Title: Die Again
Hardback: 330 pages
Publication Date: 01/01/2015
When I first received my copy of Tess Gerritsen’s new novel I have to admit that I was a little bemused. Why, I wondered, was the oilskin and Sou’wester wearing killer from I Know What You Did Last Summer on the front cover? Thankfully, it turns out, this is no schlocky Nineties horror – although there is a fair amount of violence and gore (it wouldn’t really be a Tess Gerritsen novel without it).
Nevertheless, the book uses a clever device to hook in its readers (I promise that will be my last reference to the fisherman from I Know What You Did Last Summer!). Juxtaposing a present day series of brutal murders in Boston with a deadly game of cat and mouse on an African safari six years previously creates an enthralling break from previous Rizzoli and Isles thrillers – which have tended to revolve around Boston.
When a mailman – wondering why there is accumulated post at a property (that level of attention would never happen with my postman!) – peers through the window of a Boston house, he discovers a dog with a human finger in its mouth. Enter our erstwhile dynamic duo, Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Dr Maura Isles. The home owner, Leon Gott, has been gutted and hung like an animal – and they soon discover a house full of stuffed wild animal heads, and a garage full of gutted organs, some human, some animal.
This begins the investigation that intercuts with the African scenes from six years previously. And it is the scenes in Africa, through the evocative descriptions of the raw beauty and danger of the landscape, that really stood out to me when I was reading this book.
With no means of communication and cut off from rescue, the atmosphere and terror of the situation transmits to the reader. In fact, as I was reading Die Again, I was reminded of The Killing Place which featured a similar premise. There, the characters were cut adrift in nature and, for me, it was the Gerritsen novel that I have most enjoyed to date. Therefore, I felt that the return to that dynamic worked really well in Die Again.
And as the two plot strands spin closer, it becomes apparent that the African arc is inextricably linked to the murders in Boston (without wanting to give too much away).
The writing is, as you would expect of a Gerritsen novel, tight and pacy and full of menace and atmosphere. Rizzoli and Isles continue to be strong central characters – continuing to evolve and hold the reader’s attention. An impressive feat considering this is their eleventh outing. That being said, it was the character of Millie Jacobson, narrator of the African scenes, who really stood out in this novel.