The Apprentice is the second in Tess Gerritsen’s sequence of crime novels which started with The Surgeon. If you haven’t yet read The Surgeon, put The Apprentice down and go away and read it first. Then come back and read this review.
Spoilers for The Surgeon below… proceed at your own risk!
The Apprentice begins the year after the events described in The Surgeon. Instead of following Detective Thomas Moore, who is now married to Catherine Corday and holidaying in London, we now see things through the eyes of his former partner, Jane Rizzoli.
(Incidentally, I find it interesting how Gerritsen has moved the main viewpoint from person to person throughout the series, from Moore to Rizzoli and finally to Dr Maura Isles, whose viewpoint she has used in The Sinner, Body Double, Vanish and The Mephisto Club. She does seem truly comfortable with Isles’s voice and I suspect this is the viewpoint she will continue to use.)
Rizzoli is still recovering from the capture of the Surgeon the previous year, during which she was attacked and injured by him. But when she is called to a crime scene that bears eerie similarities to the Surgeon’s work, she cannot help but go, only to find that she is hunting yet another monster, one who may be in touch with the Surgeon himself. When the Surgeon escapes not long afterwards, Rizzoli finds herself the unwilling focus of his attention. Not only that, but the FBI has taken an interest in the case, but won’t give her any information as to why – and Agent Gabriel Dean has an unsettling effect on the normally reserved Rizzoli…
Gerritsen is one of the most interesting straight-up crime writers around at the moment. Her medical background adds a note of authenticity to the stories, without overwhelming the plot. She follows Cornwell, Reichs and Slaughter in the think-of-the-most-horrific-thing-you-can-imagine-and-then-double-it level of violence and horror, but her characters are believable and likeable – not as damaged as those of Slaughter and Cornwell, whose characters have become so messed up in the course of the series that you end up reading through your fingers, desperately hoping for a glimmer of light in the darkness, only to be disappointed; more believably affected by their experiences than Reichs’ Tempe Brennan, who seems to be hit over the head every book but never suffers any trauma or permanent damage (hell, I still love her!).
I prefer The Apprentice to The Surgeon – perhaps because, like Rizzoli herself, I didn’t much like Catherine Corday, whereas I definitely have a soft spot for Rizzoli, her difficult family life and her prickly professionalism. Although I think that later Gerritsen books are probably more satisfyingly plotted (Body Double, for example), The Apprentice has a power to it which keeps you gripped. I recommend Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli/Isles series to all fans of the “hunting a serial killer” genre.