Written by Tess Gerritsen — The last crime novel that I read which was set in Botswana was one of the No1 Ladies Detective Agency series, written by Alexander McCall Smith and featuring the homespun wisdom of Mma Precious Ramotswe. Die Again opens in the same country but, in contrast, Tess Gerritsen’s Botswana is a wild, untamed and dangerous place where the lines are blurred between hunter and hunted.
In the Okavango Delta, British bookseller Millie Jacobson is on an adventure with her boyfriend, top thriller writer Rickard Renwick. They are deep in the bush, on a safari trek with a diverse group of fellow tourists. The idea was Richard’s and Millie reluctantly went along for the ride. It is a decision she regrets every waking minute on this trip, and when their native spotter is hauled off and devoured by wild animals, she turns to bush guide and tour leader Johnny Posthumus for reassurance. Millie is already deeply regretting one decision – is siding with Johnny about to prove another error of judgment?
Jump six years and to another continent, where Boston Police Detective Jane Rizzoli is called to the scene of a murder. The police were alerted by a mailman, who noted the overstuffed mailbox at the home of Leon Gott. But it was Gott’s dog, sitting in the front window of the house, carrying a human finger in its mouth, that really clinched it. Gott is a renowned taxidermist, whose home is filled with heads of dead animals, some rare. And he had been boasting online about his greatest job yet – stuffing an endangered snow leopard. The animal had recently died at the local zoo and radio shock jock Jerry ‘Bigmouth’ O’Brien, a passionate hunter and inveterate courter of controversy, had been prepared to donate $5 million to the zoo for the privilege of owning it.
Trouble is, the pelt is gone, Gott is dead, hanging from his feet, gutted, in the bathroom – and a subsequent search turns up two sets of entrails. Chief Medical Examiner Dr Maura Isles certainly has her work cut out with this one, no pun intended. The further the pair get into the investigation, the more avenues open up with Africa as their destination. A second death, this time of a fastidious and experienced zoo keeper, mauled to death by the animal in her care, prompts Jane to consider a new investigation strategy.
The story hops and skips between Botswana and Boston as Gerritsen deftly ratchets up the tension and carries the reader on a thrill-a-minute ride. The African scenes are particularly well drawn and you can almost taste the heat, fear and danger surrounding Millie and her ever-depleting party. Back in Boston, Jane and Maura are struggling to connect the dots and it is not until they take a step back that the big picture begins to show itself.
Die Again is the 11th outing for Rizzoli and Isles, but although the pair carry an airport trolley full of baggage with them, their back story never gets in the way of the tale at hand, which is just the way I like it. Although they work together they are not partners and employ very different approaches to a case, which gives the plot added depth. The flipping to and fro is occasionally confusing but I flew though this book, marvelling at the depth of research and detail as I went along. A great winter warmer of a book.
Die Again is published on 1 January.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars