Gerritsen, Tess 1953–
Gerritsen, Tess 1953–
PERSONAL: Born June 12, 1953, in San Diego, CA; daughter of Ernest and Ruby Tom; married Jacob Gerritsen (a physician), 1977; children: Joshua, Adam. Ethnicity: "Chinese-American." Education: Stanford University, B.A., 1975; University of California, San Francisco, M.D., 1979. Hobbies and other interests: Amateur violinist, gardener, "perpetual tourist."
CAREER: Physician in Honolulu, HI, 1979–89; freelance writer, 1989–; writing instructor.
MEMBER: Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Phi Beta Kappa.
AWARDS, HONORS: Reviewers' Choice award for best Harlequin intrigue novel, Romantic Times, 1991, for Never Say Die; best suspense novel, Romantic Times, 1999, for Gravity; Rita Award for best romantic suspense novel, Romance Writers of America, 2001, for The Surgeon; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, for Vanish.
Adventure's Mistress, SOS Publications (Los Angeles, CA), 1985.
Call after Midnight, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1987.
Never Say Die, Harlequin (New York, NY), c. 1990.
Under the Knife, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1990.
Whistle Blower, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1992.
Presumed Guilty, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1993.
(Under pseudonym Terry Gerritsen) Peggy Sue Got Murdered, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
In Their Footsteps, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1994.
Thief of Hearts, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1995.
Harvest (medical thriller), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Keeper of the Bride, Harlequin (New York, NY), 1996.
Life Support (medical thriller), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Bloodstream, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1998.
Gravity, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 1999.
The Surgeon, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2001.
The Apprentice, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.
The Sinner, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2003.
(With Debra Webb) Double Impact (contains Never Say Die by Gerritsen, and No Way Back by Webb), Harlequin (New York, NY), 2003.
Body Double, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2004.
Vanish, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2005.
The Mephisto Club, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2006.
Gerritsen's novels have been published in twenty nine foreign languages.
Adrift, broadcast on CBS Movie of the Week, CBS, 1993.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to Harvest were sold to Paramount/Dreamworks; film rights to Gravity were sold to Twentieth Century-Fox; author's books have been adapted for audio, including The Surgeon, Chivers, 2001; The Sinner, Random House Audio, 2003; and Body Double, Books on Tape, 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: After penning nine romantic suspense novels, physician Tess Gerritsen switched to a genre more in keeping with her professional background: medical thrillers. The shift proved successful, with her first medical title, Harvest, quickly making it to the New York Times bestseller list. Set in a Boston hospital, the novel focuses on the attempts of surgical resident Abby DeMatteo to unravel a sinister web of illegal organ transplants. Abby eventually follows clues all the way to Russia, where she discovers a plot to abduct and kill street orphans for body parts that will fetch top prices on the international market. Tony Miksanek, a writer for the Journal of the American Medical Association, deemed Harvest an "interesting and well-written" novel that raises "important questions of conscience, corruption, and choices as they relate to health care and the medical profession."
The mystery in Life Support is related to the strange deaths of two elderly patients in the care of Dr. Toby Harper, an emergency room physician in Boston. After insisting on a post-mortem for the second patient, Harper learns that Mad Cow Disease was the cause of death. Exploring further, Harper finds that the deadly infections may be related to experimental anti-aging treatments conducted by Dr. Carl Wallenberg, who hopes to market them to his upscale clientele at Brant Hill, the posh retirement community where he works. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly described the novel as an "adeptly crafted medical Rubik's cube," adding that Gerritsen "integrates medical details into a taut and troubling thriller." Boston Globe contributor Katherine A. Powers expressed similar enthusiasm, describing the book as "sickeningly believable."
