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The Sinner    by Tess Gerritsen order for
by Tess Gerritsen
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Audio, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

Two nuns are attacked in the chapel of Our Lady of Divine Light. Young sister Camille was weeks away from saying her final vows and now lies dead after being brutally bludgeoned. And elderly sister Ursula, the only witness to the vicious attack, clings to life. It's up to lead investigator, Detective Jane Rizzoli, and medical examiner Maura Isles to piece together the evidence and try to understand why anyone would want to murder two nuns who rarely left their cloister. During the autopsy, Dr. Isles makes another stunning discovery -- Sister Camille very recently gave birth. Was the baby's father responsible for the attacks, and more important -- what's happened to the child?

The case grows even more baffling when another woman is found murdered in an abandoned building, her hands and feet hacked away and her features eradicated with surgical precision. Then Agent Gabriel Dean arrives from Washington, bearing Interpol files linking the death of the last 'Jane Doe' with a case where a 'whistleblower' was tortured and murdered. Pieces slowly begin falling into place, suggesting that all the murders are related to the still unexplained slaughter of an entire village in India. Now Rizzoli must race against time to identify the killer before he strikes again.

Compared to Gerritsen's two previous thrillers, The Apprentice and The Surgeon, The Sinner weighs in as somewhat leaner fare. The author spins an inventive plot that keeps the reader guessing and tosses out plenty of red herrings. But her character development is lacking in this one, though it was nice to see tough-talking Detective Jane Rizzoli back in action, not only in pursuit of a gruesome killer but also coming to terms with her romance with Agent Gabriel Dean.

Unfortunately, instead of focusing on Rizzoli, Gerritsen spins an alternate storyline involving medical examiner Maura Isles and the return of her charismatic humanitarian husband, who may -- or may not -- have come back to town because he misses his wife. Their interaction is almost forced and really didn't add much to the storyline, other than presenting another red herring in Dr. Victor Banks. Thanks to the nifty plot though, The Sinner held my attention.

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