Listen to Me is the thirteenth novel in the Rizzoli and Isles series. While you could probably follow the plot without reading the previous volumes, you would miss out on a great deal of the character and relationship building done in those books, so I recommend starting at the beginning.
Everyone loved the victim. Boston homicide detective Jane Rizzoli has seen more than her share of crimes where plenty of people thought the perp had it coming, but the perplexing homicide involving a beloved ICU nurse is not one of those cases. Co-workers, neighbors and patients all agree that the murdered woman was an angel nobody would want to harm. And yet someone broke into her house and bludgeoned her to death. Medical examiner Maura Isles’ meticulous examination of the scene provides absolutely no clues as to who could have done it or why it happened. It’s a case that has Jane spinning her wheels, pulling at the slightest scrap of evidence in the hope that it will provide some kind of lead.
Which is exactly why she doesn’t need her mother Angela Rizzoli calling her all hours of the day and night to report on everything she sees through her window. The new neighbors, with their privacy fence, endlessly drawn curtains, and unwillingness to interact with the other denizens of the subdivision have Angela in a tizzy. She doesn’t understand why anyone would be so private if they didn’t have secrets to keep. And Angela hates secrets.
Fans of the series probably remember that in addition to the books there was a TV show very loosely based on these mysteries. And I do mean loosely - Jane’s husband actually disappeared completely after the first few episodes along with innumerable other characters and the two leads were written very differently from their book counterparts. One of the big changes was that Angela, who had been a very minor character in the books, became a major player in the show. Since the show was much, much more comedic than the books (as in the books are not comedic whatsoever), I was glad the author never allowed any crossover between her writing and the stuff they put on screen.
Unfortunately, that has ended with this particular novel. Angela’s role in this tale outstrips Maura’s and it gives the story a rather schizophrenic feel. On the one hand, we have Jane doing what is very typical of these stories - a thorough investigation of an intriguing mystery. The culprit is surprising - and frankly, rather horrifying - the motivating factor is among every parent’s worst nightmares and the trail we follow along with the detectives to get to the truth is satisfyingly complex. While Maura’s part is very small, it’s true to who she has been established to be in the books. She presents clinical, precise evidence to Jane and equally thoughtful opinions/hypotheses to go with them. As always, she is happy to play devil’s advocate in order to aid her friend in looking at the case from a different angle and help Jane avoid going down a rabbit hole after a pet theory that doesn’t hold up. Jane does her usual exhaustive investigation, following leads many cops would ignore and untangling threads until she has a perfect picture of what happened. Maura and Jane’s partnership, investigative styles and personalities, developed carefully over the entire set of books, hold true in this one. I genuinely appreciate an author who maintains consistency in her series and Gerritsen does that to perfection with the portions of the story that concentrate on the two leads.
My one problem with this novel is the juxtaposition of Jane’s meticulous police work and Angela’s slap-sticky, cozy-style amateur sleuthing. Angela bustles around her neighborhood asking ludicrous questions, taking crazy guesses as to what is going on, being completely wrong most of the time and yet managing to resolve not one but two major issues. She has a habit of excusing her calls to Jane and the local police department by quoting, “If you see something, say something” which became very grating very quickly. I very much appreciated the depiction of a fifty-something woman as desirable, intelligent and capable, but there is so much buffonery mixed in with that message that the moral is eventually buried beneath it.
Listen to Me isn’t a typical Rizzoli and Isles thriller, which leaves me two minds as to whether to recommend it. Fans of the books will, I think, enjoy the main mystery and Jane’s resolution of it. Fans of the show will be glad to see Angela in action. It’s a mixed bag but I think people on either side of those very different aisles will find it a satisfying edition to the lexicon, even if it isn’t likely to make anyone’s favorites list.
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