The Sinner (Rizzoli and Isles Series #3)

The Sinner (Rizzoli and Isles Series #3)

by Tess Gerritsen

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Surgeon and The Apprentice comes a chilling new novel of suspense featuring Boston medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles, on the deadly trail of an anonymous madman who's committed an unholy crime. . . .


Not even the icy temperatures of a typical New England winter can match the bone-chilling scene of carnage discovered in the early morning hours at the chapel of Our Lady of Divine Light. Within the sanctuary walls of the cloistered convent, now stained with blood, lie two nuns—one dead, one critically injured—victims of an unspeakably savage attacker.

The brutal crime appears to be without motive, and the elderly nuns in residence can offer little help in the police investigation. But medical examiner Maura Isles's autopsy of the dead woman yields a shocking surprise: Twenty-year-old Sister Camille, the order's sole novice, gave birth before she was murdered. Then the disturbing case takes a stunning new turn when another woman is found murdered in an abandoned building, her body mutilated beyond recognition.

Together, Isles and homicide detective Jane Rizzoli uncover an ancient horror that connects these terrible slaughters. As long-buried secrets come to light, Maura Isles finds herself drawn inexorably toward the heart of an investigation that strikes closer and closer to home—and toward a dawning revelation about the killer's identity too shattering to consider.

As spine-tingling as it is mind-jolting, The Sinner showcases Tess Gerritsen in peak form—bringing her intimate knowledge of the dark depths of criminal investigationbrilliantly to bear. Beneath its layers of startling insight into the souls of its characters, and the richly wrought depiction of the everyday war between good and evil, beats the unstoppable heart of an irresistible thriller.

Tess Gerritsen left a successful practice as an internist to raise her children and concentrate on her writing. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers Life Support, Bloodstream, Gravity, and The Surgeon and The Apprentice. Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345464453
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 08/19/2003
Series: Rizzoli and Isles Series , #3
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 23,624
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Tess Gerritsen is a physician and an internationally bestselling author. She gained nationwide acclaim for her first novel of medical suspense, the New York Times bestseller Harvest. She is also the author of the bestsellers The Mephisto Club, Vanish, Body Double, The Sinner, The Apprentice, The Surgeon, Life Support, Bloodstream, and Gravity. Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine. Visit her website at

Read an Excerpt


They called her the Queen of the Dead.

Though no one ever said it to her face, Dr. Maura Isles sometimes heard the nickname murmured in her wake as she traveled the grim triangle of her job between courtroom and death scene and morgue. Sometimes she would detect a note of dark sarcasm: Ha ha, there she goes, our Goth goddess, out to collect fresh subjects. Sometimes the whispers held a tremolo of disquiet, like the murmurs of the pious as an unholy stranger passes among them. It was the disquiet of those who could not understand why she chose to walk in Death’s footsteps. Does she enjoy it, they wonder? Does the touch of cold flesh, the stench of decay, hold such allure for her that she has turned her back on the living? They think this cannot be normal, and they cast uneasy glances her way, noting details that only reinforce their beliefs that she is an odd duck. The ivory skin, the black hair with its blunt Cleopatra cut. The red slash of lipstick. Who else wears lipstick to a death scene? Most of all, it’s her calmness that disturbs them, her coolly regal gaze as she surveys the horrors that they themselves can barely stomach. Unlike them, she does not avert her gaze. Instead she bends close and stares, touches. She sniffs.

And later, under bright lights in her autopsy lab, she cuts.

She was cutting now, her scalpel slicing through chilled skin, through subcutaneous fat that gleamed a greasy yellow. A man who liked his hamburgers and fries, she thought as she used pruning shears to cut through the ribs and lifted the triangular shield of breastbone the way one opens a cupboard door, to reveal its treasured contents.

The heart lay cradled in its spongey bed of lungs. For fifty-nine years, it had pumped blood through the body of Mr. Samuel Knight. It had grown with him, aged with him, transforming, as he had, from the lean muscle of youth to this well-larded flesh. All pumps eventually fail, and so had Mr. Knight’s as he’d sat in his Boston hotel room with the TV turned on and a glass of whiskey from the minibar sitting beside him on the nightstand.

She did not pause to wonder what his final thoughts might have been, or whether he had felt pain or fear. Though she explored his most intimate recesses, though she flayed open his skin and held his heart in her hands, Mr. Samuel Knight remained a stranger to her, a silent and undemanding one, willingly offering up his secrets. The dead are patient. They do not complain, nor threaten, nor cajole.

The dead do not hurt you; only the living do.

