Tess Gerritsen: The Mephisto Club (2006) or Why I Prefer Rizzoli & Isles

The Mephisto Club

I’ve read Tess Gerritsen’s The Surgeon pre-blogging. It was an OK read, although looking back I can’t remember all that much. This summer I discovered Rizzoli & Isles, the TV series based on Gerritsen’s books. I really love that series, but the whole time I was wondering whether I’d simply not paid any attention while reading The Surgeon or whether books and series were that different. Since I still had The Mephisto Club somewhere on my piles I read it to find out. I must say, they do not have a lot in common. I did recognize some traits of Rizzoli, the detective, but Isles is a completely different character and so are the others. I basically love Rizzoli & Isles because of the friendship between the two protagonists, which is so endearing. None of that is in the books.  They are never together outside of work and there doesn’t seem any special connection between them at all. And all of the humour is missing. While they are two opposite characters in the series, they still have a deep bond, which evolves over time. So, if I want some of that Rizzoli & Isles friendship magic, I’ll have to stick to the TV series.

What about The Mephisto Club? Like The Surgeon, it’s OK, I’d say I even liked it better and I found the idea behind it quite interesting. The book tries to explore one explanation for the existence of evil. While it’s highly speculative, I still found it an oddly compelling idea.

In The Mephisto Club, Detectives Rizzoli and Frost and medical examiner Dr Isles are chasing a serial killer who commits a gruesome murder, leaving symbols and signs at the crime scene. The first murder is soon followed by others and some traces lead to a mysterious club called The Mephisto Club: a group of people who have dedicated their lives to proving the existence of Satan.

The story line that focusses on the law enforcement and the discovery of the crime was quite suspenseful but there are chapters which are written from the point of view of the perpetrator and some from the point of view of someone he hunts. I found that very heavy-handed and thought that this and the prologue gave away the solution. Finding who is the murderer is less important than catching him and avoiding to become the next victim.

I’ve read a few crime novels this year and while this was a quick read, it’s not one of my favourites and I’ll pick up another author next. I’m really looking forward to the next season of Rizzoli & Isles though. It is a crime series but unlike most others, it dedicates at least 40% of every episode to stories about the lives of the main characters. It’s also nice that for once the central team is composed of two women and not like in so many others (Bones, The Mentalist, Castle) of a woman/man duo.

23 thoughts on “Tess Gerritsen: The Mephisto Club (2006) or Why I Prefer Rizzoli & Isles

  1. It’s the same with Bones. I love that show and started reading the first book a couple years ago. It was so different I didn’t really get how they were the same thing!

  2. The show sounds quite influenced by Cagney & Lacey, though perhaps only in having two female protagonists. That was in many ways quite a forward-looking show in portraying two quite different women as friends and portraying two very different lifestyles without making value judgements on either.

    I already have shows I watch for pulpy crime as it were, and don’t presently have space for more. If I did it sounds like I could certainly do worse than Rizzoli & Isles. Wouldn’t read the books though. The show is after all as much the actors as the writing.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Max. The actors in Rizzoli & Isles make the succes. I’ve never seen either one of them before but they are really great. I’ve not seen Cagney and Lacey.
      I think you could do a lot worse than watching Rizzoli & Isles but like you I try not to start new series.
      The books are OK but really not good. Sounds like a contradiction.

  3. Angie Harmon has a series? I had no idea, because I watch so little TV. Will have to give this one a try.
    I feel the same way about a British series, Lavender & Thyme. The crime-solving techniques are almost silly, but I really like the camaraderie between the two female amateur detectives.

    • I’ve never seen Angie Harmon before but I love her. That voice! She plays a great character in this series and the two female leads are so different but it works.
      I’ve never seen Lavender and Thmye. Sounds rather like a cozy? This isn’t. It’s still gritty but with a lot of emphasis on the characters.

  4. I had no idea the “Rizzoli and Isles” TV series (which I greatly enjoy) was based on novels. However, I find that, while I can enjoy watching the televised versions of novels, and will watch them, even after I’ve read the novels and know what to expect, I can’t enjoy novels after watching the televised version (with the exception of the classics, of course). That is to say: “You’ve seen the movie, now read the book” doesn’t work for me, although the reverse does.
    If you enjoy crime novels, I recommend the Commissario Brunetti novels by Donna Leon. Set in Venice, they concentrate far more on the personal stories of the characters, especially the main protagonist and his family, than on the actual mystery. They also really bring to life the city of Venice, with all its sights and sounds and smells.

    • I know what you mean. I’ve read a few books which inspired TV series and it never worked. The other way around would work. However I feel that when a book inspires a whole lobge series, they tend to be very different from the show.
      In this case I’m amazed how the took something pretty average and turned it into a really good show.
      It’s been a very long time since I’ve read any Donna Leon. I only read the first two or three and think I liked them.

  5. I think that idea behind a group of people like the he Mephisto Club is very interesting. Too bad that the book was just a little better then OK.

    I regards to the other series, I find that sometimes very mediocre books are sometimes improved on the screen when placed in the hands of good screenwriters.

    • I really liked the idea
      *****Spoiler alert*****
      Basically it says that evil people are descendants of the Nephilim. Why not look at evil from a mythological perspective. It’s not original but the wy she applied was not bad.

  6. Nice review, Caroline! Sorry to know that you didn’t like the book as much as the TV series. I always thought I will read one or two novels by Tess Gerritsen, but now after reading your post, I don’t think I will. I love ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ and I am so glad to know that you like it as well. I remember the first episode of the series I watched – it involved the Boston Marathon. I got hooked to it and then I watched every episode before and after that. Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander are perfect in their roles and I also love Rizzoli’s parents and brothers. Rizzoli’s mother is, especially, quite interesting. I liked very much what you said about ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ having two woman characters in main roles rather than a man-woman pair. I also can’t wait for the next season of ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ to start. Sorry for commenting less on Tess Gerritsen’s book and more on ‘Rizzoli and Isles’ 🙂

    • Thanks, Vishy. In a way it was more about the series than about the book. 🙂 I’m glad to know you like it as much as I do.
      I found it refreshing that it is about a women friends. I love all the charcaters in the series, there is none I don’t like. I think it’s one of the rare series I liked from the first episodes on.
      I’m eagerly waiting for the next season.
      The books are not must-reads.

  7. Since I don’t watch TV, I don’t know this series.
    Thanks for not increasing my TBR this time. 🙂 but sorry that you spent time on a book that wasn’t that great.

  8. Tess Gerritsen is all over the supermarket shelves in this country but I’ve never read any of her books (or seen the TV version). She’s a tad gory for my taste, I think. The Karin Slaughter book was good – I’d read more of her if I wanted that kind of crime fiction.

    • It wasn’t really gory but it’s not surprising you’d find her in a supermarket. It’s not refined at all. I’d even say Slaughter is the superior writer. You don’t miss m uch but if you ever find yourself in a situation with only supermarket books, she’s maybe one of the better choices.

    • Yes, the show is so great. I think you’d really like it. They are wonderful charcaters and it’s funny and gripping. The book is OK but nothing special. Not worth the fuss in my opinion.

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