Onyx reviews: The Silent
Girl by Tess Gerritsen
People coming to Tess Gerritsen's novels featuring Jane Rizzoli and Maura
Isles because of the TNT series Rizzoli and Isles should know that there
are significant differences. Primary among these is the fact that Rizzoli and Maura
are friends, but not close buddies like on the show. Jane is married to an FBI
agent and has a daughter. Her mother is engaged to retired cop Vince Korsak
(much to Jane and Frankie's dismay). Maura is less of an OCD know-it-all than on
the show, though she does see most things in terms of black and white. The two characters interact primarily on the job, and Maura
doesn't interfere with investigations beyond conducting autopsies and examining
forensic evidence, as it should
Maura takes the back seat in this book. She's persona non grata as far
as most of the Boston Police Department is concerned because of her unflinching
forensic testimony against an officer accused of beating a suspected cop killer in
Even Jane is unhappy with Maura and their relationship remains strained.
A young boy taking part in a ghost tour in Boston's Chinatown finds a severed
hand, which is first believed to be a gag prop but turns out to be real. That
leads Jane to a nearby rooftop where they discover the hand's owner, a young
woman dressed in black, nearly decapitated, probably by a sword.
The murder happened close to the Red Phoenix, a restaurant where several
people were shot to death nearly twenty years earlier. As the investigation
develops, Jane starts to think the two crimes are related. The restaurant
killings were believed to be the work of a waiter, who supposedly committed
suicide in the kitchen after going berserk, but there were no witnesses.
Someone other than the police is apparently interested in the murders.
Perhaps the same person who has been sending notes to families of the victims
that say "I know what really happened."
The complex plot may also involve the disappearance of teenage girls. One
vanished two years before the massacre at the Red Phoenix: the daughter of
martial arts instructor Iris Fang, whose husband was killed at the restaurant.
Parts of the book are narrated by Iris, pertaining primarily to her young protégé
Bella, a woman she rescued from the mean streets of San Francisco seven years
ago. Another missing girl was the daughter of a woman who was also shot to death
at the restaurant.
The BPD investigation is made more difficult by the fact that many of the
people they want to talk to don't speak English and distrust anyone outside
their community. They are also superstitious, believing the Red Phoenix is
haunted. The building has remained empty ever since the murders because no one
wants to venture inside. To help navigate the cultural complexities, Jane and
her partner turn to Johnny Tam, an ambitious Chinese-American detective who
hopes the case will be his ticket into the homicide division.
Gerritsen injects Chinese folklore and myths into the story. For a while, it
seems like the mystery might have a supernatural element. Is Jane being stalked
(or, perhaps, protected) by the Monkey King, a creature with super-human
The investigation leads in unexpected directions. Some of the twists and
turns stretch credibility, but the end result is a thoroughly satisfying mystery
thriller tinged with flavors of the orient. Despite the fact that her characters
are venturing off in different directions on television, Gerritsen remains true
to her vision of Maura and Jane.
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