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The particular copy I read of this was a recent re-release of one of the first books she wrote so it fits into the almost-romance-but-most-crime-thriller genre. It's got a new intro by the author, with a review quote on the back reading : Gerritsen is a better writer than such founders of the school as Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell'. This isn't something I'd agree with if judging her by this book alone. I've read and reviewed a few of her books now and whilst I don't think these earlier ones are as strong, I still find them easy to read and enjoyable all the same. Unfortunately, however, this isn't one I'd recommend because it just lacks the amazing appeal Gerritsen usually generates in her books.
Girl Missing introduces us to Kat Novak, a medical examiner from Boston. During what she thought was just another day of horrors in the morgue, she comes across two bodies and the similarities are too suspicious to be coincidences. Thinking drugs are involved, she infers these bodies may just be the start in a long line of deaths caused by a new drug on the market, something lethal that's too toxic for use. Then she finds a matchbox in the hand of one of the female bodies, with a telephone number scrawled inside.
This is how Mr Quatrell turns up. His number is inside that matchbook, and whilst he can't identify the woman on the slab, there's something strange about his manner. We learn that he's a big name in the area as he's the bigwig at a biochemical firm, which sets alarm bells ringing because of the mysterious substance linking the two dead bodies. More questions arise as additionally pieces of the puzzle start to come in to play, but they don't instantly start matching up. Gradually Novak re-arranges them and digs deeper to uncover this tale of a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, a tale of murder that goes far deeper than surface appearances. The problem is that Kat has her suspicions, and no one seems to want to listen or put any faith in her possible scenarios.
I won't give any more away on the storyline, except to say that it's fairly fresh and original. It's also quite intelligent and so it does require thought whilst reading, though I wouldn't say it was overly complex or convoluted. Gerritsen has the ability to recount detail without losing the reader.
However, and bearing in mind this was her first novel, I can't say it meets her usual standard. I didn't particularly identify with any of the characters in particular, and not liking them or feeling drawn in to them meant I didn't find the book as gripping as it could have been. The plot also felt weaker, being less of a gritty, suspense novel and more clichéd, less exciting and flimsier without the character development to support it.
As for the crime thriller aspects, the mix of the genre with romance didn't sit well with me as I prefer an intelligent, gritty read that doesn't distract too much with Hollywood clichés and soppy love interests. It still had a fairly easy-read appeal but it didn't grip me from start to finish. Perhaps it's a little unfair comparing it to her other work, so maybe if you're unfamiliar with Gerritsen you'll actually find this more enjoyable. From this perspective, it still has a detailed premise and an array of characters to keep you guessing and entertained, so it makes for a fairly intelligent read. So if you want an advantage of this book, it's probably that it's a stand-alone thriller with a plot and characters to keep you on your toes. For those who have expectations of Gerritsen, however, this book will more than likely fall short of them.
Would I recommend? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not, because it really doesn't show Gerritsen at her usual, higher standard. This book lacked the huge crime-thriller appeal her more recent (ie Rizzoli) novels bring that I find so absorbing, so for me this was a disappointment that stands to show just how far she has come in her skill of writing and enticing readers.
Tess Gerritsen is an American international best selling author. She started writing romance novels, and then moved in to crime writing. She has sold over 15 millions copies of her books in 31 countries.
Girl Missing (published as 'Peggy Sue got Murdered! in the US) is the first of her books I have read.
The story follows Kat Novak, a Medical Examiner in Albion, near Boston, USA. It seems to follow the typical American crime theme - she's divorced and lives on her own, works too much, lives on coffee etc etc.
The story is about a string of young drug users ending up dead with suspected overdoses. Novak is convinced there is a connection but no one will take her seriously, including her ex-husband Ed Novak, the Acting District Attorney, and Nolan Sampson, Albion's mayor. Kat is so much more than a Medical Examiner, taking it upon herself to do the job of the police and to find out what has happened to the 'junkies' that no one else cares about.
During the investigation she meets Adam Quantrell, the owner of Cygnus Pharmaceuticals, the firm which may or may not be responsible for the manufacture of the new drug which could be causing the deaths. Adam has been trying to trace his step daughter who has gone missing, and is terrified one of the bodies that keep turning up will be her one day. The story follows them on their quest to discover the truth from the Mayors benefit dinner to the lawless streets of South Lexington, a run down part of Albion. They have many questions to answer - where have the drugs have come from? Where is Adam's daughter? What is she hiding from? They meet many people along the way all too scared to talk - why are they all so scared of the police? Is there a serial killer out there? Is Adam as innocent in all this as he says he is?
The book isn't exactly a hard read. I do read fairly quickly, but the paperback of 310 pages has taken me just two days. This is partly due to the ease of reading it, and partly because I wanted to find out what was going to happen next! The story is well written. There were times I wanted to give Kat a good talking to about running away from emotional stuff which I found a frustrating trait in her character. This is her first 'thriller' after changing genres, which is very apparent in the love story that continues throughout the book. Again, a little bit cheesy with the all American boy falling for the girl from the rough area of town.
It kept me guessing until the end, and I had no idea who had done it until the penultimate chapter. I did find the end a little rushed and do think that could have been padded out a bit more.
All in all a great light read for the beach, but maybe take a few of them in case they are all as quick to get through as this one. Apparently this isn't one of her better books, and I did enjoy it, so I would definitely read another one. I think 4 stars from me.
Currently available from Amazon for £2 new plus £2.80 postage and packaging.
Tess Gerritsen started her writing career by writing romantic suspense novels. Then, back in 1994, she wrote a thriller entitled Peggy Sue got murdered, which started a whole new genre for her. In 2009, she updated this book and gave it a new name - Girl Missing.
