Internationally bestselling author Tess Gerritsen took an unusual route to a writing career. A graduate of Stanford University, Tess went on to medical school at the University of California, San Francisco, where she was awarded her M.D.
While on maternity leave from her work as a physician, she began to write fiction. In 1987, her first novel was published. Call After Midnight, a romantic thriller, was followed by eight more romantic suspense novels. She also wrote a screenplay, “Adrift”, which aired as a 1993 CBS Movie of the Week starring Kate Jackson.
Q Your last Rizzoli & Isles book was I know A Secret, published in 2017. Why the delay?
Tess: Yes, it has been a while. I did have two books in the interim, but several years have passed. After I finished number twelve, I didn’t feel I was going to write anymore and thought the series would be over with the book, I know A Secret. I had other stories I wanted to tell.
Q How did you get the idea for this story?
Tess: Jane’s mom, Angela Rizzoli started to talk to me. I heard her say very clearly in her Boston accent “if you see something, say something.” The signs are in Boston’s Logan Airport. I thought, what is Angela seeing? It turned out this book is about the suburbs where people used to know everyone who lives in the neighborhood. Angela suddenly feels something is wrong. It was “Rear Window” but in the suburbs with Angela Rizzoli playing Jimmy Stewart’s role.
Q These days it does not seem that there are anymore “neighborhoods?”
Tess: This is true. Now a days everybody works with the houses empty during the day. When I grew up in a little suburban area of San Diego that was how it was. I had an auntie who was very snoopy, in everybody’s business. I kind of modeled Angela after her. In the past there were many more housewives and people at home. People knew their neighbors and had block parties. It is sad those days may not be true anymore.
Q Which season did you like the best?
Tess: I enjoy winter. It is my most creative time. I think winter can be a character, although not so much in this book. I like the sense of isolation. As a writer I don’t mind being shut up in my house for four months and not seeing anyone for a while. It is almost as if when everything gets less colorful, turning grey, white, and black, the colors bloom in my head. In the wintertime there is less of a distraction.
Q Would you agree that Angela has had a rough go, but came out, OK?
Tess: She is clever, a survivor. She has been battered in the last couple of years. Angela started in 2001 as a contented housewife, raising her children. Around book five her husband has left her for another woman. She suddenly finds herself without a career, husband, and living in the same suburban house by herself. She learns there is life beyond the first marriage. She did find love with a retired homicide detective, but now he is California caring for his sister. So, she has a little too much time on her hands.
Q Does she feel like she has an empty nest?
Tess: She does have a granddaughter, Jane’s daughter Regina whom she babysat until she attended pre-school. The one joy she has is cooking for her family. In one of the scenes, she has a big dinner, a giant Italian feast. Her life is her grandchild and cooking for people she loves.
Q How would you describe Angela?
Tess: She is a neighborhood snoop, a busybody, and will always be motherly to her children. She is kind and has a good heart. When she does get involved, it is to make sure no one gets hurt.
Q There are two quotes about motherhood in this book. Please explain.
Tess: You are referring, “No one wants to listen to their mother,” and “The burden of motherhood is that your children’s problems are your problems.” I raised two sons, and their problems are my problems. Even now if something is going wrong in their life, I try to think how I can help fix things. If I offer some advice, it does not mean they will listen. Mothers at ninety are going to worry about their seventy something children. It just never goes away.
Q How would you describe Jane?
Tess: She is courageous and competent. She is determined and thorough. Yet, Jane is having problems with her mother. She is honest, direct, impatient, sarcastic, a tomboy, and relentless.
Q How is the relationship between Jane and her mom Angela?
Tess: I think of Angela like my mom. I was at my mom’s house, going to a book signing, and wearing a St. John suit. I was then forty something years old. She looks at me and tells me, “Your skirt is too short.” I thought how children can never be perfect. This is what Jane is dealing with now. But Jane is partly at fault because she is not listening to her mother even though Angela has some very valid issues. I wanted to focus on the complications of her life, which has nothing to do with police work.
Q How would you describe Maura?
Tess: Maura and Jane are like salt and pepper. The showrunner for the TV show describes Jane and Maura as Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock. She is very patient, and what drives her is her intellect. She is a pianist in a doctor’s orchestra. I just use my life as shorthand for Maura.