Equally popular among readers and critics was Bloodstream. In this thriller, Dr. Claire Elliot moves from the big city to Tranquility, Maine, to find a slower-paced life for herself and her adolescent son, Noah. An outbreak of teen violence, however, shatters her illusions about serenity in her new environment and prompts her to seek answers. Finding that the present outbreak fits a pattern, Elliot begins to suspect a biological cause—and she uncovers a conspiracy that threatens her life. Gravity, Gerritsen's fourth medical thriller, addresses the themes of genetic engineering and bioterrorism as a crew of researchers aboard the International Space Station battle a mutant biohazard. "It's a tribute to Gerritsen," wrote a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, "that such an outlandish tale can be told so compellingly and convincingly."
In The Surgeon Dr. Catherine Cordell discovers to her horror that the serial rapist she thought she had killed after he attacked her two years earlier has resurfaced in Boston and has resumed his earlier habit of raping women, surgically removing their wombs, and then slitting their throats. The story, commented a Publishers Weekly contributor, glides "as smoothly as a scalpel in a confident surgeon's hand." Finding some of the characters and action a bit predictable, Library Journal reviewer Rebecca House Stankowski nevertheless acknowledged the book as a "briskly plotted" thriller with plenty of "realistic medical detail." In Booklist, William Beatty described the book as "a fascinating story with a gripping plot and believably human characters."
The Apprentice features two serial killers, William Hoyt from The Surgeons, who is now in jail, and a copycat killer. Hoyt eventually escapes from jail and joins the copycat killer, while Detective Jane Rizzoli teams up reluctantly with FBI agent Gabriel Dean to track them down. "Do not read this one in bed or when home alone," advised a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Kathleen Hughes, writing in Booklist, commented that the "well-drawn characters and a compelling story will grab readers' interest."
The Sinner features Detective Rizolli, who is looking for the person who beat to death one nun and left another barely alive. Teaming up with medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, the two soon find that the dead nun had a hidden past and, before long, they are faced with yet another connected murder. A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented: "While Rizzoli handles the crimes, Dr. Isles delivers arias on death and the sweet hell of human existence." Writing in Booklist, Mary Frances Wilkens praised the author, who "avoids cli-chés" and produces "another captivating, horrific thriller." A Publishers Weekly contributor similarly appreciated how the author "gives atmospheric depth to her tale."
Gerritsen brings Rizolli and Isles back in Body Double, which adds the twist that the murder victim is identical to Isles. As a result, the focus is on Isles as the story slowly reveals the medical examiner's past and her relationship to the dead woman who, as Isles later learns, may be connected to a killer of pregnant women. In a review for Booklist, Kristine Huntley commented that the "novel is a tense, taut thriller that grabs readers from the get-go and never lets up." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: "An electric series of startling twists, the revelation of ghoulishly practical motives and a nail-biting finale make this Gerritsen's best to date."
Vanish involves a surprising conspiracy that comes to light following the revival of a female corpse in the morgue run by Isles. Brought to the hospital, the woman takes Isles, Rizolli, and others as hostages after shooting a security guard. She is soon joined by an unknown man. When higher ups in the government become interested in the hostage situation, Rizolli's husband, FBI agent Gabriel Dean, becomes suspicious and sets out to save the hostages. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the author "serves up another prescription for bad dreams." Writing again in Booklist, Huntley described the work as "a tense, taut thriller that grabs readers from the get-go and never lets up."
Gerritsen told Conta Costa Times writer Gene Williams that she studies scientific journals and magazines to research her thrillers. "It's what's happening in the labs right now that will be practiced twenty years from now," she explained. "I want my books to look ahead. I want to be a futurist."
The author once told CA: "I began writing while working as a physician, as escape, as release, as a means of entertaining myself. After my children were born, writing was a means for me to remain home as a mother while pursuing a career more conducive to family life.
"I write to entertain and to move my readers' emotions. Books have always been my good friends, and I want readers to consider my books friends—something to turn to for excitement, to enliven an otherwise dreary day. My advice to aspiring writers? Read. Dream. Write what you want to write, not what you think you should write. The excitement will shine through!"
