single-handed, it makes for less than satisfying reading when you are always aware of the more fascinating, complex and entertaining character that is Jane Rizzoli in the background. Whenever Rizzoli appears 'on-screen', she lifts the whole atmosphere a notch or two, but sadly she has deliberately been placed one or two steps behind Maura Isles in this crime thriller and the thrills are diluted as a result. Maybe that's because Rizzoli is a fighter, as might be expected given her duties as a gun-packing police detective, while Maura, already known as a vulnerable type to readers of The Sinner, continues in a similar fashion here as one who needs protection and is unlikely to be able to fend for herself. That's the one key element that was lacking in this otherwise excellent story - a strong and feisty central character along the lines of Rizzoli. Also, much as in The Sinner, the novel seems to have been aimed more at female readers due to the two female leads (and female author of course) together with a lack of any strong male characters, be they on the right or wrong side of the law, and a story very much built around pregnancy, childbirth and babies. We've had some well-drawn baddies in the past in the forms of the Surgeon and the Dominator, and some welcome good-guys in the moulds of Detective Thomas Moore (who has completely disappeared for some reason) and FBI Agent Gabriel Dean, who scarcely gets a mention in Body Double. It means that for those of us who have learned to love or hate these various characters, we feel short-changed because out of those six, four of them don't feature to any significant degree and one of them is relatively uninteresting - leaving the best of the lot, Rizzoli, to carry the whole thing alone. Many will disagree on this point but in The Apprentice the character of Rizzoli was superbly built up for the reader such that we felt that we were inside her mind and soul, but instead of that being maintained she has frustratingly taken a back seat to the inferior Dr Maura Isles and the franchise is the weaker for it. Having got that off my chest, Body Double's weaknesses are reconciled by a powerful and gripping story which had me guessing (and guessing wrong) right to the end. Vanish, number five in the series, comes next and I just hope the roles are reversed and Rizzoli takes her rightful place as leading lady. She's earned it and we want her back. Well, I do anyway.....
Following my real disappointment at Cornwell's latest offerings, I remembered I had this book on my TO-BE-READ-PILE that I had successfully swapped for some time ago on READITSWAPIT. For some reason, I had never gotten round to actually reading it until now......
Dr.Maura Isles is a female forensic pathologist (yes,another one) who returns from a conference in Paris after first visiting the famous catacombs and being a little freaked out. Her return trip has not been the best; first her flight is delayed, then her luggage lost and when she gets to her street, it is cordoned off by Police. Neighbours look at her as though she is a ghost as do Police Officers who know her and it is not untill she reaches her front door that she fully comphrends why. Somebody has been shot in a car outside her home. But more importantly, that person looks exactly like her!!!!!!
It soon transpires that Isles had a twin sister she never knew existed, having been adopted when she was younger and not knowing her birth-parents. The tragedy is that now Maura will never get to know her twin but the big question is was her sister the real target or was someone aiming for Maura and got her sibling by mistake?
As heavily pregnant Detective Jane Rizzoli investigates, both as a colleague and as a friend, complications arise in the form of one Detective Ballard who knew Maura's sister and was trying to help her disappear from an obsessive ex-lover. It also emerges that their mother could well have been a psychotic convicted serial killer, currently incarcerated, who suffers from schizophrenia and is almost certainly catatonic. Maura is faced with some of the hardest shocks she has ever had to bear as more and more revelations are revealed about a family she never knew existed. Meanwhile, someone has been abducting pregnant women and killing them after stealing their babies. How could this be related to Maura and her dead sister and could Jane Rizzoli be putting her own life in jeopardy?
A smoothly paced and very clever thriller, this is how crime fiction deserves to be written. At first I thought oh no, how many times has the twins theme been used before? But, here, Geritsen does it justice and takes a very unique approach that works magnificently. I also love the way that the novel never really goes too deeply into either of the leads' personal lives except where it is nessecary to the plot, the way the book never focuses solely on either Maura or Jane Rizzoli but cuts between the two and the way that even when you think you know what is going to happen, Geritsen still manages to throw you a little curve ball!! I am gutted I have never read anything by this author before but pleasently pleased that she lives up to the good reputation that has preceded her!!!
Although this is the eighth book by Geritsen, I didn't feel the need to have read any of her earlier works first despite the fact that an earlier novel, THE SURGEON, gets a mention and this obviously follows on. Also it is good to read something that is driven by the plot and the thrills rather than dissecting the characters for endless pages then suddenly remembering the urgent need to tie up all the loose ends in the final chapter. As a newcomer to Geritsen, I was certainly impressed- so much so that I have gone out of my way to obtain THE SURGEON, so that I can better understand the references made in this book!! Judging from the preview of the next novel, VANISH, which features in the final pages of this edition, his is another book I need to watch out for!!!
