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Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

No matter how full my bookshelves are, no matter what eclectic mix of genres I have piled up in my TBR at any one time, you can always guarantee I'll have some crime fiction to hand. Crime is an absolute staple in my personal library. It provides the perfect solution to so many of my 'what do I read next' dilemmas. Need something to fill the breaks on a night shift, something engrossing enough to keep me awake but needing minimal effort to concentrate on during the 4am brain fuzz? Perfect. Looking for the literary equivalent of a 'palate cleanser', a quick and enjoyable read in between heftier tomes? Absolutely. Going on a trip with limited packing space so need to bring books that can be swapped and shared between family and friends? Crime fiction appeals to almost everyone, doesn't it?

Usually my crime novelists of choice are European. I do tend to favour the Scandinavian authors in particular. My most recent love has been Camilla Lackberg, but after finishing The Drowning I was in the mood to start a new series from the very beginning. I have spotted a few favourable reviews of Tess Gerritsen's latest release on some of my favourite blogs, and she is an author that had previously passed completely under my radar. I must admit that my interest was piqued further when I discovered that she used to be a medic before leaving the profession to write full-time. A few swap requests on Read It Swap It later and I had the first two titles in the Rizzoli & Isles series sitting on my shelf waiting to be read.

Dr Catherine Cordell is a beautiful and dedicated trauma surgeon who was abducted and subjected to the indescribable trauma of sexual assault by a twisted serial killer whose precise surgical technique had already claimed multiple victims. She shot her attacker dead and escaped by the skin of her teeth, moving away to Boston to try to forget and start her life anew. Two years later, she is horrified to discover that women in her neighbourhood are falling prey to another killer who uses the exact same methods as The Surgeon did in the past. It is up to detectives Moore and Rizzoli to work out who the copycat killer is...because of course The Surgeon couldn't be working from beyond the grave?!

This is one of those books that I just can't make my mind up over. I think I thought it was only OK. It kept me turning the pages and I was keen to find out how it ended, but I didn't feel particularly shocked by the ending (although I never guessed whodunnit either) and there were no real 'twists' to speak of. I wasn't expecting this to be as gruesome as it is. While I am by no means squeamish, some of the descriptions of the killer and his habits had me throwing half of my lunchtime sandwich in the bin in disgust. Rizzoli and Moore are both decent lead characters and I think Rizzoli in particular will benefit from more development in the subsequent books.

Gerritsen has understandably drawn on her medical experience to write The Surgeon and there are a number of scenes detailing the intense environment of Cordell's workplace and the stresses she is subjected to as part of her job. To be honest, I felt that some of these passages could be a little much for readers without any medical training as they contain lots of technical jargon and acronyms (if you have read this book - what did you think?). I found some of the events slightly unrealistic but enjoyed other points, such as the scene where Cordell discusses a 'do not resuscitate' order with a patient's relatives. This isn't an issue that I have seen tackled in fiction before and I feel it's something important that could be highlighted more. It annoyed me that WOW was Cordell unprofessional at times though. She invites a junior colleague 'over a few beers' to discuss his poor performance in the workplace and break the news that he won't be allowed to continue with his training. How is that appropriate?! She also volunteers to the police that she has been having a nosey in the medical records of the killer's other victims, and hands over those records without even a thought for her duty of confidentiality.

So I wasn't completely convinced by this book, but as I have mentioned, I already have the second installment in the series on my shelf and I am sure that once the characters are a bit more established I will enjoy them a bit more.

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