She worked with serene efficiency, resecting the thoracic viscera, laying the freed heart on the cutting board. Outside, the first snow of December swirled, white flakes whispering against windows and slithering down alleys. But here in the lab, the only sounds were of running water and the hiss of the ventilator fan. Her assistant Yoshima moved in uncanny silence, anticipating her requests, materializing wherever she needed him. They had worked together only a year and a half, yet already they functioned like a single organism, linked by the telepathy of two logical minds. She did not need to ask him to redirect the lamp; it was already done, the light shining down on the dripping heart, a pair of scissors held out and waiting for her to take them.

The darkly mottled wall of the right ventricle, and the white apical scar, told her this heart’s sad story. An old myocardial infarction, months or even years old, had already destroyed part of the left ventricular wall. Then, sometime in the last twenty-four hours, a fresh infarction had occurred. A thrombus had blocked off the right coronary artery, strangling the flow of blood to the muscle of the right ventricle.

She resected tissue for histology, already knowing what she would see under the microscope. Coagulation and necrosis. The invasion of white cells, moving in like a defending army. Perhaps Mr. Samuel Knight thought the discomfort in his chest was just a bout of indigestion. Too much lunch, shouldn’ t have eaten all those onions. Maybe Pepto-Bismol would do the trick. Or perhaps there’d been more ominous signs which he chose to ignore: the weight on his chest, the shortness of breath. Surely it did not occur to him that he was having a heart attack.

That, a day later, he would be dead of an arrhythmia.

The heart now lay open and sectioned on the board. She looked at the torso, missing all its organs. So ends your business trip to Boston, she thought. No surprises here. No foul play, except for the abuse you heaped on your own body, Mr. Knight.

The intercom buzzed. “Dr. Isles?” It was Louise, her secretary.


“Detective Rizzoli’s on line two for you. Can you take the call?”

“I’ll pick up.”

Maura peeled off her gloves and crossed to the wall phone. Yoshima, who’d been rinsing instruments in the sink, shut off the faucet. He turned to watch her with his silent tiger eyes, already knowing what a call from Rizzoli signified.

When at last Maura hung up, she saw the question in his gaze.

“It’s starting early today,” she said. Then she stripped off her gown and left the morgue, to usher another subject into her realm.

The morning’s snowfall had turned into a treacherous mix of both snow and sleet, and the city plows were nowhere in sight. She drove cautiously along Jamaica Riverway, tires swishing through deep slush, windshield wipers scraping at hoar-frosted glass. This was the first winter storm of the season, and drivers had yet to adjust to the conditions. Already, several casualties had slid off the road, and she passed a parked police cruiser, its lights flashing, the patrolman standing beside a tow truck driver as they both gazed at a car that had tipped into a ditch.

The tires of her Lexus began to slide sideways, the front bumper veering toward oncoming traffic. Panicking, she hit the brakes and felt the vehicle’s automatic skid control kick into action. She pulled the car back into her lane. Screw this, she thought, her heart thudding. I’ m moving back to California. She slowed to a timid crawl, not caring who honked at her or how much traffic she held up. Go ahead and pass me, idiots. I’ve met too many drivers like you on my slab.

The road took her into Jamaica Plain, a west Boston neighborhood of stately old mansions and broad lawns, of serene parks and river walks. In the summertime, this would be a leafy retreat from the noise and heat of urban Boston, but today, under bleak skies, with winds sweeping across barren lawns, it was a desolate neighborhood.

The address she sought seemed the most forbidding of all, the building set back behind a high stone wall over which a smothering tangle of ivy had scrambled. A barricade to keep out the world, she thought. From the street, all she could see were the gothic peaks of a slate roof and one towering gable window which peered back at her like a dark eye. A patrol car parked near the front gate confirmed that she had found the correct address. Only a few other vehicles had arrived so far—the shock troops before the larger army of crime-scene techs arrived.

She parked across the street and braced herself against the first blast of wind. When she stepped out of the car, her shoe skidded right out from under her, and she barely caught herself, hanging onto the vehicle door. Dragging herself back to her feet, she felt icy water trickle down her calves from the soaked hem of her coat, which had fallen into the slush. For a few seconds she just stood there, sleet stinging her face, shocked by how quickly it had all happened.

She glanced across the street at the patrolman sitting in his cruiser, and saw that he was watching her, and had surely seen her slip. Her pride stung, she grabbed her kit from the front seat, swung the door shut, and made her way, with as much dignity as she could muster, across the rime-slicked road.

“You okay, Doc?” the patrolman called out through his car window, a concerned inquiry she really did not welcome.

“I’m fine.”

“Watch yourself in those shoes. It’s even more slippery in the courtyard.”

“Where’s Detective Rizzoli?” 

“They’re in the chapel.”

“And where’s that?”

“Can’t miss it. It’s the door with the big cross on it.”

