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The Surgeon (Rizzoli and Isles Series #1)

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The Surgeon (Rizzoli and Isles Series #1)

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Gerritsen fans know by now what to expect from her: a fascinating story with a gripping plot and believably human characters. Such is The Surgeon, and, in places, then some. Let new readers learn what the fans delight in.


"Gliding as smoothly as a scalpel in a confident surgeon's hand, this tale proves that Gerritsen...has morphed into a...suspense novelist whose growing popularity is keeping pace with her ever-finer writing skills."

-Publisher's Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.

Stephen King
Tess Gerritsen Is An Automatic Must-Read In My House. . . . What Anne Rice is to vampires, Gerritsen is to the tale of medical suspense.
Tami Hoag
The Surgeon grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go until its hair-raising finish.
Michael Palmer
Wonderfully crafted and absolutely terrifying, The Surgeon is the finest, most thrilling Gerritsen novel yet, and that, my friends, is really saying something. I lost most of a night's sleep finishing the book and the rest of the night trying to calm down. This is a story you'll be talking up and thinking about for months to come. The tension is white-knuckle, the writing as deft as a surgeon's slice.
John Saul
Life Support Grabs You And Holds You From Page One. . . . Be prepared to drop all your obligations until you finish.
Los Angeles Times
Riveting . . . Gerritsen knows how to fashion credible, dimensional characters.
Iris Johansen
The Surgeon touches the dark place only a hunted woman can know, yet plays homage to the courage that is the unbreakable shield of goodness. This is a story that terrifies and heartens all at once. What a ride!
San Jose Mercury News
Shocking . . . An entertaining thriller.
Chilling . . . Breathless ER-style pacing make Life Support a quick, delightfully scary read.
San Francisco Chronicle
Harrowing . . . Harvest quite literally has gut-level impact.
Boston Globe
Harvest left me clutching my head in an ecstasy of terror.
Library Journal
In this frighteningly suspenseful tale, Detective Tom Moore and his partner Jane Rizzoli try to discover who is playing "surgeon" in Boston, and why. A serial killer strikes, butchering his female victims with a precision that indicates he has expert medical knowledge. Some years ago in Savannah, GA, a serial killer murdered women in exactly the same way, until his last victim, Dr. Catherine Cordell, who now works in Boston, shot and killed him. As the investigation progresses, Cordell is brought in to help. The Surgeon is a fascinating medical story with a gripping plot and rich, complex characters. Christine Marshall's clear and thoughtful reading adds to the depth and level of suspense. Highly recommended. Denise A. Garofalo, Astor Learning Ctr., Rhinebeck, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Top-grade thriller-diller from Gerritsen (the jaw-chattering Gravity, 1999, etc.), a former internist who gave up the stethoscope to raise kids and chills. Blistering ER trauma-work spells the main melodrama: a gruesome serial killer who collects his victims' wombs has over the years become quite skilled with his blade. The really awful part: he removes the womb while the naked woman lies awake and can see his power over her. ER trauma surgeon Catherine Cordell first met the killer, called "The Surgeon" by Boston newspapers, down in Savannah, where she was his last victim. Luckily for Catherine, after being raped she got a hand free from the cord binding her to the bed, cut herself loose with a scalpel, reached under her bed, grabbed a pistol, and seemingly killed Andrew Capra, the inept medical student about to pluck out her womb. Unable to bear Savannah, where everyone seemed to know she'd been raped, Catherine transferred to Boston, holed up for nearly two years, then took a job as a trauma surgeon without disclosing her past. Good grief! More wombless bodies start showing up in Boston. Did she really kill Andrew? Well, yes. Homicide detective Thomas Moore, a widower soon romancing sexually zapped Catherine, determines that she is on the killer's list. Jealous, plainfaced, snappish young Jane Rizzoli, the only female on Boston Homicide, leads his investigation. Gerritsen goes to great pains working up a classical background for the killer, filling us in on Greek, Viking, and Aztec sacrificial practices while also getting strong pages out of scenes in a rape crisis center, where incidents vividly illustrate the lifelong black aftermath of a rape. Then The Surgeon leaves one victim alive as an ER birthday present for Catherine, so that she can sew up spilled bowels while working through her own rape trauma. Sharp characters stitch your eye to the page. An all-nighter.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345447845
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/30/2002
  • Series: Rizzoli and Isles Series , #1
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 50,496
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 6.91 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

Tess Gerritsen
Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity. Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.
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Read an Excerpt

One year later Detective Thomas Moore disliked the smell of latex, and as he snapped on the gloves, releasing a puff of talcum, he felt the usual twinge of anticipatory nausea. The odor was linked to the most unpleasant aspects of his job, and like one of Pavlov’s dogs, trained to salivate on cue, he’d come to associate that rubbery scent with the inevitable accompaniment of blood and body fluids. An olfactory warning to brace himself.

