The Sinner by Tess Gerritsen

(The cover above is not quite the one that I have. The title is white on red and the picture of tv Jane and Maura is at the other side of Gerritsen’s name. Why is this important? It is not. I only now find myself a book-fetishist and it seems important to me. Also, the book “feels” nice, the cover has some kind of roughened surface, very  nice to touch… it’s a fetish, I am not going to apologize for it.)

The Sinner is the third novel with detective Jane Rizzoli but its focus lies heavily on medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles. Together, they are trying to solve the murder of a young nun who, it turns out, had just born a baby. Jane’s involvement in the case takes a personal turn when she finds out that she is pregnant but doesn’t want to inform the father, agent Gabriel Dean with the FBI. Maura’s life also takes an unexpected turn when her ex-husband, Victor Banks, turns up. The case doesn’t get any easier: more bodies turn up and the connection to the attack on the nuns is not what anybody had expected.

I may have mentioned this before but I am not a great fan of crime stories. I read little crime and if I do I read certain authors who I know and trust if you want. Jefferey Deaver is one of them (the Lincoln Rhyme series), Tess Gerritsen is another. Yet I must say that The Sinner rather falls into the category of predictable crime stories that make me mistrust the whole genre. While Gerritsen knows her medical field and writes an exciting story, the identity of the perp is not very surprising. The puzzle is too easily solved, and I am not sure that this is due to my observational skills or just because it is written that way. I think it is the latter.

Still, I like how the friendship between Jane and Maura builds in this novel. And yes, I am a Rizzles shipper and that makes it a little difficult not to hate agent Dean or roll my eyes at the heteronormativity that penetrates the novel at every turn, but I think Gerritsen describes the budding friendship between her protagonists rather well.

While I am glad that there is a book series with two female protagonists – as we all know this is rare, especially in a genre that is overwhelmingly male – at least in this installment I detected a very conservative take on gender roles. I am not sure whether this is due to Gerritsen’s writing or the subject matter. The title and the setting bind the novel to Catholic religion and this seems to set the tone of the novel as well. I have not detected anything like it in Gerritsen’s other novels but maybe I was a little inattentive before and this is indeed part of her way of writing. I can only say that I am not very happy about sentences like this:

“They shook hands, an oddly masculine greeting between two women.”

While I am aware that hand-shaking is more common in the European (or maybe just German) setting, I am pretty sure it cannot be called a male custom. Why would it be, especially since on this occacion it occurs between two professional women. This is one example where I found what I like to call “gendered nonsense” where a behavior is referred to as gendered when there is 1) no need for it and 2) makes no sense at all. I guess, I will find out soon enough whether this is part of Gerritsen’s writing or not since I have her next novel of the same series, The Body Double, among the books I will read next. I hope it’s not because it is not something I can stomach.

On the whole, I found The Sinner disappointing. While well-written and even better researched, it is predictable and on the disturbing side of heteronormativity.

Gerritsen, Tess. The Sinner. Bellantine Books, New York (2004).