Top critical review
This came first - not the TV series
on 13 September 2017
Over all, I enjoyed this. The story was gripping enough for me to want to finish. However, I did find the focus on the medical details off-putting, particularly in relation to the murders. It seems odd that a woman writer could make such crimes against women the central focus of the book.
I was also put off by the author telling me something in one chapter and reminding me almost immediately in the next. This happened more than once in the early chapters. It was as if the author was writing a serial and not a novel. It reminded me of some American tv, where characters are used to remind each other, and the viewer, what happened before the ad break. It felt clumsy and patronising, as if the reader couldn't be trusted to remember.
I felt that the basic premise was cliched - although that may be because it has been used so often in books and tv shows since this book was written. The sub-plot of a cop falling for someone at the heart of the case is also a huge cliche, but I was pleased with how that relationship worked out.
I was put off by Rizzoli. Granted that she is belittled or ignored both at work and at home, but she appears to be driven by negativity. She also seems to have an inflated sense of her own importance. Throughout the book Moore is central, but suddenly we hear Rizzoli's thoughts - that she knows more about the case than anyone. No real evidence of this, except one scene where she obsesses over a map.
Rizzoli seems sure she is right, even when she does wrong and even when others suffer for it. She even puts herself at risk by not telling anyone where she is going when she follows a lead. Not only is this another cliche, but her behaviour often does not show her in the best light, even though or precisely because she is driven by the need to prove she is as good as others.
It felt as if Moore's earlier centrality to the plot was only in order to make Rizzoli shine all the more (no pun intended) when he is no longer central and she comes to the fore. It is as if Rizzoli has to overcome being sidelined by the author as well as everyone else so we will admire her all the more for succeeding.
It doesn't quite work. Not only does is the reader made to feel for Moore, but the sudden switch to a hitherto marginal and negative character feels forced.
In the end, although the case is solved, Rizzoli's heroism is subverted, this avoids a cliche ending, but it makes me wonder just what the author is saying about Rizzoli and about women: does the ending show female strength or weakness? Or is it meant to be ambiguous?
What is difficult to believe is that Rizzoli appears to suffer no professional consequences for any of her actions. (In the UK a police officer lost their job even though their rule-breaking resulted in a killer being caught.)
On the other hand, while I came to this from the TV series, which I like, I wish reviewers would realise that the books came first!
This is the "real" Rizzoli - the author didn't make Angie Harmon into a nasty person. The TV show softened both the character and the stories. That is what they do. It is highly unlikely that this book would make watchable television. People want likeable heroes. What is just about tolerable in print would be unbearable on screen.
Also, this IS a "Rizzoli and Isles" story, in that it is the first of the series - even if Isles first appears in the next book. Perhaps, when the author first wrote this she had not thought of Isles? Perhaps she always intended to bring her in later? Perhaps "Rizzoli and Isles" was put on this book, as a series title, by the publisher. It doesn't matter. The books should be judged for their content and not by anything else, certainly not by the TV show which, while very good, is something else entirely.