Not Rizzoli and Isles

It’s not about Rizzoli and Isles. But it is a Tess Gerritsen mystery (you may or may not know that Gerritsen is the author of the Rizzoli and Isles mysteries, upon which the television shows are based); it’s pretty good, even without Rizzoli. And without Isles.

Actually, to be strictly correct, it’s not just a Gerritsen mystery but a “Tess Gerritsen and Gary Braver mystery”—though I’ve ever read anything by Gary Braver before, and I didn’t know anything about him. But I looked him up after reading Choose Me, and it turns out that he is a successful mystery writer and a professor at Northeastern. And therein lies his relevance to the story, which is all about a college student and her professor at Northeastern—heavily disguised as “Commonwealth University.”

I have no idea precisely how the collaboration worked, and that’s a point in the authors’ favor: it feels like it was written by a single person. Perhaps they wrote separate chapters, depending on who the viewpoint character was. (The viewpoint is clearly delineated in the text for each chapter, as is the timeframe, which switches between pre-murder and post-murder, but not alternately. A pause here for a small peeve: it always bothers me when people use “alternate” to mean “alternative,” even though I am assured as a descriptive linguist that that’s an alternative usage in North American English. Back in the ’70s I never liked it when Lincoln-Sudbury called its alternative semester program “Alternate Semester,” which always sounded to me like “every other semester,” such as a spring-only course. End of pause.) Anyway, to return to the pre-parenthetical part of this paragraph, it’s a strength of a collaborative authorship when it’s impossible to tell who wrote what. Perhaps in this case Braver provided all the scenes at Northeastern, I mean Commonwealth—but who knows?

Choose Me is a successful mystery. Until the appropriate chapter you’ll never guess who the murderer is. (For most of the story you might doubt that there even was a murder at all, since the death that occurs near the beginning of the first “before” chapter is officially considered a suicide. But as an experienced mystery reader you know perfectly well that it had to be a murder, so I’m not committing a spoiler.)

Like many other readers, you might consider the principal characters unsympathetic and dislikable—most of them at any rate—but that has never been a deal-breaker for me. I don’t always have to like the characters to enjoy the book. YMMV.

But major plot holes or getting the setting wrong can indeed be deal-breakers for me. Fortunately neither flaw infects this novel. All the different pieces of the Boston setting, including those at Northeastern, just feel right to me. There’s also a lot here about family dynamics and work-life balance, again feeling right to me. Likewise the dynamics among the college students. The pace is good, keeping my attention all the time. I found the entire story plausible, even though one reviewer asked rhetorically (and skeptically) “Would a professor risk his marriage and career to have a fling with a college student?”; we know too many true stories IRL to doubt the plausibility of that.

So, it’s not perfect, but if this sounds like the sort of thing you would like, you should definitely read it!

Categories: Books