368 pp. Ballantine. $26.00
Reviewed by Lindsay Stotts
In her latest novel “The Keepsake”, Tess Gerritsen shows off her masterful mystery writing chops by crafting a riveting tale of unparalleled suspense. Enthralling and smartly written, the novel is a pulse-pounding rollercoaster ride that will have you reading deep into the night. The twists and turns are non-stop. Just when you think you’ve figured something out, Gerritsen blindsides you with something unexpected, only deepening the mystery. Immediately within the first few pages of “The Keepsake”, Gerritsen’s skill is evident, and it makes it easy for the reader to sit back and enjoy the ride. And oh what a ride!
Josephine Pulcillo is an anthropologist who has no idea that her past is about to finally catch up with her. And making things even more interesting, it’s going to catch up with her rather quickly too. With the discovery of what is originally thought to be an ancient mummy, which is dubbed Madam X, Josephine’s life and the lives of those close to her are about to be changed forever.
It seems that Josephine has been running from certain events in her past for years, and the discovery of Madam X apparently starts a bizarre chain of events possibly related to Josephine’s murky past. It isn’t long before Madam X is not the only mummified body to be found. Soon other mummified bodies begin turning up, and all of them seem to be connected to Josephine. Eventually the shocking truth about the mummies is uncovered. These bodies aren’t mummies that are centuries old, but rather are recently murdered victims. With the discovery of Madam X, a serial killer, who is inspired to kill women and mummify their bodies, starts doing just that with a vengeance, seemingly enjoying seeing his gruesome handy work in the spotlight. As each subsequent murder victim is revealed, the killer gets increasingly more brazen. Eventually, he starts toying with the detectives on the case, taunting them mercilessly to find and stop him. It seems that the killer is particularly fixated on a certain woman, and won’t stop his killing spree until he can make her his “keepsake”.
“The Keepsake” is a winning combination of a spine-tingling suspense thriller, a riveting mystery and a heartstopping action-adventure story that starts at the very first page and continues all the way through to the end. Gerritsen keeps the reader holding their breath in anticipation over the next twist to the story, constantly dangling them along a precipice that keeps the story both harrowing and exciting. Not for a single moment is the reader left bored or uninterested in the narrative.
Smooth dialogue and terrific character development left me totally and utterly engaged. The plotting is quick, and not bogged down with unnecessary description or exposition. Gerritsen’s tight plotting guarantees that everything has a purpose in the story. Clues are sprinkled liberally throughout that get you thinking along one track, before Gerritsen pulls the rug out from under you and reveals an entirely different unexpected direction. There are books that you can’t put down. And then there is “The Keepsake”, which doesn’t even give you the option of putting it down. Each page seems to hold some intriguing new clue or some unbelievable action sequence that makes you curse the fates for not letting you sleep. The ending is flat-out spectacular, and leaves you in that strange place where you are totally satisfied, yet still crave more since it was so good.
It should be noted that for those who are squeamish, the novel is somewhat graphic (though incredibly effective) in its descriptions of the murders that occur in the story. So be forewarned that to enjoy this ride, you are going to have to get a little bloody. But it’s so worth it.
“The Keepsake” immediately found a place near the top of my favorite books of 2008. A masterful and engaging suspense novel, “The Keepsake” is a stunning success for Tess Gerritsen. Filled with intense non-stop excitement and an incredibly riveting plot, this novel should find its way on every suspense junkie’s bookshelf. So if you’re looking for a book that will take you on a rollercoaster ride and leaves you at the end saying “man that was awesome!” then “The Keepsake” is for you. Tess Gerritsen has just added herself to my “must read” authors list.
Final Score: 92 out of 100