If you are looking for a late-summer read that involves the exotic wilderness of South Africa, the stark winter of urban Boston, a range of man-eating leopards, pumas and other members of the cat family, as well as two smart and gutsy female crime fighters, then Tess Gerritsen’s latest thriller Die Again should be the perfect read for you.
Back with the 11th instalment of her “Rizzoli and Isles” series, featuring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and forensic pathologist Maura Isles, bestselling author Gerritsen has once again created an intricate and compelling narrative – this time one that spans across two continents: In Africa the narration belongs to Millie, a British bookshop manager who is on safari with her boyfriend (an almost comically self-obsessed thriller writer by the name of Richard Renwick), who finds that there are a lot scarier things than wild animals to be encountered while camping in the Botswana backwoods. When members of the safari begin to disappear, the first explanation is that hyenas and leopards are somehow responsible, but as things begin to fall apart amongst the group, and new allegiances are made, Millie finds her holiday suddenly turning into a very frightening real-life version of reality TV’s “Survivor.”
A few years later in Boston, detective Jane Rizzoli finds herself confronted with a murder mystery that begins with the grisly discovery of the body of a well-known hunter and taxidermist, who is found gutted and strung up by his feet in his garage. With the help of medical examiner Maura Isles, Rizzoli investigates this almost ritualistic killing, and soon finds that there are a number of linkages to other unexplained murders and disappearances that have been occurring throughout the USA. As the two women start to connect the dots between the crimes, it becomes obvious that they must go back in time, back to the Botswana wilderness to discover the true identity of the killer.
Fast paced and engaging, Die Again is another good example of the type of writing that has put this prolific author on the bestselling lists, and why “Rizzoli and Isles” have been made into a successful US TV series by the same name. As a graduate from Stanford University, Tess Gerritsen initially trained as a medical doctor, and did not discover her passion for writing until taking maternity leave in the late 1980s. Since then Gerristsen’s work has also included screenplays, romantic suspense novels and medical thrillers, and like these other novels, Die Again highlights that fascinating medical expertise that Gerritsen herself possesses.
The novel plays around with the ideology of hunting as a sport, and adds some thought provoking ideas in regards to evolution, science and the popular notion of Africa as an untameable, “dark” country, in which both animals and humans pose an existential threat, and only the strongest (or the luckiest) survive.
While the novel is, in most parts, spellbindingly engaging, towards the end there is a slight lapse in the consistency of the “big reveal”, which is increasingly obvious to the reader, but painstakingly less so to detective Rizzoli and Dr Isles. The tantalising re-introduction of Dr Isles’s serial-killer mother will hopefully be fully developed in the next instalment of the series – an event which will surely be eagerly awaited by Rizzoli and Isles’s old fans, as well as the many new fans that Die Again is sure to generate.