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4.0 out of 5 stars The Isles of Dr Maura - oh, there are two, 18 Sept. 2006
This review is from: Body Double: (Rizzoli & Isles series 4) (Paperback)
How much you enjoy Body Double may well depend upon your experience with its author. If this is your first time round, then I would expect you to find it a very satisfying, well-paced thriller, but if (like me) you have read all three predecessors in the series, you may just feel slightly short-changed - especially after the peaks reached in The Apprentice.

Provided that you can accept the somewhat far-fetched story, this is actually the most intriguing and well-structured of the four books so far in the Rizzoli-and-later-Dr Isles series. Boston pathologist Dr Maura Isles, attractive, divorced and aged forty, gets more than a shock when a woman is shot in the head outside Dr Isles' house. She has to watch a colleague carry out an autopsy on the murdered woman who is her DNA-verified identical twin, yet until this day Maura had no idea that she had a twin sister at all. Hmm. I suppose it could happen, but it's stretching the credibility muscles a little. Anyway, Maura begins an investigation into her dead sister's past, and therefore her own, aided by the very much more colourful character of Detective Jane Rizzoli - recently married and expecting her first child anytime soon.

My problem is that Maura's nowhere near as interesting a character as Rizzoli, and although Rizzoli is the other leading character in this tale, she unfortunately takes something of a back seat in the narrative while Maura tries to put together the previously unknown pieces of her family's past, in particular her biological mother who gave Maura up for adoption and whose name and whereabouts were unknown until now. The story's very good - I won't spoil things by explaining it but it's certainly dark, sinister and well crafted - but when a character as `vanilla' as Maura Isles is burdened with the responsibility of carrying this tale virtually single-handed, it makes for less than satisfying reading when you are always aware of the more fascinating, complex and entertaining character that is Jane Rizzoli in the background. Whenever Rizzoli appears `on-screen', she lifts the whole atmosphere a notch or two, but sadly she has deliberately been placed one or two steps behind Maura Isles in this crime thriller and the thrills are diluted as a result. Maybe that's because Rizzoli is a fighter, as might be expected given her duties as a gun-packing police detective, while Maura, already known as a vulnerable type to readers of The Sinner, continues in a similar fashion here as one who needs protection and is unlikely to be able to fend for herself. That's the one key element that was lacking in this otherwise excellent story - a strong and feisty central character along the lines of Rizzoli. Also, much as in The Sinner, the novel seems to have been aimed more at female readers due to the two female leads (and female author of course) together with a lack of any strong male characters, be they on the right or wrong side of the law, and a storyline very much built around pregnancy, childbirth and babies. We've had some well-drawn baddies in the past in the forms of the Surgeon and the Dominator, and some welcome good-guys in the moulds of Detective Thomas Moore (who has completely disappeared for some reason) and FBI Agent Gabriel Dean, who scarcely gets a mention in Body Double. It means that for those of us who have learned to love or hate these various characters, we feel short-changed because out of those six, four of them don't feature to any significant degree and one of them is relatively uninteresting - leaving the best of the lot, Rizzoli, to carry the whole thing alone. Many will disagree on this point but in The Apprentice the character of Rizzoli was superbly built up for the reader such that we felt that we were inside her mind and soul, but instead of that being maintained she has frustratingly taken a back seat to the inferior Dr Maura Isles and the franchise is the weaker for it. Having got that off my chest, Body Double's weaknesses are reconciled by a powerful and gripping story which had me guessing (and guessing wrong) right to the end. Vanish, number five in the series, comes next and I just hope the roles are reversed and Rizzoli takes her rightful place as leading lady. She's earned it and we want her back. Well, I do anyway.....
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