“Die Again” is the eleventh installment in the excellent Rizzoli and Isles popular crime/thriller series by Tess Gerritsen, featuring medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles and Boston police Detective Jane Rizzoli. It has been approximately two years since the previous novel in the series, “Last to Die,” was published, so I have been eagerly awaiting this latest installment.

A postman spots a dog in the window of a house with a human finger in his mouth and calls 911. Maura and Jane are summoned to a grisly crime scene where they discover the victim, famous hunter and taxidermist Leon Gott. The man is unrecognizable in his present condition.

Gott had been gutted and mauled and was hanging from his feet in his house among the animal trophy heads that lined his walls. Jane and Maura determined that the man had been dead for several days. Gott had been commissioned to stuff a local zoo’s rare snow leopard that had to be euthanized. Gott was preserving the pelt of the snow leopard, but that valuable pelt is missing.

Rizzoli and Isles learn that local shock jock Jerry O’Brien, who frequently brags about his hunting trips to Africa, had contacted the zoo when he heard the snow leopard was going to be euthanized. He offered a huge sum of money for the pelt on the condition the transaction is kept quiet.

The case gets even stranger when at the same zoo, a worker is killed by another big cat. Then another victim is discovered with similar parallels to the first case. Can the deaths be connected? Is there a serial killer on the loose?

The novel alternates between the present investigation in Boston and a past seven-day safari in Botswana, Africa. Six years ago eight persons met to go on the safari. Thriller writer Richard persuaded his girlfriend, Millie, to accompany him on the safari. Millie had no idea what she was in for when she agreed to go on the trip. She only went to please Richard in hopes of rekindling the romance they once had.

Millie was not enjoying the experience at all. Just a couple of days into the trip, things started to go horribly wrong. When their vehicle broke down the group became stranded in the bush with no means of communication with the outside world.

Millie begins to wonder if they will even survive as members of the safari start vanishing. Is it wild animals, or is a human behind the disappearances?

Meanwhile, back in Boston Jane and Maura are beginning to believe the murders in Boston are linked somehow to the disappearances in Africa. There’s a killer out there, and one of them must travel to Africa to uncover the truth.

I enjoy the way the novel alternates between Boston and Africa, with Millie narrating the chapters set in Africa. Gerritsen’s descriptions of Africa, the natural beauty together with the dangerous elements, are superb.

The crime thriller has a brilliant storyline with its intricate and compelling plot twists. Gerritsen’s character development is always great, and this novel is no exception. If you are a fan of the series, you already know Jane and Maura and their fantastic interaction. Millie and Johnny, the safari guide, are powerful characters as well in this novel.

Tess Gerritsen’s novel was definitely worth the wait; it’s her best, in my opinion. Despite being part of a series, “Die Again” can be read as a stand-a-lone. This novel is available in regular print and MP3 sound recording at the Joplin Public Library.

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