The TNT series RIZZOLI & ISLES, based upon Tess Gerritsen’s investigative duo, is about to launch its second season. In the meantime, longtime readers and new fans can get a satisfying fix with the author’s latest addition to the crime thriller series, THE SILENT GIRL.
Boston PD Homicide Inspector Jane Rizzoli and her crew are summoned to the rooftop of a tenement building in Chinatown, where they find the corpse of a red-haired woman dressed in black. But the dead body is missing a hand, which is soon found in the alley below the building.
Later, during an autopsy, Medical Inspector Mura Isles confirms that the dead woman’s severed hand was the result of an unusually sharp weapon, handled by someone who obviously knew what they were doing. Just as baffling, however, are the strands of silver hair found on the dead body. Further examination reveals that the hairs are not human, and quite possibly simian.
Then Rizzoli finds a link to the dead woman and a well-known case from Chinatown’s past: Nineteen years ago, a cook in a Chinatown restaurant shot and killed a waiter and several patrons in the restaurant, before taking his own life. The investigators at the time closed the case as a tragic murder-suicide, but as Rizzoli follows the link to this case, she finds that someone is convinced that the cook was not the real killer, and is intent on unveiling the truth after all these years. There also seems to be an elusive connection to the disappearance of the daughters of two of the families whose lives were changed by the restaurant killings.
Rizzoli interviews the survivors of the victims, which includes an elderly woman running a martial arts school in Chinatown. Most of the survivors are reluctant to revisit their painful memories, but a few are willing to offer what little help they can. The martial arts instructor in particular seems to hold many secrets she is hesitant to discuss.
Adding to all these complications is the source of those mysterious silver hairs. Someone — or some thing — is following the case and continues to wield his/her/its sharp weapon. Yet it is amazingly stealth and elusive, even to video security cameras. Could it possibly be the Monkey Warrior, a centuries-old hero of Chinese folklore?
With its ties to an old and previously closed case, as well as the mysterious presence with roots in Chinese mythology, THE SILENT GIRL is one of the more complicated in the series (and a very personal one, as Gerritsen notes in her opening acknowledgements). But the author steers the reader through all these complications and obscure connections with an energetic pace and several scenes of suspense and action in the shadowy back alleys and buildings of Chinatown. These lead us to a conclusion which, while not breaking any new ground, is nonetheless unexpected and satisfying — and even leaves a secret that might linger over successive books.
Gerritsen’s characters are another reason for staying with this novel from start to finish. Fans as well as newcomers will quickly recognize and understand the complications of duo’s private lives that often threaten their professional responsibilities and ultimately add depth to the stories. While they always cooperate and admire each other, Rizzoli and Isles are not what you’d call partners nor, at times, even friends.
Not surprisingly, while Gerritsen always devotes time to both of her protagonists, the main activity usually falls to one of the investigators. In the previous ICE COLD, it was Isles. Here, it is Rizzoli. Still, their activities always connect them, even when they disagree on their personal motivations or philosophies.
THE SILENT GIRL is another worthy addition to this already worthy series. While fans of the TV show will obviously find differences between it and the books, it’s a sure bet they will appreciate these differences and soon find themselves as devoted to Gerritsen’s novels as they are the episodes. —Alan Cranis