And so he did, as he stood outside the autopsy room. He had walked in straight from the heat, and already sweat was chilling on his skin. It was July 12, a humid and hazy Friday afternoon. Across the city of Boston, air conditioners rattled and dripped, and tempers were flaring. On the Tobin Bridge, cars would already be backed up, fleeing north to the cool forests of Maine. But Moore would not be among them. He had been called back from his vacation, to view a horror he had no wish to confront.

He was already garbed in a surgical gown, which he’d pulled from the morgue linen cart. Now he put on a paper cap to catch stray hairs and pulled paper booties over his shoes, because he had seen what sometimes spilled from the table onto the floor. The blood, the clumps of tissue. He was by no means a tidy man, but he had no wish to bring any trace of the autopsy room home on his shoes. He paused for a few seconds outside the door and took a deep breath. Then, resigning himself to the ordeal, he pushed into the room.

The draped corpse lay on the table—a woman, by the shape of it. Moore avoided looking too long at the victim and focused instead on the living people in the room. Dr. Ashford Tierney, the Medical Examiner,and a morgue attendant were assembling instruments on a tray. Across the table from Moore stood Jane Rizzoli, also from the Boston Homicide Unit. Thirty-three years old, Rizzoli was a small and square-jawed woman. Her untamable curls were hidden beneath the paper O.R. cap, and without her black hair to soften her features, her face seemed to be all hard angles, her dark eyes probing and intense. She had transferred to Homicide from Vice and Narcotics six months ago. She was the only woman in the homicide unit, and already there had been problems between her and another detective, charges of sexual harassment, countercharges of unrelenting bitchiness. Moore was not sure he liked Rizzoli, or she him. So far they had kept their interactions strictly business, and he thought she preferred it that way.

Standing beside Rizzoli was her partner, Barry Frost, a relentlessly cheerful cop whose bland and beardless face made him seem much younger than his thirty years. Frost had worked with Rizzoli for two months now without complaint, the only man in the unit placid enough to endure her foul moods.

As Moore approached the table, Rizzoli said, “We wondered when you’d show up.”

“I was on the Maine Turnpike when you beeped me.”

“We’ve been waiting here since five.”

“And I’m just starting the internal exam,” Dr. Tierney said. “So I’d say Detective Moore got here right on time.” One man coming to the defense of another. He slammed the cabinet door shut, setting off a reverberating clang. It was one of the rare occasions he allowed his irritation to show. Dr. Tierney was a native Georgian, a courtly gentleman who believed ladies should behave like ladies. He did not enjoy working with the prickly Jane Rizzoli.

The morgue attendant wheeled a tray of instruments to the table, and his gaze briefly met Moore’s with a look of, Can you believe this bitch?

“Sorry about your fishing trip,” Tierney said to Moore. “It looks like your vacation’s canceled.”

“You’re sure it’s our boy again?”

In answer, Tierney reached for the drape and pulled it back, revealing the corpse. “Her name is Elena Ortiz.”

Though Moore had been braced for this sight, his first glimpse of the victim had the impact of a physical blow. The woman’s black hair, matted stiff with blood, stuck out like porcupine quills from a face the color of blue-veined marble. Her lips were parted, as though frozen in mid-utterance. The blood had already been washed off the body, and her wounds gaped in purplish rents on the gray canvas of skin. There were two visible wounds. One was a deep slash across the throat, extending from beneath the left ear, transecting the left carotid artery, and laying open the laryngeal cartilage. The coup de grace. The second slash was low on the abdomen. This wound had not been meant to kill; it had served an entirely different purpose.

Moore swallowed hard. “I see why you called me back from vacation.”

“I’m the lead on this one,” said Rizzoli.

He heard the note of warning in her statement; she was protecting her turf. He understood where it came from, how the constant taunts and skepticism that women cops faced could make them quick to take offense. In truth he had no wish to challenge her. They would have to work together on this, and it was too early in the game to be battling for dominance.

He was careful to maintain a respectful tone. “Could you fill me in on the circumstances?”

Rizzoli gave a curt nod. “The victim was found at nine this morning, in her apartment on Worcester Street, in the South End. She usually gets to work around six a.m. at Celebration Florists, a few blocks from her residence. It’s a family business, owned by her parents. When she didn’t show up, they got worried. Her brother went to check on her. He found her in the bedroom. Dr. Tierney estimates the time of death was somewhere between midnight and four this morning. According to the family, she had no current boyfriend, and no one in her apartment building recalls seeing any male visitors. She’s just a hardworking Catholic girl.”