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, July, 1996, William Beatty, review of Harvest, p. 1801; July, 1997, William Beatty, review of Life Support, p. 1795; July, 1998, William Beatty, review of Bloodstream, p. 1828; June 1, 1999, William Beatty, review of Gravity, p. 1742; July, 2001, William Beatty, review of The Surgeon, p. 1950; July, 2002, Kathleen Hughes, review of The Apprentice, p. 1796; June 1, 2003, Mary Frances Wilkens, review of The Sinner, p. 1710; November 15, 2003, Barbara Baskin, review of The Sinner, p. 615; July, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Body Double, p. 1797; December 15, 2004, Kristine Huntley, review of Body Double, p. 751; July, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of Vanish, p. 1876; December 1, 2005, Kristine Huntley, review of Vanish, p. 72.
Bookseller, July 15, 2005, Bernie Brokenshire, review of Body Double, p. 14; January 13, 2006, "Gerritsen: Vanish, & Body Double," article about book launching, p. 14; January 27, 2006, "Double Fours: Signs of Life in Fiction as Tess Gerritsen Sits Four-Square in Two Charts," p. 40.
Boston Globe, December 21, 1997, Katherine A. Powers, "All the Aches, Pains, and Maladies One Could Want, and More," review of Life Support, p. E4.
Conta Costa Times (Walnut Creek, CA), September 14, 1997, Gene Williams, "Ex-Doctor Reaps Literary Success," p. C9.
Entertainment Weekly, August 22, 2003, Gillian Flynn, review of The Sinner, p. 134; August 20, 2004, Gillian Flynn, review of Body Double, p. 131.
Journal of the American Medical Association, January 15, 1997, Tony Miksanek, review of Harvest, p. 265.
Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2002, review of The Apprentice, p. 902; June 15, 2003, review of The Sinner, p. 823; June 1, 2004, review of Body Double, p. 509.
Library Journal, July, 1998, Dawn L. Anderson, review of Bloodstream, p. 135; July, 1999, Linda M.G. Katz, review of Gravity, p. 130; October 1, 1999, Joanna Burkhardt, review of Bloodstream, p. 149; August, 2001, Rebecca House Stankowski, review of The Surgeon, p. 160; August, 2002, Stacy Alesi, review of The Apprentice, p. 142; August 1, 2005, Teresa L. Jacobsen, review of Vanish, p. 67.
People, October 28, 1996, J.D. Reed, review of Harvest, p. 37; August 18, 1997, Cynthia Sanz, review of Life Support, p. 35; September 7, 1998, V.R. Peterson, review of Bloodstream, p. 46.
Publishers Weekly, July 15, 1996, review of Harvest, p. 53; June 23, 1997, review of Life Support, p. 67; June 8, 1998, review of Bloodstream, p. 50; July 5, 1999, review of Gravity, p. 57; July 2, 2001, review of The Surgeon, p. 49; September 10, 2001, Daisy Maryles, "Medical Shockers," p. 19; July 22, 2002, review of The Apprentice, p. 159; July 14, 2003, review of The Sinner, p. 56; June 21, 2004, review of Body Double, p. 41; July 25, 2005, review of Vanish, p. 47.
School Library Journal, January, 1999, Katherine Fitch, review of Bloodstream, p. 158.
Student BMJ, May, 2003, Helen Barratt, review of The Surgeon, p. 168.
BookReporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (August 15, 2003), interview with the author; (May 3, 2006), Joe Hartlaub, reviews of The Sinner and Gravity; Shannon McKenna, reviews of The Apprentice and The Surgeon; Jennifer Levitsky, review of Harvest; Dianne Day, review of Bloodstream.
Stanford Alumni Magazine Online, http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/ (May 3, 2006), Yvonne Daley, "Pulse Fiction."
Tess Gerritsen Home Page, http://www.tessgerritsen.com (May 3, 2006).
Writers Write, http://www.writerswrite.com/ (May 3, 2006), Claire E. White, "A Conversation with Tess Gerritsen."