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by Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books, August 2004
339 pages
ISBN: 0345458931

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Although it seems unlikely, given her apparent enjoyment of all that is gory, Tess Gerritsen, a doctor by profession, began her writing career in the romance genre -- well, romance with a bit of suspense chucked in for good effect. It was not until this past decade that she switched to the medical thriller sub-genre and began her flirtation with the bestseller lists. Perhaps it has gone beyond a flirtation now as Gerritsen seems to have moved into a permanent relationship with bestsellerdom.

BODY DOUBLE follows hard on the heels of THE SINNER and THE APPRENTICE, tracking the adventures of characters in those works. The prologue is typical Gerritsen. Alice Rose is a new girl in school. She is tormented by her class-mates -- all but the very good-looking Elijah who invites her to his house to help him with a biology assignment. Instead, Alice finds she IS his biology assignment as he imprisons her in a deep hole he has dug.

Many years later Dr Maura Isles has been to a conference in Paris. At once fascinated and repelled, she has investigated the Catacombs there but is more than happy to return to the light of day then fly home to Boston. The typical fate of the long-distance traveller has befallen her -- her luggage has been mislaid, so, disgruntled and luggage-less, she returns to her home. Or rather, she attempts to return to her home. The block where she lives is cordoned off and she is only able to gain access to her house when Detective Jane Rizzoli instructs priest Daniel Brophy -- a man for whom Maura feels more than a religious closeness -- to take her inside.

Maura is told that a woman has been found dead in a car outside her house. She is horrified to see, when she examines the body, that the woman could well be her twin. She attends the autopsy although she doesn't conduct it herself, and discovers the body is identical to her own. DNA evidence later reveals that the dead woman is indeed her twin.

Maura is determined to find out who the woman is and why she tracked Maura down. Dr Isles is befriended by a detective who had been helping her sister in her search and who makes it clear his own interest is more than that of a simple guardian. Then the pathologist identifies and confronts the woman her sister determined was their mother.

In the meantime, someone has kidnapped a heavily pregnant woman, Mattie Purvis. Mattie is incarcerated in a box in a manner reminiscent of the fate that befell Alice Rose so many years previously. But is this, perhaps, a contract killing paid for by her husband or a kidnapping made in order to wring a ransom from him? And could the fact that Mattie is pregnant imply danger for Jane Rizzoli who is also in the late stages of pregnancy?

This novel is as exciting as any of Gerritsen's previous efforts. It is, of course, equally brutal with its bloody detail. It would be unfortunate were readers to skip the work of this excellent writer just because she doesn't stint on grue. Gerritsen's writing really is worth the effort to clothe one's sensibilities in a suitable insulator to exclude the horror of the spattered gore.

Gerritsen is excellent at plotting and characterisation and has a deft touch with the brush of suspense. I did have something of a problem with the way Rizzoli, Brophy et al broke the news of the look-alike corpse to Maura. Would it, in the real world, have been done in such a heartless and intimidating manner? A small and insignificant criticism, this -- this book is definitely one for the connoisseur of apprehension.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, September 2004

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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