She continued to the front gate, but found it locked. An iron bell hung on the wall; she tugged on the pull rope, and the medieval clang slowly faded into the softer tick, tick of falling sleet. Just beneath the bell was a bronze plaque, its inscription partially obscured by a strand of brown ivy.

Graystones Abbey The Sisters of Our Lady of Divine Light

“The harvest is indeed great, but the laborers are few.

Pray, therefore, to send laborers

Into the harvest.”

On the other side of the gate, a woman swathed in black suddenly appeared, her approach so silent that Maura gave a start when she saw the face staring at her through the bars. It was an ancient face, so deeply lined it seemed to be collapsing in on itself, but the eyes were bright and sharp as a bird’s. The nun did not speak, posing her question with only her gaze.

“I’m Dr. Isles from the Medical Examiner’s office,” said Maura. “The police called me here.”

The gate squealed open.

Customer Reviews

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Sinner 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 446 reviews.
DaleneH More than 1 year ago
This book was so much better than The Apprentice, the previous book in the series. Why did I enjoy it more? The characters were more interactive, expanded into their personal lives, and showed their struggles with the cases extending into their lives. If you didn’t like The Apprentice, please give this book a try. I think you will think differently about the author and her ability to write stories. Dr. Isles became more personable. Last book she was portrayed as a medical examiner who was very smart, but to me a cold person. There was really no interaction with other characters or activity outside of the office/morgue. This left me feeling like things were black and white with her. In this book, she is portrayed as a human being with feelings and struggles, not a perfect person with a perfect life. Her personal life is a larger part of the story. I liked that. Rizzoli is dealing with issues of the case for various reasons. She is also struggling with some personal issues from the past as well as the new. We also get to learn a little more about her family, including the Golden Child, her brother, Frankie. I really liked this book. It was a good mix of all the personal stories and the mystery. The mystery for me was awesome. I enjoyed it all the way to the end and the outcome was unique. Just a good blend of church, medical, and corporate issues blended into one.
JoJoJG More than 1 year ago
Rizzoli is plunged into a murder that also forces her to confront her feelings about Dean once more. Her current situation involves a decision that must be made quickly and will set the course of her life to come. Isles must also make decisions about her personal life while maintaining her continued image as a strong woman-in-charge. Both of the tough female characters are vulnerable in their introspection as revealed to the reader. Gerritson is good at this sort of writing.
Motherofsuperbrat More than 1 year ago
Began reading the series (starting with the first book) just this year and I was so happy to finally have found a series that I don't want to stop reading. Luckily with my nook, I don't have to wait. As soon as I'm finished with one book, I download the next and start reading right away!
avidreader58 More than 1 year ago
This is a series of must reads for people who enjoy complex characters and good detective stories. You can welome the continuing characters into your home and root for them to catch the "bad guys". I thoroughly enjoyed the entire series and hope for more.
harstan More than 1 year ago
It¿s only four days before Christmas and the citizens of Boston are in an uproar because two nuns in a cloistered abbey are bludgeoned with one dead and the other barely alive. Boston Medical Examiner Dr. Maura Isles discovers that Sister Camille gave birth to a stillborn deformed son. The other nun that was attacked, Sister Ursula was only back in the abbey a year after doing nursing work at a leper colony in India. She remains in intensive care but the doctors aren¿t hopeful that she will recover.

Maura is called out on another case when a woman is shot to death, her hands and feet are amputated, and her facial skin peeled away. The woman also has some strange lesions on her body and after exhaustive study, they learn she was suffering from Hansen¿s Disease. A vice president of a company that has a factory near the leper¿s colony is found shot to death, the victim of an assassin just before he was scheduled to talk to the Justice Department. All three of these cases are linked and once that connection is discovered, the police will probably know who the killer is.

Tess Gerritsen has joined the ranks of Patricia Cornwell and Kathy Reichs with this fantastic and shocking medical thriller. Jane Rizzoli, one of the more popular Boston detectives, plays a secondary role in THE SINNER because she is as concerned about her unexpected pregnancy as she is about these cases. Dr. Maura Isles is the star of this tale because it is her esoteric medical knowledge that is needed if the case is to be solved.

