By Kirsten Cappy

Gerritsen’s latest mystery chillier, more terrifying
“Body Double,” by Tess Gerritsen, Ballantine Books; hardcover, $24.95.

Boston Medical Examiner, Dr. Maura Isles has never flinched at the site of a corpse, until the corpse she is looking at is her own. Up until her latest book, Camden writer Tess Gerritsen has used the steeliness of Dr. Isles as the counterpoint to the gruesome crimes that she investigates. It is Dr. Isles’ remove that allows readers to confront terrifying killers and detailed autopsies. Gerritsen’s latest book, “Body Double,” is all the more frightening because Dr. Isles is frightened.

Returning from a conference in Paris, Dr. Isles arrives home to find her neighbors, friends and a colleague, Detective Jane Rizzoli, gathered around a murder victim outside of Isle’s home.

When Dr. Isles steps through the yellow tape with all the confidence she usually exhibits at a crime scene, the crowd acts as if they have seen a ghost.

When Isles sees the corpse, a woman identical to her, Isles herself feels like a ghost. Observing the autopsy the next day, Isles backs away as another medical examiner cuts into the body she recognizes as her own.

A DNA test will reveal that the murder victim is Isle’s identical twin. Both were given up for adoption at birth, and neither knew of each other’s existence. This logical explanation should comfort the clinical Isles, but as details of her sister’s last few months of life are revealed, Isles is pulled into a disturbing family history.

Through persistence and force, Isle’s sister, Anna Jessop discovered the existence of both Dr. Isles and their birth mother. Detective Rizzoli is the one who must tell Dr. Isles that her birth mother may be a woman named Amalthea who is being held at the state penitentiary.

Amalthea, a diagnosed schizophrenic, is imprisoned for the double murder of two sisters five years before. One of those women was nine months pregnant. Dr. Isles visits her supposed birth mother, but Amalthea is unresponsive to her questions about the adoption. The vacant woman does not speak until, with a brief glimmer of intelligence, the woman mutters, “Go away. Before he sees you.” As she leaves the room she adds, “Now you’re going to die too.” Who is the “he” that Amalthea is referring to? An accomplice? Her sister’s murderer?

What haunts the reader and Dr. Isles is the brutality of her birth mother’s crime. Only a monster would murder a pregnant woman. With Detective Jane Rizzoli eight months pregnant, one begins to worry about the vulnerability of this tough cop. Readers so long dependent on the strength of both Rizzoli and Isles will find themselves filled with more anticipation and fear than in Gerritsen’s previous books. Vulnerable or no, Rizzoli and Isles fight back by diving into the Anna’s murder investigation.

The investigation will lead to a small coastal Maine village where the story of Anna’s murder began. Fifty years before, a 14-year-old boy convinced the village authorities that his act of terror was just a childish prank. By letting the boy free, the village ignored and enabled a brilliant killer. Readers should be prepared to read the book in one sitting to resolve the fate of the boy’s first victim. That first claustrophobic terror sets the course for an unstoppable series of revelations and red herrings. In the end, the resolution for Dr. Maura Isles will bring her closer to the dead than she has ever been before.

Kirsten Cappy is a bookseller in Portland.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.