Moore looked at the victim’s wrists. “She was immobilized.”

“Yes. Duct tape on the wrists and ankles. She was found nude. Wearing only a few items of jewelry.”

“What jewelry?”

“A necklace. A ring. Ear studs. The jewelry box in the bedroom was untouched. Robbery was not the motive.”

Moore looked at the horizontal band of bruising across the victim’s hips. “The torso was immobilized as well.”

“Duct tape across the waist and the upper thighs. And across her mouth.”

Moore released a deep breath. “Jesus.” Staring at Elena Ortiz, Moore had a disorienting flash of another young woman. Another corpse—a blonde, with meat-red slashes across her throat and abdomen.

“Diana Sterling,” he murmured.

“I’ve already pulled Sterling’s autopsy report,” said Tierney. “In case you need to review it.”

But Moore did not; the Sterling case, on which he had been lead detective, had never strayed far from his mind.

A year ago, thirty-year-old Diana Sterling, an employee at the Kendall and Lord Travel Agency, had been discovered nude and strapped to her bed with duct tape. Her throat and lower abdomen were slashed. The murder remained unsolved.

Dr. Tierney directed the exam light onto Elena Ortiz’s abdomen. The blood had been rinsed off earlier, and the edges of the incision were a pale pink.

“Trace evidence?” asked Moore.

“We picked off a few fibers before we washed her off. And there was a strand of hair, adhering to the wound margin.”

Moore looked up with sudden interest. “The victim’s?”

“Much shorter. A light brown.”

Elena Ortiz’s hair was black.

Rizzoli said, “We’ve already requested hair samples from everyone who came into contact with the body.”

Tierney directed their attention to the wound. “What we have here is a transverse cut. Surgeons call this a Maylard incision. The abdominal wall was incised layer by layer. First the skin, then the superficial fascia, then the muscle, and finally the pelvic peritoneum.”

“Like Sterling,” said Moore.

“Yes. Like Sterling. But there are differences.”

“What differences?”

“On Diana Sterling, there were a few jags in the incision, indicating hesitation, or uncertainty. You don’t see that here. Notice how cleanly this skin has been incised? There are no jags at all. He did this with absolute confidence.” Tierney’s gaze met Moore’s. “Our unsub is learning. He’s improved his technique.”

“If it’s the same unknown subject,” Rizzoli said.

“There are other similarities. See the squared-off margin at this end of the wound? It indicates the track moves from right to left. Like Sterling. The blade used in this wound is single-edged, nonserrated. Like the blade used on Sterling.”

“A scalpel?”

“It’s consistent with a scalpel. The clean incision tells me there was no twisting of the blade. The victim was either unconscious, or so tightly restrained she couldn’t move, couldn’t struggle. She couldn’t cause the blade to divert from its linear path.”

Barry Frost looked like he wanted to throw up. “Aw, jeez. Please tell me she was already dead when he did this.”

“I’m afraid this is not a postmortem wound.” Only Tierney’s green eyes showed above the surgical mask, and they were angry.

“There was antemortem bleeding?” asked Moore.

“Pooling in the pelvic cavity. Which means her heart was still pumping. She was still alive when this . . . procedure was done.”

Moore looked at the wrists, encircled by bruises. There were similar bruises around both ankles, and a band of petechiae—pinpoint skin hemorrhages—stretched across her hips. Elena Ortiz had struggled against her bonds.

“There’s other evidence she was alive during the cutting,” said Tierney. “Put your hand inside the wound, Thomas. I think you know what you’re going to find.”

From the Audio Cassette edition.

Copyright 2001 by Tess Gerritsen
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 1315 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1322 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:


    This is my first book by this author and it was difficult to put down. I was skeptical at first, being unfamiliar with the author, but I am now a fan. I did expect Rizzoli to be more of a front character in the book, but was still very pleased with the story filled with suspense. I am looking forward to reading the sequel, which I just purchased. I would definitely recommend this book to the people who enjoy suspense thrillers and solving the mystery.

    47 out of 48 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    A Must Read

    Oh my gosh!!! I'm not a big review-type of person, but, I do want to say that this is a must read for those who enjoy a good murder/thriller/mystery. Well thought out and written. Draws you right in from the very first chapter!

    17 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    I definitely recommend!

