Tess Gerritsen doesn’t fit the profile of unknown author. She’s been a successful romance writer, conquered the medical thriller genre and seems to moving toward the traditonal thriller. Vanished is her newest novel, just released by Ballantine. The subject matter is reminiscent of Robert Crais’ work rather than Patricia Cornwell despite the fact one of the principal characters is a medical examiner.
Vanished is one of those ‘what if’ stories, what if a body in a morgue isn’t a body, but a living breathing woman? That’s a tough one for a writer to execute, great concept, but how do you bring her back from the dead? Tess Gerritsen pulls it off, largely by underselling the situation, by putting her character to immediate use, creating a hostage crisis in downtown Boston.
Thrillers need complications, and this one delivers them in a plausible and enjoyable barrage, until the immediate crisis is resolved. One of the principal charcaters, Jane Rizzoli, is a Boston homicide detective. Her husband, Gabriel, is an FBI agent. A visit to the hospital becomes a nightmare for Jane. She is nine months pregnant and is taken hostage by a pair of desperate fugitives.
The hostage takers are killed. Jane and Gabriel are disturbed by their memories of the take down. Jane is having nightmares, reliving the crisis, haunted by a phrase uttered by Olena, the mysterious woman from the morgue. Meanwhile Maura Isles, the ME, is forced to release the bodies of the doers to the Feds. To avoid plot spoilers, I’ll leave the set up description at that.
Tess Gerritsen takes many familiar elements of the genre and turns them a degree or two for good effect. Her structure and pacing are close to perfect, that is to say, to dissect the modern thriller, it would have to have the elements present here. She brings the backstory into focus just as the pace of events slows in the middle of the story. The characters are likable, with Jane Rizzoli the most developed and appealing. There are alot of secondary characters to meet, the dialogue sounds forced at times, and the villains of the piece are underrepresented, forcing archetypes into play to satsify plot requirements. Overall, Vanished is one of the better thrillers I’ve read. Tess Gerritsen is setting up series characters in this one and I hope she keeps them coming.