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The Apprentice, Tess Gerritsen, Ballantine, $7.99.

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

I can't decide if Tess Gerritsen is using her considerable powers - narrative skill and a wealth of medical knowledge - for good or evil. Her early books strongly resemble Michael Palmers's successful formula - the good doctor in a hospital where somebody is trying to find the cure for all viruses or cancer but there's something a teeny bit wrong with the treatment - like it's fatal. This is a fantastic formula and Gerritsen has veered away from it - she's heading instead into Kathy Reichs or Patricia Cornwell territory by giving her novels a series character that's a cranky and capable female cop. The medical knowledge and scientific backup come in useful in extensive crime scene investigation, and it's here Gerritsen really shines, and it's here also where I wonder if she sometimes goes too far on the gross out scale. Those of us non doctors (Gerritsen is a doctor herself) may be a little put off by the depth of detail. She's also mining the serial killer thing to death.

In The Apprentice, series character Jane Rizzoli (here the powers are used for good - Rizzoli is a terrific and interesting character) is on the hunt for a killer whose methods are strikingly similar to another serial killer monster, the "Surgeon" - whom she had apprehended and thrown into prison in the last book. The Surgeon, of course, escapes in this novel and Jane is forced to confront her own fears and possible weaknesses as she tracks him down. She's taken in by a remarkably obvious trick but the way she saves herself is not only plausible, Gerritsen has laid the groundwork for it (powers used for good!). In the main I'd say that this a compulsive read, high on the guilty pleasure scale. I could just do without quite so much of the gory detail.

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