Fiction: “The Surgeon” by Tess Gerritsen

Well, it would probably help if I spelled the author’s last name correctly …

I had been meaning to get into the Tess Gerritsen novels for a while. My mother actually was the first one to draw my attention to the series, though she never got in too deep when discussing them with me. She knows that I enjoy crime thrillers and not like a lot of romance (while I have since branched out into reading historical romances, you may have noticed that recently, that genre is not appearing as frequently as it was for a while), and as an added bonus, Ms. Gerritsen is sort of a local, living in Camden, Maine. She did a book signing years ago at the now-defunct Bookland, and Mom got a couple of her books signed by Ms. Gerritsen.

And then my roommate started watching Rizzoli and Isles on TNT last summer, and I don’t think it was until this summer that I realized that the series was based on the Tess Gerritsen series. I can’t remember how I figured it out — I think someone mentioned ‘the books’ in my hearing, and then I had them put two and two together for me. Sometimes I need extra people to do math for me.

Anyway. I went to the library (because both Bookland and now Borders are defunct, and also [and more importantly] I need to stop buying books all the damn time, that’s what libraries are for) and picked up Naked Heat, this, and the next book I’ll read, Cooking for Geeks. This came before the cookbook.

I liked the book. I don’t really watch Rizzoli and Isles when the roommate watches it; I have so much TV to watch as it is, and also, the plot didn’t really interest me. I like Angie Harmon well enough, but it seemed like just another procedural. I’ll watch it if she’s watching it and I’m in the room, but it’s not appointment TV. But the point of that sentence is that I began reading The Surgeon without preconceived notions. I had no idea what I was going into; I only knew to picture Angie Harmon when I read the part of Rizzoli.

This is the first book in the Jane Rizzoli series (I’m going to call it Rizzoli & Isles in the tag, however, because Dr. Isles appears in the next book, The Apprentice). She is a homicide detective for the Boston PD, which meant that I actually knew the neighborhoods the different characters lived in. Back Bay, Southie, Jamaica Plain — all are somewhat familiar to me. Well, there is a serial killer running around Boston, nicknamed The Surgeon. His modus operandi is to kidnap women, lash them to their bed with duct tape, perform a hysterectomy on them while they’re still alive, and then slit their throat. Yeah, it’s pretty gory and gross.

Det. Thomas Moore is the lead on the case, assisted by a handful of other detectives and Det. Jane Rizzoli. Rizzoli is tough and unemotional, the product of fighting for the spotlight as the youngest only sister to two brothers, as well as being the sole female detective in her unit. Meanwhile, Moore is patient, calm, and saintlike. During the course of the investigation, they discover a connection to a rash of killings that occurred in Savannah, Georgia. Those murders were committed by Andrew Capra, and he was killed by his last victim, Dr. Catherine Cordell. Dr. Cordell was able to shoot him while he was attacking her, so she survived. She then moved up to Boston. One year later, another woman is killed in a similar fashion. A year after that, the second murder is committed, and now there’s a series. The clues, once gathered, all point to a copycat of Andrew Capra, and the more they investigate, the more they are horrified to find that the murderer is killing in order to terrorize Dr. Cordell from afar.

Over the course of the investigation, Det. Moore begins to fall for Dr. Cordell, and she for him. At one point, he is sent to Savannah to investigate possible associates of Andrew Capra, but more importantly, to separate himself from his growing attraction for Dr. Cordell. In the end, the killer is caught, and all becomes right with the world.

What rubbed me the wrong way in a couple of places was what I felt to be over-the-top feminism. Now, before I go too far, let me explain my personal stance on feminism: yes, it sucks that women make sixty cents for every dollar that men earn in the same position (blanket statement). Yes, it sucks that women are always being portrayed in the media as sluts, whores, and sexual objects. Yes, it sucks that women are rarely recognized for their intelligence and reasoning skills. Do I find myself fighting the status quo and the media machine due to those portrayals? … eh. Not really. Because I am aware of those portrayals, and they are portrayals I’ve seen all my life, and because I know that the media machine is now a near-unstoppable male empire of testosterone and jackassery, I’m going to spend my time fighting for things where I know I can make a bigger difference. Like, attending the Rally to Restore Sanity, or writing that comedy pilot that finally portrays people like ordinary people and not stereotypes.

Oookay, that was a rant and a half. I apologize. To get back to the main impetus of the story, the victims of The Surgeon had all been sexually assaulted prior to being brutally murdered. I know, right? As if getting raped wasn’t bad enough, now they find themselves the target of a brutal killer. And yes, again, it sucks, but I almost took offense at this woman who runs a women’s crisis center in the book. Moore and Rizzoli are following a lead, and learn that one of the victims of the Surgeon availed herself of services at this clinic.

Here’s the first quote I bookmarked to return to:

“It’s a possibility we’re considering,” said Rizzoli. “Unfortunately, the victim is comatose and can’t talk to us.”

“Don’t call her the victim. She does have a name.” [119]

And I’m like, yes, she does have a name, but she is also a victim. It sucks that she is also female, but let’s not look past the dictionary definition of the word victim.

And then, two pages later, the Women’s Crisis Center lady [Sarah] has another feminist moment:

“Did she remember the man who took her home?” asked Rizzoli. “That’s what we really need to know.”

Sarah looked at her. “It’s all about the criminal, isn’t it? That’s all those two cops from Sex Crimes wanted to hear about. The perp gets the attention.” [121]

Listen, lady, do you know why the perp gets all the attention? Because they want to catch him and prevent him from hurting more women. Because at this point, the cops have done all they can towards helping the victim — they can refer her to health care, they can refer her to therapy, and they can refer her to support groups. But after that, the attention turns to the criminal so they can catch him and punish him. And this is why I tend to have a problem with the more severe feminists — at some point, they rely so much on redefining gender that they no longer rely on logic.

So in the end, I enjoyed the book. There were a couple of descriptions of violence that I had to read through quickly (I do admit, I can be squeamish at times), and I see the beginnings of a great character in Jane Rizzoli. I will most likely continue reading this series in the future.

But next? Molecular gastronomy for geeks.

Grade for The Surgeon: 3 stars

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