[Crossposted from Desicritics, thanks to whom I was able to get a review copy from the publishers]
Tess Gerritsen’s “The Mephisto Club” is a frequently disturbing but nonetheless arresting, intensely atmospheric crime thriller with more than just a touch of the supernatural. Despite being bound by the confines of its genre and demands of its target audience, it still manages to pack in a twist or two for even the most jaded of us horror aficionados.
Jumpstarting the narrative with a ritualistic murder, the book alternates deftly between multiple tracks and subplots—-from the personal trials and tribulations of the two investigators: Boston medical examiner Maura Isles and Detective Jane Rizolli , to the backstory of a not-so-normal child and a girl on the run from a supernatural evil force one step ahead of her. To her credit, Ms. Gerritsen does not let these ‘context-switches’ slacken the pace of her narrative nor does she fail to weave in each of these subplots into the main texture of the story in such a way that each of them contribute significantly to the underlying theme of the book and none of them appear superfluous.
More than the plot, the main strength of “The Mephisto Club” is that its beautifully-etched word sketches of places and people serve to create an atmosphere of foreboding evil and supernatural dread much more effectively than lengthy descriptions of sadistic blood-letting —a device that most authors of books in this genre take recourse to in order to create terror.Â In this respect, Tess Gerritsen is a lot like Elizabeth Kostova in “The Historian” except that “The Mephisto Club” manages to maintain pace and reader interest much better than “The Historian”.