The story follows Kat Novak, the county's medical examiner, who comes across a body on her table with things that don't quite add up. The cause of death is unclear and when the drug report is run, an unidentified drug is found to be the reason why this Jane Doe died. She then gets caught up in trying to find out what the drug is which leads her back to the place where she grew up in a dingy suburb of the city, and is also quite close to getting killed.
Being a big fan of Gerritsen, this book did not disappoint. It was really easy to read and very fast paced, which keeps this thrill of the story going. Sometimes you almost have to read her books in one go to keep the momentum, which is almost what I did with this one. Then when it's finished, I feel that I have read it too quickly and not taken it all in.
What I like about Gerritsen is that she doesn't get bogged down with the details. On the front cover of Girl Missing there is a quote to say that she is better than Reichs and Cornwell, who are also big writers in the same genre. I have yet to read a book by Cornwell, but I have read several by Reichs. Although I like Reichs' books, I do feel that there are quite a few unnecessary parts which aren't needed. I do not find that with Gerritsen at all. She doesn't spend ages describing her characters eating habits and what they did after work, which Reichs is very good at. Instead, she goes straight in and within a few pages, the action has started.
Gerritsen spent several years working as a doctor and knows her stuff. Reichs also spent several years as a forensic anthropologist which is what her books are based around, so also knows her stuff. Yet I find that Reichs often uses lots of technical jargon which flies over my head. Gerritsen doesn't go overboard with the jargon and uses what is needed for the story. Again, this keeps the pace really well, along with the short chapter length and the suspense that the reader is left with at the end of each chapter.
Another similarity to Reichs is that the main character - Kat Novak, starts to interfere with things and take matters into her own hands. Reichs main character does this too and both get involved with things that maybe in real life would be left to the police. At times, and if you think about it too much, it does seem a little unrealistic that these characters would be doing these things. But it is done to keep the story in line and stop it from getting complicated and in Gerritsen's case it does work really well. She writes from Novak's point of view but also includes other characters point of view as well which gives the story some depth and a sense of reality.
Having said that it was really easy to read and I read it quickly, the plot is anything but simple. It's a complex plot that unfolds throughout the course of the book, waiting until the last minute to reveal all. However, in Girl Missing I did get slightly worried that the killer would be revealed too early. By about a third of the way through it was getting close to finding out who did it, which is a pet hate of mine, but as I read on I found it was just a red herring of sorts.
Even though this was Gerritsen's first thriller it still had aspects of the romantic suspense that her previous novels had, but it worked. I don't think I need to say it again, that I really enjoyed this book and would certainly read it again, perhaps a bit slower this time. The updated version also includes a new introduction from the author which is definitely worth a read.
Girl Missing is the fictional story of Kat Novak a medical examiner in the city of Boston, USA, who uncovers an anomaly in a series of dead bodies she has had brought into the morgue. Once Kat declares three consecutive bodies as murder victims from an unknown opiate substance she believes that there is an epidemic in their midst. Kat's suspicions lead her to a large pharmaceutical company owned a man by the name Adam Quantrall. As the story develops we learn that a product being produced, though still in its development stages may be the cause of the deaths. Adam features more and more in the book as he is assisted by Kat in his search for his missing step-daughter Mauve and their relationship extends beyond a professional one to a developing sexually charged one.
As the pair investigate the murder victims backgrounds and learn of their connections to each other and other characters which are later introduced, they are thwarted by the higher authorities, who are making it difficult. Kat finds that the mayor refuses to release a press statement giving details of the suspected substance to alert other drug users and begins to believe that there could be a arrangement to wipe out the entire population of South Lexington, the estate where the majority of drug dealer and sex workers operate from, by failing to inform them of the risk.
As Kat who originated from The Projects, the estate in South Lexington and Adam who is held in high regard by authorities, has a butler and regards money as an accessory rather than a necessity develop their relationship we see Kat struggle with her own judgement and begin to question Adam's involvement, whilst we see Adam struggle to understand why a women like Kat wouldn't want all he can offer.
This book is Tess Gerritsen's latest offering to the UK market; however it is one of a long list of published books in the UK. I would suggest that this book is not anywhere near as good as her previous offerings and it may have something to do with the fact that this was her first ever written thriller and since her skills have been enhanced. Unfortunately the publishers of this thriller have made a critical error on the front cover by giving it the title "Girl Missing" with a sub-line of "Her stunning first thriller". In reality this book was first published in 1994 by Gerritsen under the title "Peggy Sue Got Murdered". This edition published for the UK in 2009 has been edited to bring it up to date and it has been given a new author introduction where the writer explains what lead her to write this book.
For me the fact that this is actually Gerritsen's fourth thriller published in the UK and not her first led me to question the front cover. I also felt that the writing in comparison to her later work is very novice. The book moves along nicely and holds the reader attention but ends very suddenly and it's wrapped up in the final chapter and a half. When reading the book I found I was two thirds in with no sight of the end, no bad thing as the story was written reasonably well and developing at a good pace. The level of information was good and it appeared to have been researched well. However I was then at the end and it was a complete of an anticlimax. I personally felt that this book could have done with an additional chapter going beyond where it ended. The book doesn't feel finished and I was disappointed. I love Tess Gerritsen's other work and feel that she should have added more to this book to bring it in-line with the standard I and I am sure many others have begun to expect from her work.
I would however recommend this book to anybody interested in the genre. It is a stand-alone book whereas Gerritsen has also written a series of books which do not stand alone. If you haven't read her stuff before I think you would enjoy it, but if you have read her work previously then you may end up with the same disappointment I am left feeling.