Title: The Silent Girl
Publisher: Bantam Press
Hardback: 331 pages
Publication Date: 21/07/2011
Thanks to Tess Gerritsen’s latest thriller, The Silent Girl, I can comprehensively say that I will not be attending a ghost tour in the near future!
I’m squeamish at the best of times, so even the incredibly unlikely scenario that I might discover a severed hand and a silenced pistol in an alleyway next to the building where a massacre took place almost two decades before is too much of a risk for my nervous little heart and delicate constitution!
But that’s exactly what happens at the outset of The Silent Girl, as a little boy discovers what he at first believes is a bloody stage prop – only to realise that it’s very real. It’s an absolutely brilliant premise by which to start the novel, and it instantly had me gripped [sorry, had to have in a ‘hand pun’!]. And, shortly afterwards, Boston PD discovers a woman’s corpse on the tenement rooftop above, the body nearly decapitated and minus a hand…
So it’s left up to Homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and pathologist Maura Isles to delve into a case that takes them into the heart of Boston’s Chinese community, in the process forcing them to reopen a nineteen year old murder-suicide case and investigate the disappearance of two teenage girls. It’s a lot of threads and cold cases for the duo to explore, but it also makes for a compellingly labyrinthine and suspenseful mystery plot that will keep readers guessing throughout [it certainly kept me on my toes].
What really stood out in the book was the incredibly strong sense of place – Boston’s Chinatown and its Chinese-American community are wonderfully evoked – and you can certainly see why Gerritsen has described The Silent Girl as the most personal book that she has written to date. It’s full of Chinese folklore, history, ghost stories, mythical creatures and there’s even an enigmatic female martial arts master [or mistress?!], Iris Fang, who walks around Chinatown with an ancient sword for company!
Gerritsen’s previous novel, The Killing Place, is a hard act to follow [it is my favourite of her Rizzoli & Isles books], but The Silent Girl certainly manages to live up to those high standards. Probably my only gripe was that I was disappointed to see Maura Isles’s role so vastly reduced in comparison to The Killing Place. But on flip-side, Jane Rizzoli’s partner, Detective Frost, is on fine ‘form’ [as he gets over the break down of his marriage] and The Silent Girl also sees the introduction of the young and ambitious Chinese-American detective Johnny Tam – a character whose mysterious intensity makes me hope that he will be returning in future books in the series.