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Book Review: The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

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Tess Gerritsen’s third Jane Rizzoli novel (which should, in all fairness, be described as a Rizzoli and Isles novel at this point) starts out with a bang by showcasing Dr. Maura Isles, the forensic pathologist of the team, as she walks up to a murder scene. The imagery and the sadness the author creates that clings to Isles is so strong it’s stayed with me every time I imagine her.

The mystery moves into high gear and Gerritsen gets to showcase some of her medical knowledge with a weird birth defect on one of the two nuns that have been attacked and left for dead. Both nuns had their throats slashed. One of them is dead. But the other, whose carotid artery was also severed, was saved by the genetic deficiency. As it turns out, people are sometimes born and live all their lives without their carotid arteries ever functioning. It's knowledge like this that’s part of why I enjoy Gerritsen’s books so much.

To add more confusion and emotion to the mix, Dr. Isles’s ex-husband turns up and rekindles the old romance between them that has never quite died. This is the first time in the series that Isles weighs in heavily in the story. In the previous two books, the focus has primarily remained on Rizzoli.

Rizzoli returns with her usual tougher-than-nails demeanor in this one. She, and the reader, never forgets for an instant that she’s a woman working in a man’s world. Things get complicated for her in this one too when FBI Special Agent Gabriel Dean puts in another appearance. As it turns out, Rizzoli is pregnant with his child and she doesn’t want to deal with him or the pregnancy.

The pregnancy and issues of the men in their lives alternately pull Rizzoli and Isles together and push them apart. While these subplots are interesting, and do help keep the pages turning, they also tend to get the way and deflect from the main mystery at hand.

The hidden agenda involved in this one is also farther away from Boston then the previous two books. The Sinner leans more toward an international thriller in its complexity. The pacing in the middle field off, because it slows down to degree when compared to the other two books (and even books later on in this series). It feels a little like Gerritsen had a good idea for an international thriller, then scoped that into a Rizzoli novel. But it works really well to bring out this new relationship (relationships, actually, as it turns out) between these women.

Although the prologue gave away a lot of the story, Gerritsen’s skill as a writer remains formidable. Although I had most of the mystery figured out, I still found myself staying up later than I should have to keep turning pages. Her prose, even when the plot sags a little, remains easy to read. She’s one of those authors that you can trust to deliver every time you open the book.

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