Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Goose And The Gander

It's fairly well known (probably because I mention it often enough on this blog) that I became a reader thanks to mystery and suspense novels. I love 'em to bits. As much as I adore romance, reading a crackin' good suspense novel is a bit like coming home for me. Chalk it up to being comfort food for my brain.

I'm a huge Tess Gerritsen fangirl, namely thanks to her Jane Rizzoli series. While I wasn't too keen on the last entry (The Mephisto Club), I was still anxious to read The Bone Garden. Gerritsen has taken a break from her series (although Dr. Isles has a cameo) and plunged herself into the world of historical fiction. Needless to say, I was intrigued.

Plot Description:
Present day: Julia Hamill has made a horrifying discovery on the grounds of her new home in rural Massachusetts: a skull buried in the rocky soil—human, female, and, according to the trained eye of Boston medical examiner Maura Isles, scarred with the unmistakable marks of murder. But whoever this nameless woman was, and whatever befell her, is knowledge lost to another time. . . .

Boston, 1830: In order to pay for his education, Norris Marshall, a talented but penniless student at Boston Medical College has joined the ranks of local “resurrectionists”—those who plunder graveyards and harvest the dead for sale on the black market. Yet even this ghoulish commerce pales beside the shocking murder of a nurse found mutilated on the university hospital grounds. And when a distinguished doctor meets the same grisly fate, Norris finds that trafficking in the illicit cadaver trade has made him a prime suspect.

To prove his innocence, Norris must track down the only witness to have glimpsed the killer: Rose Connolly, a beautiful seamstress from the Boston slums who fears she may be the next victim. Joined by a sardonic, keenly intelligent young man named Oliver Wendell Holmes, Norris and Rose comb the city—from its grim cemeteries and autopsy suites to its glittering mansions and centers of Brahmin power—on the trail of a maniacal fiend who lurks where least expected . . . and who waits for his next lethal opportunity.
Unfortunately the proceedings turned out to be a mixed bag for me, namely because I felt the pacing was uneven. It takes forever for this book to go anywhere. We have lots of description and very little dialogue amongst the cast of characters. I suspect what happened is that Gerritsen got swept up in setting the stage. She does a great job - 1830s Boston leaps off the page, along with her portrayal of the medical profession during that time - but in exchange I felt the characters needed more attention. For my money, the quickest way to get to know a character is through dialogue - but admittedly that's only my perception (hey, I'm no writer - just a librarian).

Luckily, at the halfway point, things do get cooking and the pages fly by. There's more at stake and the dead bodies begin piling up. Then the ending shows up and pretty much pisses me off.

Contrary to literary opinion, genre fiction is not "all the same." Romance is not the same as mystery/suspense. I "expect" different things out of each genre. What's good for the goose, isn't necessarily good for the gander. But Gerritsen does something here that highly annoys me. Yes, I know she doesn't write romance anymore - but the ending was too much. I felt it was too much misery to heap on the characters. Does the book end happily? Depends on your definition of happy. The crime is solved, the fiend punished, but Rose lives with consequences I don't think she should have to live with. Certainly the author met her "obligation" for writing a suspense novel. Crime solved, criminal gets his - but this reader got greedy. I wanted it to be perfect - and the author has chosen to write the ending much like real life - it's never perfect. I get it, but I don't have to like it. Just saying.

Oh, neither here nor there, I wish there had been more closure in the "present day" storyline. Like, I don't know, Julia shooting her ex-husband in the balls. Just saying.

Final Verdict? This one was firmly in B territory until the ending. I might have mentioned it already, but the ending ticked me off so Final Grade = C+


Crystal said...

Your review pretty much is what I thought too Wendy. I was really looking forward to this book, and I was a little disappointed. I hate those 'real life endings'. Like the ending of the latest in the Grant Country Series by Karin Slaughter. Do you follow that series? Have you read Beyond Reach??

Big Sis said...

My excitement wanes. Thanks. I'm on the library list so it'll be a few more weeks before I read it.

Rosie said...

I have to say, not having read Gerritsen, that you have a way of writing a review of a book, or ending in this case, that annoys you that intrigues me.

My tbr is ridiculous but if I didn't have some 200 books in front of it I'd have to read this just to see what you are talking about.

Wendy said...

Crystal: Blessedly I never got hooked on that series. Have read the scuttlebutt though, and am not surprised by the reaction that book has gotten. Regardless of whether it's romance, suspense, science fiction or fantasy - I've yet to meet a genre reader who adores "bad" surprises.

Big Sis: I really want you and Lil Sis to read this. You guys aren't "strict" genre readers, so you often have a different take than I do. I think you'll like the medical stuff too. It will make you REALLY happy you were never pregnant in the 19th century LOL

Rosie: I really do view suspense and romance differently - but this one tipped my hand. It's one thing if I "believe" in the ending, but this one felt strongly unnecessary. As in, "WHY did she do THAT?!" How's that for vague?