Harriet Klausner

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Tess Gerritsen's work! I will read them all!
krissa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OK, this is only my third, but probably my favorite Gerritsen book so far. This one is refreshing. The first two were very similar, and although they were good, it started to feel like it went on for too long. The Sinner is very layered, and a lot of interesting things are going on at once. In this book we get to know Maura Isles better. Much of the story is told from her point of view. I like the way we saw her personality, and her past. I also like that the author isn't trying to introduce a whole bunch of new characters to us in the first book of a series, and trying to jam in a whole bunch of back story. She is taking her time and spreading them out. Or maybe she didn't know where it was going when she started. Either way, it makes it a very comfortable pace for the reader. My pet peeve in this one was that at points it seems like Isles fancies herself the cop. She goes off half cocked, following leads or hunches. It not only irritated me, but was distracting at times. In a cozy mystery, I would believe that. For an intelligent, educated woman, it seemed a little hard to swallow. I thought the ending of this one was great. There is wrap-up of both the personal and mystery story lines. And you know I like a neat, all ends tied, ending.After reading this one, I have trouble choosing who I like more, Rizzoli or Isles.
AnneCurrin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good continuation of a series.
LivelyLady on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Murder in a cloistered convent brings Jane Rizzoli into this investigation. When a murdered nun is found to have recently given birth, Rizzoli must come to terms with her personal life and situation. Very good story, with twists and turns to the end.
CloggieDownunder on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Sinner is the 3rd in Tess Gerritsen¿s Rizzoli/Isles series. The action starts with a murder and an attempted murder in a convent of aging nuns. The murder victim is a young novice about to take her final vows, but during the autopsy Maura Isles finds that the novice has recently given birth. Another body turns up, a shooting victim without a face, hands or feet, and with some unusual nodules on the skin. Yet another body, this time in Providence, Rhode Island, shot with the same gun, brings FBI Agent Gabriel Dean into the investigation. Gradually, Rizzoli and Iles piece together the mystery. Rizzoli is somewhat distracted by a development involving Agent Dean, and Iles is similarly distracted by the reappearance of her ex-husband, Victor Banks. Whilst the first two novels were told through Rizzoli or Moore, much of this story is told from the point of view of Maura Iles. Once again, a great plot with a few twists. Gerritsen manages to include aid organisations, leprosy, chemical disasters and miracles in the subject mix. Another excellent read!
dbhutch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gerritsen outdoes herself yet again in another of her series of crime thrillers with Rizzoli and Isles. Set in Boston, Isles gets called out to handle a death at a convent, where she finds Rizolli, a dead nun, and one who is severely injured. Cause of death, homicide. While autopsying the nun, she gets another call, on a run down abandoned restaurant, where a woman has had her hands and feet cut off, and her face removed. To make things worse for our crime solvers, Ilses's ex-husband is in town and trying to patch things up, and Rizzoli thinks she might be pregnant. Oddly as things progress, the 2 deaths are tied together, the FBI gets involved, the case has international imp[locations, and both women end up testing their faith.
TerriBooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The third of the Rizzoli and Isles series, and the one I like best so far. The mystery story was more intricate than the previous two, and more fun to follow as the two characters followed the twists and turns. For the first time Jane and Maura actually worked together and began to connect with each other more as partners. I also liked the development of their personal stories and am looking forward to seeing how those progress.
MsBeautiful on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting Mystery/Thriller, well written
mojacobs on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quick easy read, one of the early Jane Rizolli - Maura Isles books. Good for a few escapist evenings.
jrepman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Boston setting-Det. Jane Rizzoli and Dr. Maura Isles
Darrol on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ok. I guess. The leprosy angle was good, but the Catholic and Chemical Industry part was not so good.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two nuns are found brutally beaten in their cloistered convent, one dead and one barely alive. Maura Isles and Jane Rizzoli work the case but soon Dr. Isles is called to another seemingly unrelated case of an unknown victim who has had all identifiable parts of her body removed. These two cases, and then later a third, gradually come together in this riveting thriller. It has been several months since I read the first two books in this series and it was pure joy to return to the world of Jane Rizzoli. Her character has developed so much since the first book and I have grown to really like her. Maura Isles returns in this book and becomes as much of a major character as Jane. I really enjoyed the Catholic theme of this book as well as the developments in Jane's personal life. This was a page-turner for me that kept me guessing right up until the final reveal. I'll be reading the next in the series shortly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Superb writing
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Tama2toe More than 1 year ago
This book some Region parts to it. That is very important and be a deal breaker for some. This book however was another that held me by the seat of my pants. I would stay up to all hours of the night to read this book, and was ok with it the next night when I stayed up again. I have finished this book rather quickly as it is not one you could put down. The book has a lot going on and you really have to pay attention which makes you have to hold on tight. The case is not the only roller coaster here! No Spoliers here just sit back and enjoy.
bmoruz More than 1 year ago
This is the third book in the series. There's no need to read the first two prior as this one is unrelated although continues with the relationships of the main characters. I would still read the others though as they are both good. If you like James Patterson novels, you'll enjoy this series as well.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have read the previous 2 books in the series and really felt this one was the best by far. The characters are becoming more natural and the book reads better. The medical details, while still there, do not overshadow the characters anymore. I think the author is getting more comfortable with the fictional world she has created and it is reflected in her writing, making the novel flow much more smoothly. I am looking forward to the rest of the series with high expectations. Stephanie Clanahan