Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review - The Silent Girl

The Silent Girl – Tess Gerritsen
Tess Gerristen’s last two books in the Isles and Rizzoli series couldn’t have been more different if she tried. Tess has the ability to explore completely different themes whilst still effortlessly focusing on the core group of characters she has created. Most importantly, it always feels natural and not like she is trying to meld her characters with the new themes. In “Keeping the Dead,” the theme was centred around the ancient art of mummification and in “the Killing Place” the theme was around close knit communities ruled be cults.
Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to see what the “Silent Girl” was about.
The blurb:
When a severed hand, clutching a gun, is found in a Chinatown alley in downtown Boston, detective Jane Rizzoli climbs to the adjacent roof-top and finds the hand's owner: a red-haired woman whose throat has been slashed so deeply the head is nearly severed. She is dressed all in black, and the only clues to her identity are a throwaway cell phone and a scrawled address of a long-shuttered restaurant. With its wary immigrant population, Chinatown is a closed neighbourhood of long-held secrets - and nowhere is this more obvious than when Jane meets Iris Fang. Strikingly beautiful, her long black hair streaked with grey, she is a renowned martial arts master. Yet, despite being skilled in swordplay, neither she nor her strangely aloof daughter, Willow, will admit any knowledge of the rooftop murder. And pathologist Dr Maura Isles has determined that the murder weapon was a sword crafted of ancient metal from China. It soon becomes clear that an ancient evil is stirring in Chinatown - an evil that has killed before, and will kill again - unless Jane and Iris can join forces, and defeat it ...
As the rather long blurb indicates, the theme of the “Silent Girl” is ancient Chinese lore. What I love most about these books is that there is always the hint of the supernatural. It is clear that Tess’s passion for weird phenomena shines through her writing, but it is always grounded in gritty reality.
When the book opens, Maura is testifying in court against a law enforcement officer. The officer despite having an impeccable record up until his last arrest is guilty of rough housing a criminal. Maura’s code is to stick to the facts and do what is right. This immediately puts her at odds to the rest of the police force and puts a strain on her friendship with Rizzoli.
Just like that, nine books into the series and we have a new dynamic between the two protagonists. This is the way to keep a set of characters fresh and interesting. Tess cleverly explores this theme by having it mirrored with the main plot of the story.
The Chinese culture within this story have their own code which is more in keeping with Jane Rizzoli’s and that is to do what must be done to get the correct outcome.
“The Silent Girl,” returns the series back to more of the police procedural format. Jane and her partner Barry Frost have to try to piece together the very view clues they are presented with and have to constantly interrogate potential suspects. This means the personal lives of Jane and Maura take a bit of a back seat, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
Jane’s marriage and daughter is still frequently mentioned, as is her mothers relationship and Maura receives a visit from Rat (the boy from the Killing Place), but other than that, very little about their lives move forward.
Arguably, the character who receives the most attention is Barry Frost. Barry comes across as a little lost as he desperately tries to fill the void left by his recent separation of his wife. It is nice to see Barry get this kind of attention as he has been a constant character in the series. Special mention also goes to Tam who hopefully will continue to be part of the series.
The plot itself is good. With each incident, there appears to be no natural way for the crime to have been committed. There is also the inclusion of a mysterious monkey like figure which plays nicely into the whole Chinese myth of the Monkey King.
The thing I enjoy most about Tess’ books is that apart from being so darn enjoyable, you feel like you are being educated. Tess introduces just enough history that inspires you to look explore the subject matter further if you wish. The “Silent Girl” not only touches on Chinese lore but also on organised crime.
The climax is good. The mysterious figure is revealed and is believable and all loose ends are tied up. It is all you can want really from an ending. Tess continues to impress.
My rating: 8.6