    A serial killer strikes Boston and detective Thomas Moore, mourning his deceased wife, begins his investigation. This killer butchers his victims with expert medical knowledge and is labeled The Surgeon. While doing background research, Moore discovers that a serial killer in a distant city operated in a similar manner years earlier. That killer was finally stopped when one of his victims shot him. Dr. Catherine Cordell, that woman, now practices in Boston, and the current killer seems to be working his way closer to Catherine. Catherine fears this. So does Thomas, who is becoming emotionally attached to Catherine following his long mourning period. She had shot and killed the serial killer as he was about to make her his fourth victim so who was this guy, a ghost, a copy cat? THE SURGEON is a thrilling, sit on the edge of your seat novel. I definitely recommend!

    16 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Excellent Read

    This was my first book I had read by this author and I enjoyed this one. It has a story that will keep you entertained for hours.

    15 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    The Surgeon- fine for a rainy day read

    When I discovered this book was available for a wonderful well acceptable price, I jumped at the chance to read this on my nook. I researched and found this book was part of a series so I took a chance; bought and downloaded this book and, put the next book in this series on my wish list. I think I put my expectations to high this time sadly.
    This book was okay to pass a boring rainy muggy day with, but it wasn't great. I was at first hooked by the plot and the beginning chapters and the authors creative touches with the medical world/ field, then everything went downhill from there. I agree with another reviewer, maybe I've just seen one too many murder/mystery shows/movies. I kept finding myself realizing that points in the book reflected many other books/TV specials/movies and then I just lost interest from there. I had to force myself to finish. I did find certain parts in the book that were well above disturbing, but that only kept my attention just so long and then dull predictability showed every other chapter. All in all, this was a decent read, but I will not be purchasing any other book from this series.

    9 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 25, 2010

    A Good Read for the Mystery-Detective Genre

    A very good read within the contemporary Mystery-Detective genre. The plot line is about the Boston PD's efforts ("Criminal Minds" + "CSI" style) to identify and apprehend a particularly vicious sexual serial killer who has recently started to rape and kill, after a period of no activity. Dr. Catherine Cordell, a trauma surgeon, and a rape victim of 2 years, is the key to the puzzle of the why and the who of the serial killings.

    However, it is the contrasts in the mental outlooks of a Dr. Cordell, rape victim, and the killer, that provide a deeper human interest than normally present in detective stories. The two mind sets: a rape victim's enduring, persistent, silent and unseen trauma of "life-after-being-raped" contrasted with the killer's self-satisfaction and self-justifying thought patterns, implying that ancient societies' rites of "serial" human sacrifice legitimize his own actions

    9 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 29, 2010

    Excellent detective/mystery

    Had all the aspects I love, hospital and detective mystery, enjoyed!!

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    Fabulous read!

    I have read the whole series and can't wait for the new addition to them!

    7 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 30, 2011

    MUST READ!!!!!

    The Rizzoli and Isles Series is well written, good action, descriptive where needed, interesting, can't wait for the next book kind of read. I would recommend it to people who enjoy reading mystery, women detectives, etc.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Like the show

    Good read, entertaining very much like the show.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 31, 2012


    I couldn't put it down!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 22, 2012

    Tess Gerritsen Rock!!

    Quick read. Read all the rizzoli and isles series in a week. You must read them. The rizzoli and isles series in order, starting with the surgeon. I am now reading one of her stand alone called The Bone Garden...ANOTHER page turner. Full of suspense and you go along for the ride and solve the mysteries with them. Enjoy

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2012

    Excellent book!

    Love the entire Rizzoli & Isles series!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2012

    Great read

    I was hooked on this book when I opened the first page. I am a big fan of Rizzoli and Isles and noticed it was based on a book. So I picked this up to see what it was all about and I was hooked. It was a struggle to put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 6, 2012


    A good entry point to a series albeit without the aforementioned Isles or any real character focus to draw you in. The main character is the story.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2011

    A mystery made perfect

    Any body who loves a mystery will love this book the characters are as serious as the crime yiu will nit be able to stop rrading and enjoy it as much as i am.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    You must read it!

    This book grabbed me by the throat and didn't let go! I loved it. Excellent read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 8, 2010


    Great Book!! It was hard to put down and now I must read the whole series. I have them saved in a wish list to be downloaded at a later date.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 25, 2010


    This was a very good ebook. I cannot wait to read #2

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2010

    Great reading!

    This is the first Tess Gerritsen book I have read. I loved it! The characters are great, the plot full of suspense. I didn't want to but the book, or should I say my Nookster, down. I will definitely read more of her books. I have already download the next 2 books in the series.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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