With BODY DOUBLE, I have discovered a refreshing, immensly enjoyable new author and though there is nothing immediately ground-breaking about this book or it's plot, it shows plenty of potential and besides, there doesn't really need to be anything ground-breaking here as this is about as good as it gets for crime fiction and the whole thing is a real pleasure to read. It's something of an easy read at times, I finished this in two days, but again this is no bad thing because occasionally a novel like this can feel like too much hard work and it becomes easy to lose focus and get bored. Certainly here the pace never lets up and there is no exploitive use of the gruesome, crime scenes that seem to crop up in other authors' works simply for shock value which can sometimes undermine the quality of their writing. The theme, the abduction and abuse of pregnant women, is shocking and disturbing enough and there is no need here for the gory scenario's that can sometimes put people off from tackling this genre. So if you are a bit squeamish but still like being thrilled this is definetely one for you!!
Overall, this is an excellent novel and TESS GERITSEN is an author I intend to read as much as possible of in the near-future!!! It just goes to prove once again that Patricia Cornwell may well be the self-styled Queen of the forensic pathologist novel but that there is no shortage of contenders to her throne who can do what she does bigger, better and a hell of a lot smoother. Wheras the Scarpetta books often use a nucleur bomb to crack a walnut, this book proves a gentler, softer approach that focuses more on plot and less on character-angst is much more effective!!
A most enjoyable roller-coaster of a read. Can't wait for the next one now.....
I love it when I come across a new author, especially one who writes in the medical thriller genre. So I picked up "Body Double" in a charity shop for the grand sum of £1 and what a bargain that turned out to be.
Maybe you know the author, but in case you don't, here's a brief biography. *
Tess Gerritson graduated medical school as a MD and was a practising physician until she started writing while on maternity leave. Her early attempts were quite successful, but it wasn't until the 1990's that she started writing medical thrillers and became an overnight success. Body Double is her eighth book, published in 2004. She lives in Maine with her husband and children (much like another favourite author of mine, Stephen King) I wonder if there really are ghosts up there in Maine! Readers who would like to know more about the author will love her own blog, which is humorous and sometimes painfully honest.
Dr Maura Isles, a pathologist who works in Boston, is returning from a conference in Paris, only to find her house surrounded by all the trappings of police activity. Her first thoughts of puzzlement are shattered by seeing many of her colleagues staring at her as if she is a ghost. Worse still there is a body in a car outside her home. A body that's identical to her own, except for the bullet in the brain.
As she witnesses part of the autopsy, she sees that even hidden parts of the body are identical to hers in every way. Investigating the homicide is one of her friends, Jane Rizzoli, a feisty cop who is eight months pregnant but still working the beat.
The investigation turns up some startling facts. Not only is the dead woman Anna, Maura's sister, but they were separated at birth and both adopted by elderly couples. It's evident that Anna had just found out about Maura, but was she shot by her possessive ex-boyfriend, or is there something much more sinister in the past of both women? The story goes through more twists and turns than a series of hairpin bends, reaching a shattering conclusion.
I don't know what it is about medical thrillers, but the best ones are almost always written by women, with their heroines also women. In Maura Isles, Gerritsen has taken the virtues of professionalism and mixed them with a healthy dose of imagination and sensitivity. The passages where Maura views the body of her dead sister and the ones where she almost literally steps into her shoes, is spine-tingling as she imagines how her dead sister would feel. This is no fast-talking, witty, detached pathologist, but a real woman who does her job with compassion.
It's left to Detective Rizzoli to provide the tough cop routine, although pointers to previous books suggests that she was once a victim herself.
There's some love interest in the form of a detective Ballard who was helping the dead sister to escape from her abusive boyfriend. On the whole though, the main protagonists are female, though to describe them in any detail would be to give away more of the plot than readers like to know.
This is a roller-coaster of a book with thrills on every page. Just when you think you have some idea what is going on, the plot twists and new characters appear on the scene. I have to give away just a little of the plot because it is the backbone of the story and a dilemma that the author has obviously thought about. Though Maura always knew that she was adopted, when she finds out about Anna she both grieves for the twin she never knew in life, but starts following the trail that Anna was on. A trail that might mean tainted blood back in her past.
It's this premise, 'does evil lie in nature or nurture' that other authors have attempted, only to shy away at the last minute. I couldn't put the book down, even when it started to get dark and the book became increasingly frightening. This is not a book for the faint-hearted. The writing has been compared with Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwall and even Thomas Harris.
If you like your thrillers both intelligently plotted and creepy as hell, this is the book for you.
I think I was lucky with my charity shop purchase. This retails new on Amazon for £5.49, but as usual it's better to shop around. I can't wait to read more by this author.
* Biograthy based on the book and the author's own site.
©Lisa Fuller Feb 2008.