Body Double
Tess Gerritsen
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Body Double
Tess Gerritsen
416 pages
July 2005
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Click here to read reviewer Rashmi Srinivas' take on Body Double.

Tess Gerritsen continues her Jane Rizzoli/Maura Isles series with Body Double, a thriller that strikes a personal note with Maura and strains oneís credulity, but not much. I still love Gerritsen's prose and character work, and this book doesn't quite have the same problems as The Sinner did, making it infinitely better. The problems are still there to a slight degree, but they're nowhere near as annoying as they were before.

Dr. Maura Isles, a medical examiner in Boston, returns from a conference in Paris to a home surrounded by flashing police lights. Her friends seem flabbergasted to see her alive, and when she sees the dead body in the car in front of her house, she joins them. The woman is her perfect double! Maura was adopted as a child, and DNA testing shows that the murdered woman is her twin sister. This revelation makes an already strange murder investigation even weirder, as Isles begins finding out more and more about her past. It turns out her real mother really isn't a pleasant woman and may be involved in even sicker things. Can Maura and the eight-months pregnant detective Jane Rizzoli solve everything before it gets still worse?

One of my biggest complaints about The Sinner was that both of our female characters were defined so much through their romantic relationships. Rizzoli had the "I'm pregnant, should I tell the guy who I'm in love with about it?" problem, and Islesí ex-husband was back in town. This time around, that's tempered a bit. While Isles still has a few too many romantic entanglements (including the guy who was in love with her sister), Rizzoli's problems are gone. She still thinks about her husband, of course, and he's still involved occasionally, but it's a lot more human and less forced. I loved the interplay between Gabriel and Rizzoli; they sounded like a real couple who spend a bit too much time apart, working.

Isles is still an interesting character and a lot happens to her in Body Double, so it's too bad that she has to go through more romantic travails. She finds out that her birth mother is insane, the sister she never knew she had is dead, and she has a weird romance on top of all this? It just seems a bit much, and since she had that problem last time, that makes it worse.

This is the only fault I can find with the characterization, however. Both women are extremely interesting to read about and definitely hold your attention. Gerritsen softens Rizzoli without dulling her edge. She's still a hothead, liable to jump in without looking and feeling like she has to prove herself, but she's no longer in "everybody's against me" mode. When she meets other cops at the bar they regularly go to (don't worry, she just has soda), while she sometimes feels out of place as the "pregnant cop," she doesn't have the overarching hostility that she probably would have had in previous books.

Gerritsen has created quite the intricate storyline. Unfortunately, the way the two plots intersect seems too coincidental, but otherwise I loved every minute of it. She examines the "nature versus nurture" debate by giving Maura a killer for a mom. Isles wonders throughout this book whether having the genes of a killer means that she'll gravitate toward the dark side. It's an interesting examination of her character, and it fits perfectly with the serial killer plotline, too.

Gerritsen piles on the twists and turns, giving just enough clues so you might figure out what's going on but you're never quite right. The opening scene, once again a flashback, provides insight into the killer without revealing who it is. I like this technique, but it's getting a bit predictable. Hopefully the next one will be treated differently. Gerritsen gives a twist to the "cops rush in to save the victim" ending to the serial killer storyline. They're still instrumental, but she does something a different, making that story a little more unpredictable as well.

Gerritsen's prose remains riveting, and I still find myself racing through these books. She knows how to write a cliffhanger; even when there isn't one, you just want to continue reading to find out what happens to her characters first. She also injects a bit of humor into the book, too. I've noticed that she's adding more and more all the time. She's not making it a comedy, of course, but various lighthearted moments, especially banter among the various detectives, really freshen the narrative.

For those who have read reviews of previous books that mention the gore: Gerritsen's starting to tone it down. She still pulls no punches during the autopsy scenes (and as an aside, I'm starting to get bored with the constant introspection about bodies and body parts during these scenes). Everything's described in detail, so if even that makes you squeamish, then you'd best avoid these books. But if you're a CSI fan, you've already seen exactly what's described in these books and you'll be fine. The crime scenes themselves, while described matter-of-factly, don't go out of their way to be grotesque.

Body Double is yet another winner from Gerritsen. I'm beginning to wonder if she can write a bad one with these characters. Now if she would just tone down the romance elements, they would be even better.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Dave Roy, 2007

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