I have to ask a serious question: can Tess Gerritsen do no wrong? Oh, sure, her books aren't perfect, but I have yet to read a Gerritsen book that hasn't ultimately thrilled me and kept me reading long past the time where I was supposed to turn out the light. The Keepsake, Gerritsen's latest, is yet another example. Another Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles murder-thriller, it's again wonderfully written with an intriguing situation and excellent prose.
"Madam X," a mummy found in the basement of the Crispin Museum, has gone to the hospital for a CT scan to determine what she may have looked like. The discovery of a modern-day bullet during the scan reveals that the mummy is actually a murder victim. But who? And how did she come to be at the museum? Then two other victims are found. All three of them are preserved in different ancient ways that would most likely be known only by other archeologists. What kind of scientist could be this depraved? Dr. Isles and Boston police detective Rizzoli must figure it out before another body is added to the killer's historical CV.
Once again, Gerritsen gives her readers some wonderful characterization - not just of Rizzoli and Isles, but of her secondary characters as well. Josephine Pulcillo is given plenty of viewpoint scenes, and she's compelling even given that Gerritsen spends many of her scenes hiding the secret that she carries. Usually that annoys me, but she's an interesting enough character that I'll let it slide this time. In addition to Josephine, the characters that Gerritsen has created to populate the museum as well as the rich family of one of the suspects are also done very well.
Isles and Rizzoli return after taking a book off in The Bone Garden (other than Isles' brief appearance at the beginning), and they come back raring to go. Rizzoli has softened over the many books in the series, but she still maintains that edge that keeps her interesting, that willingness to speak her mind even if it will tick off her co-workers (or, in this case, her partner, though she does it because she cares about him). Her relationship with her fellow cops has also mellowed, with her getting support from them rather than them reacting to the chip that used to be on her shoulder.
Isles is still very emotional, but I'm just going to have to get used to that because Gerritsen will never change her that dramatically. Hearing how her lover, Catholic priest Father Brody, can so rarely actually be with her because his love of God still comes first can be tiring, and there are too many scenes where she pines for him. I know that it's part of her characterization, and this relationship has developed over several books so maybe Gerritsen will take a few more to resolve it. Thankfully, other than this pining, she doesn't really have the usual reaction to the other men she meets in The Keepsake (i.e. they're all extremely attractive). That’s refreshing.
In this well-structured plot, Gerritsen doles out information in short bursts to keep the reader entranced, mixing it with excellent character work that blends seamlessly into the story. Gerritsen has done a lot of research into archeology and various ancient death rituals, and it shows. Occasionally, she comes a bit close to the line of having a character lecture about one of these research topics, but she skirts it for the most part. It's worth for the fine details it all brings to the plot. While I saw a couple of plot points coming before they were revealed, it was never far before the characters themselves came to the same conclusion. That's always a good thing in a mystery.
Regarding the whole series, the Mephisto Club (introduced in the appropriately named novel The Mephisto Club) is in danger of becoming too much of a plot device. They’re extremely well-informed about ongoing cases, having friends in high places, and leader Anthony Sansone shows up to talk to Dr. Isles and provides her with information that furthers the case. All the while, he's trying to convince her to go along with the Club's theories about Evil from the Dawn of Time, but in the process of doing so, he's a plot device. Once is fine, twice might be okay based on circumstances, but I hope Gerritsen actually does something with them before they become too cliched.
That being said, The Keepsake keeps you riveted from beginning to end. I was using it as a book to read at work while I read at home a book that I didn't want to carry with me. I had trouble keeping away from The Keepsake at home because I just wanted to find out what happened next. For the most part, I was successful, but it was a taxing war in my mind. By the end of the novel, I couldn't keep away. That's how good this book is.