Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen

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Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen

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Category: Crime
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: The tenth in the Rizzoli and Isles series has the Boston cop and local ME barely on speaking terms, but as separate reasons draw them to the high-security boarding school known as Evensong, with the lives of a number of already-scarred children at risk, they find themselves working together just as they always have. Deftly-plotted, with only one key weak spot, a fast-action enjoyable read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 464 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Bantam Books
External links: [ Author's website]
ISBN: 9780553820522

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Somewhere in Italy one summer, a group of people are gathered to take down Icarus. They have no qualms about their mission of taking out this immensely wealthy man. His wife and his children are merely by-standers, not to be involved. His habits have been studied. He is a monster, to be dealt with.

But when you abandoned civilized standards of conduct, you become a monster yourself. And that is what happened that Summer in Rome. I did not recognize it at the time. None of us did. So reads the crucial paragraph of an observer to the story. Who they are, whether protagonist or not, or on what side if so, will not become fully evident for about 350 of the 400-odd twisting turning pages of Gerritsen's latest outing for her heroines Rizzoli and Isles.

For those not familiar with the characters:

Rizzoli, is a homicide detective with the Boston police. She's married with a young daughter. There's lots of back-story on the web if you can't be bothered to read the preceding books, but you don’t need it to enjoy this one. All you really need to know is that her parents are separated, on the point of divorce, with her mother looking forward to a new marriage and her father deeply regretting walking out because he's now been dumped by his bimbo trophy lover, who suddenly noticed just how old he actually is. This sort of matters, because the whole theme of the book is tied up in family: the loss of family.

Another crucial thing early on, a propos my comment below about the actors chosen for the telly version: Jane is not the kind of girl who can carry off pink, especially not pink taffeta and bows and stuff... not even for a wedding, not even for her mother. Unless she really, really, has to.

Maura Isles is the local M.E. Well respected in her field on a national level. She's pretty well famous. She's also obsessively hygienic. Has no home life to speak of. Last year (a.k.a. the last book presumably, she survived a serious situation with the help of a young man called Justin and his dog, Bear). Details of the circumstances aren't given, but the upshot is that they owe their lives to each other and she is now, not exactly his legal guardian, but something of a surrogate mother none-the-less. Friends is the term they use. He's still only 16 and lost all of his family in whatever it was that led to them to be struggling to survive in the mountains. This is Gerritsen at her teasing best. Even when you need to know the history to understand the present, she manages to keep enough back for you to want to go back to the back catalogue and properly understand, even though reading those books out of sequence will potentially diminish them. She makes sure it doesn't completely devalue them to the point of no need to read'.

Maura and Jane are best friends.

Or were.

Maura testified against a crooked cop, who went down.

The Boston police see that as a betrayal. Never mind that he was guilty. He was one of theirs. Jane and Maura are scarcely on speaking terms at the start of this book.

That isn't going to help, when their professional and personal interests cross paths in a Gothic castle in the middle of nowhere.

According to Wiki they now have their own TNT TV series. If you haven't watched it, and I haven't, then please don't. The actresses chosen are way too young and pretty to be anything like Gerritsen's real Rizzoli and Isles.

For a start, they are girls who could quite definitely 'do' pink taffeta. Neither looks old enough to have got where they have. And most crucially, neither looks like they have lived enough.

Back to the book.

Claire Ward is a wayward child. She has a tendency to sneak out of her room at night to meet up with her mates. Generally speaking she doesn't do too much wrong. She's still getting good grades. She just likes to be a little wild at times and doesn't understand why her foster parents get so spooked by it. (Maybe Claire's foster parents know more than she does about how her parents died. They were shot on a London street.) One night, she's broken out as usual, risking another lecture, another meaningless grounding. Her guardians come out to get her, and suddenly she sees how much she's hurting them, maybe this isn't so much fun anymore. She can't bring herself to apologise and won't get another chance. The car is stopped, they're shot, point-blank. An 'angel' gets her out of there.

Will Yablonksi is the kind of child only a mother would love. He's overweight and bullied. But he's bookish, and intelligent, and caring. He has a passion for astronomy. No wonder: both his dead father and his adoptive uncle worked for NASA. He is out in the back field with his telescope looking for unknown comets, when the farmhouse that is his adoptive home is blown to pieces. (Why did his aunt and uncle suddenly decamp to this small-town New Hampshire nowhere? Did it have anything to do with his parents' death? Their personal plane was blown apart a few years back.)

Then there's Teddy Clock. Underdeveloped for a 14 year old, he's into computing. Another academic. Seriously withdrawn, he's scarcely related to anyone since his parents and sister were lost when there was a pirate attack on their yacht near St Thomas a few years ago. He woke up in the water, and doesn't really know what happened. When a lone gun man broke into his foster home and massacred the family, withdrawal shifts into something near catatonia.

Teddy's is the case that Rizzoli is drawn into. She's supposed to be off-shift, but maybe she can persuade the boy to talk a bit.

Meanwhile, Maura is on holidays, visiting Julian at the boarding school that has been found as a new base for him. Evensong is maximum security, but appears to be enlightened about some of its teaching methods. The security is to keep people out – not in.

Maura is impressed to begin with, but then worries about the kind of children that the place deals with. All of the children have a very specific connection.

And then there's the link to the Mephisto society. A conspiracy theorist organisation with a self-given mission to counter the evil in the world. Maura is clearly worried about cults and recruitment, but Julian seems happy and well-adjusted.

Suddenly Rizzoli also has a reason to visit Evensong... and the lives of both ME and detective are once again entwined and in danger, so are the lives of all the children at the school. The question is: what on earth is the connection? And what can be done about it?

In traditional genre style Gerritsen strews the twisting path with red herrings and leads off it on false trails. Despite a promise of gore, there's mercifully little of it, just the occasional shock. Mostly it's the thrill of the chase, the intellectual challenge of the hunt. You've a fair chance of guessing the killer before you get to them, but I defy you to be certain in your choice.

It's fast paced, laced with the restrained use of one-liner humour, never overdone or out of place, and whilst it stretches likelihood, it is mostly plausible.

Oh yes, and what happened in Rome, keeps lurking round the edges with occasional musings. Clues? Or more distraction?

My only problem is that I'm not entirely sure how two key protagonists got to the last explosive scene, out of the locked cellar we left them in. That's worrying me a bit. Never mind what actually happens, how did they get there?

That quibble aside, it's a great, guilty-pleasure of a read.

Nothing flash, nothing overly literary, but then it is all about the action, and that never lets up.

Enjoyed it.

If this is your first outing with Rizzoli and Isles, the Bookbag can also recommend Keeping The Dead by Tess Gerritsen, or for a taste of English female cops behaving just as irresponsibly with equally exciting results check out S J Bolton's latest Like This, For Ever

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Buy Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Last To Die by Tess Gerritsen at


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