Q How are you and Maura similar?
Tess: I did grow up playing the piano. I also had the kind of car she drives, enjoy the kind of wine she drinks, we play the same instrument, and went to the same medical school. She is all from my life. In so many ways I identify with her. We are both self-contained. She is happy around dead people, while I am happy in my office. We are not the kind of people who feel comfortable in crowds and showing how imperfect we are.
Q Maura has a relationship with a Priest, Daniel Brophy. Why did you do it?
Tess: The Priest showed up in book number three, The Sinner. It was a book about murder in a convent. When I lived in Paris it was right around the corner from a seminary with young Priests in training. I kept thinking it is too bad for the sake of motherhood they are out of reach. I was also a big fan of the “The Thorn Birds” where Richard Chamberlain played this yummy Priest. It is about forbidden fruit. When the Priest came into the story, I thought that Maura and he would just have fond looks. But in book number four, Body Double, he was suddenly back, becoming the Priest for the Boston PD. The repeated contact between him and Maura led them to give in to a relationship. It is a constant struggle for both.
Q Did you get any backlash?
Tess: Yes. I get more notes about that relationship than anything else in the stories. They ask is he going to leave the Church and marry Maura? Will they have a happily ever after? Why is Maura so stupid to fall for a Priest, an unattainable man? We all know brilliant women who have fallen in love with the wrong man. It happens. As time has gone by, they come to an understanding that will satisfy them both.
Q Will there be a TV show reunion based on this book?
Tess: I do not think there is anything in the works for this to happen. I did have people ask to bring them back for a reunion, but it has not happened.
Q What’s next?
Tess: It is not another Rizzoli and Isles book. The book is based on a little town I live in Maine. My husband and I found out that our neighborhood had these people who worked for the government but would not talk about it. They were all retired CIA. On our street we had retired CIA on one side and retired OSS on the other. It occurred that these retired spies would be a fun setting for a book with a dead body showing up in one of their driveways. It also has generational conflict since the young local police investigator does not realize who these grey-haired people are, and she completely disrespects them. The working title is Spyville, and hopefully will be out this time next year.
Listen To Me by Tess Gerritsen brings back the beloved characters Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles in a new novel. A heads up for readers is that there are two storylines, both engrossing.
The plot has Rizzoli, her partner Barry Frost, and Maura investigating a series of puzzling events. The first has them wondering who killed Sofia Suarez, a nurse, brutally murdered. Then there is Amy Antrim a victim of a hit and run accident after she walked off the curb. What the investigators are wondering, is there a connection since Sophia was Amy’s nurse.
Then there is Jane’s mom Angela who is a typical caring mother. Now preoccupied because her lover, retired detective Vince Korsak, is in California caring for his sister, Angela has become the neighborhood’s busy body. But she too investigates some oddities in the neighborhood and becomes like daughter, like mother. There is a missing teenage runaway who the local police aren’t taking seriously, and a new couple that moved into the neighborhood. They are suspiciously keeping to themselves and there appears to be a lot of construction noises coming from the house. She is continually asking Jane to participate in the investigation to find out what is happening. Upset that Jane is not listening to her, Angela becomes the number one watcher of the neighborhood and starts her own investigation which leads to trouble for both her and Jane.
This story has humor, character personalities, and suspense. It is interesting how this intricate plot also details the lives of Jane, Maura, Angela, and Barry.
Tess Gerritsen's Latest
Listen To Me
Meanwhile, Angela Rizzoli hasn’t had a decent night’s sleep in all the years since her daughter became a homicide detective. Maybe the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree: Nothing in Angela’s neighborhood gets by her—not the gossip about a runaway teenager down the block and definitely not the strange neighbors who have just moved in across the street. Angela’s sure there’s no such thing as coincidence in her sleepy suburb. If only Jane would listen—instead she writes off Angela’s concerns as the result of an overactive imagination. But Angela’s convinced there’s a real wolf in her vicinity, and her cries might now fall on deaf ears.
With so much happening on the Sofia case, Jane and Maura already struggle to see the forest for the trees, but will they lose sight of something sinister happening much closer to home?