Review: The Surgeon (Rizzoli & Isles #1) by Tess Gerritsen



A killer who targets lone women, who breaks into their apartments and performs terrifying ritualistic acts of torture on them before finishing them off. His surgical skills lead police to suspect he is a physician – a physician who, instead of saving lives, takes them.

But as homicide detective Thomas Moore and his partner Jane Rizzoli begin their investigation, they make a startling discovery. Closely linked to these killings is Catherine Cordell, a beautiful doctor with a mysterious past. Two years ago she was subjected to a horrifying rape and shot her attacker dead.

Now the man she believes she killed seems to be stalking her once again, and this time he knows exactly where to find her…


Trigger warning: this book is heavily focused on sexual assault and rape.

This novel is certainly very captivating. I found it difficult to put it down once I had picked it up! I loved the crime and mysterious criminal and I loved the pace of it all. Sometimes, these crime novels can burst with excitement for one second, and then fizzle out until the last few pages, or, completely the opposite of that, be total non-stop action, but feel really over the top and unrealistic. This, on the other hand, had a great mix of action and downtime.

I loved the setting for this, it felt so retro with its mention of floppy disks, pagers, and cassette tapes! This whole book was really well described and brought to life. It felt so real, you completely lost yourselves in the characters worlds. The horror of each murder and plot reveal really grabs you by the throat and give you goosebumps. There’s no escaping the terror in this one.

As for the crime, this one is certainly unique… and gruesome! If you’re like me, and don’t like the thought of surgery or human anatomy, then this will certainly be a struggle to read as it contains many in-depth scenes where we’re walked through what’s happening on the inside of the body. That certainly made it a little hard for me to read because I have this slight fear of our insides and all descriptions of it, but I was too intrigued as to who the killer was, to put it down. While not a particularly twisty turny story, there are plenty of characters in this novel to keep you guessing on who the real killer is.

This always seems to happen to me, but I just can’t seem to get on with female detectives in these kinds of series. Rizzoli wasn’t the worst I have come across, but she still got on my nerves. I’m well aware the message this book was trying to put across was all to do with a “woman in a man’s world”, and I can feel for Rizzoli, it would be hard to be taken seriously in a homicide department in 2001 as a woman… But!!! It was not necessary for her to act as though every single man she encountered was an enemy, needing to be destroyed and put in his place. If she wanted to be taken so seriously as a woman, I’m surprised she couldn’t utter the word “tampon” and described it as being a “disgusting object”. (I have seen this point mentioned by other reviewers and some have said the “fear” of tampons could be a generational thing).

I also wasn’t a fan of the underlying tone this book had, that “all men are capable of evil”. Everyone is capable of evil, why were only men being targeted in this book? Now, I don’t want to sound anti-feminist or something with me saying all this stuff, but I felt the book was a bit radical with some of it’s points about men being raping, murdering bastards. Again, I would like to put my hands up and say I’m really not trying to trivialise or undermine rape “victims” (I prefer the term survivors myself) because I’m close to several, I know how much it fucks them up, but I did feel like this book was a bit heavy hitting towards the male gender as a whole, rather than to the select few scumbags who do that sort of thing (just to rehash this point, I’m not some kind of rape apologist, I just didn’t feel the book needed to be so anti-man). 

Another problem I had with this book was sometimes it seemed to have an undermining stance on rape, calling it a woman’s “shameful secret” as though it was their own fault they had been abused in this way. There was also a moment where Rizzoli called herself a “victim of The Surgeon” because she had fucked up part of the investigation, which I thought was completely inappropriate. Comparing a job related incident that was your own fault to being kidnapped and raped is just disgusting. That really got on my nerves. Another thing that grated on me was the overuse of the word “victim” when it came to the rape survivors, but I can imagine that’s more to do with the time this book came out than anything else.

Also!!! (Not a spoiler) There is a disgusting comment on suicide nearer the end of the novel, where Rizzoli calls a man who killed himself a “loser who ate his gun” and “pathetic enough to blow his own brains out”.

Even after having those couple of issues with this novel, I still enjoyed it enough to finish it but I won’t forget the offensiveness of it. I’m going to give myself a break from this series for a month or so, just to really review whether I want to continue with writing I find so problematic. If any of you have gone on to read more of this series, please let me know if it gets any better by not taking digs at traumatised women and mental illness.

Buy it here: Amazon UK | Book Depository

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22 Replies to “Review: The Surgeon (Rizzoli & Isles #1) by Tess Gerritsen”

  1. You are completely right! Everyone is capable of evil, genere doesn’t have anything to do with that… I understand all of your negative points and I think most of them might have been because this book wasn’t published now. Ok, it is isn’t a classic but still a lot of changes have been going on in the last 20 years…

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Maybe it was also done in purpose?? This is supposed to be a long series right? So maybe the author painted some clear personalities that can evolve and change with time?? That can be another perspective I guess! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting and honest review, I can see your point although to be honest I didn’t really notice all these things you said. I know I didn’t like Rizzoli that much but I don’t remember her being so mean to men haha Maybe I was oblivious! It just felt really 90s crime movie for me and I love this type of books.

    About the genre thing, well, it’s obviously true, both men and women can be evil, but when it comes to rape and sexual crimes, there’s no denying that there are way more men who do those things and it’s a result of our chauvinistic society. Anyway, I’m pretty interesting in these things haha 😀

    I hope you continue with this series, I need to do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will continue for definite, just not yet haha
      I get that sexual crimes are predominantly a male thing so it would make sense to blame them in this novel but I felt there was a general anti-man feel to this novel, not just in the terms of the crimes.
      It was very 90’s and this is probably the reason for so many things I say in my review too lol

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great review to which sounds like a pretty difficult to read novel.. well.. I don’t think I could manage the very detailed, anatomic descriptions, even though I don’t consider myself that sensitive…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Question: Did I miss something? How did Catherine get the gun at the end, the one she used to kill Warren Hoyt? She was tied up naked.


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