Review: Last to Die by Tess Gerritsen

I hadn’t come across Tess Gerritsen’s novels before Last to Die landed up on my desk. Background reading told me that this is the 10th Rizzoli and Isles thriller and that the characters had spawned a hit TV series in the US.

This mystery revolves around three young children all orphaned within a week of each other in three different locations. They are then all horrendously subjected to a second similar trauma, some two years later, when all of the children’s foster parents are killed. The children themselves narrowly avoid death. They all then end up in an exclusive boarding school in the backwoods of Maine which apparently specialises in helping children in trauma.

Forensic pathologist Maura Isles becomes involved when she visits the school to visit Julian ‘Rat’ Perkins, the young boy with whom she bonded during their ordeal in Wyoming (see the earlier book, Ice Cold). Unsure of the motives of the schools founders and that the school is the best place for Julian she becomes aware that all the school’s pupils are survivors of violence and that for some of the children the school may be the only safe place. She is also startled to discover that the backgrounds of two of the children are very similar to that of a boy whose foster parents deaths she has just examined back in Boston.

Detective Jane Rizzoli in Boston, alerted by Maura, decides to check up on the boy and is instrumental in foiling another murder attempt. After talking to Maura again, she decides that the best option is to take the boy straight to the school, a school that may be the only safe place. However Maura and Jane soon discover that the school, even though it is protected by locked gates and acres of woodland, cannot be totally secure especially when the threat may be inside the school. Strange clues such as three twig dolls hanging in a tree, and a crucified deer are found. Later the apparent suicide of the school’s psychiatrist counsellor also causes concern.

Interspersed in this story is a second story of a kidnap in Rome where the family of the kidnapped are all killed in a road smash. Only towards the end of the main story does this second tale start make any sense.

This latest novel from Gerritsen will please those who have read her earlier books. To the first time reader there are references to characters found in earlier books that are not fully explained and that do nothing for the plot. Perhaps this the author’s way of getting you to read all the earlier books.

David Skea, Sydney, Australia.
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