I haven’t read anything by Tess Gerritsen before, although I’ve enjoyed similar authors. I happened to pick this up by chance off a friend’s bookshelf, and I’m glad I did.
The book’s plot stands out from many other crime novels straight away, due to it’s focus on children. We are first introduced to two children who have survived double massacres – first the murder of their own family, and then their foster families. Detective Rizzoli and Dr Isles are on on the brutal crime scene of a third incident where a family have been slaughtered, with the quiet, studious foster child Teddy Clock the only survivor. Teddy is reluctant to talk but Jane Rizzoli manages to forge a bond with the shy youngster where no one else has.
Meanwhile, Dr Miriam Isles is also spending time with a teenage boy, Julian, who she became close with in a previous novel in the series. Miriam’s journey to meet her friend Julian takes her to Evensong, a private school nestled deep in the countryside, one which is very particular about its students. They have all experienced murder in their family.
On learning about Evensong, Jane decides it’s the best place for Teddy to go after his recent trauma; she is concerned about the quiet child and has her suspicions that he isn’t quite out of danger yet.
The school’s remote, secluded location and gothic appearance make it a fantastic setting for the dark story to play out. This is added to further by the vigilant and defensive watch the staff keep over the school and its students; it’s a school which will go further than any other to protect its pupils.
When Teddy meets two of the other students – Claire and Will – they discover that they have more in common than they first thought. The three children have all survived murder twice – having first lost their parents, then their foster parents. And it looks like whoever was after their families will not stop until they’ve finished the job.
The children and the adults begin carrying out their own investigations into what connects the three families but, as mysterious things start to happen on the Evensong grounds – including creepy rooster-murders and the suicide of a teacher – it becomes clear that they need to move quickly before it’s too late. It’s difficult to work out how it all ties together, there’s plenty of twists along the way and I was entranced to the last page. Gerritsen certainly knows how to write a tense, gripping and unpredictable story.
But Gerritsen doesn’t just excel with her tightly-written plot; she also knows how to develop characters. Jane and Miriam are believable and relatable women who I found myself quickly growing to like. As I hadn’t read any of the other books I did feel a little bit lost at times, but this is to be expected with a series. If the reader has had more time to build a relationship with Jane and Miriam I’m sure they would be able to empathise more with their fall-out, or Jane’s family issues but, as it was, it didn’t add much to the story for me.
Still, it’s clear that Gerritsen is a talented writer, with a realistic and insightful perspective into the field which she has gained from her own career as a doctor. Her knowledge of the forensic field brings the book to life, and every part of the story feels tense and realistic. I would definitely recommend.