Thursday, 5 May 2016

Bloodstream by Tess Gerritsen - Book Review

4/5 Stars

In spring came the rains.

In summer came the heat.

In winter came the horror...

Edition: Paperback
Pages: 376
Chapters: 25 (Plus a prologue.)
Publisher: Harper

Book Links: Goodreads
                      Author's Website


What happens when you mix medical knowledge, horror and a small town? Well, for starters, you get Bloodstream: A thrilling novel about the unexplained, the fear of exclusion and the bond between a mother and son.

Sound like something you'd like? It should, because while not perfect, author Tess Gerritsen writes in a way that commands you to turn the pages. Bloodstream can sometimes creak under the weight of its own story, but for the most part it's a solid and suspenseful experience just brimming with mystery and terror. 

It's listed under medical thriller in most places, but trust me, medical horror is far more apt.

Synopsis (Not a copy from the book, but I always keep my interpretations close.)

In Maine there resides a town called Tranquillity, a close-knit community of peaceful people.
It's next to a lake and is a popular vacation spot.
So when Claire Elliot and son Noah move there to escape their pasts, the new start seems full of promise.
That is, until Tranquillity drags them under.
As Claire fights to build her medical practice, she finds the locals hostile, wary of newcomers who've come into their home.
But as she tries to win their respect, a rash of violence sweeps the town's children, and murder stalks the streets.
With no idea what's causing it, Claire fights to uncover the shocking truth.
And in the process, uncovers a horrific history that the town wants to keep buried...

Plot - 4/5 Stars

Bloodstream starts off mellow...

Ha! No it doesn't, it starts off brutal, just so you know what you're in for. I guess after the punch that is the beginning things slow down as the author sets the location, characters and atmosphere, but before you know it the plot ramps up in severity again. The events taking place in Tranquillity are completely unpredictable, and that's hooking.

With some fantastically frightening moments Tess establishes the eerie tone, mixing isolation with exclusion to create a potent cocktail. And with medical experience in tow, scenes are imbued with urgency and terror, even during the slower moments.

I do feel that we go through too many theories as the cast tries to explain the murderous rage consuming the town. The final answer is fine, solid, nauseating and logical, but the journey there is a little convoluted. 

Thankfully, overall everything works. The creep factor is high and the story's tenuous tone keeps the reader on their toes.

Pace - 4.5/5 Stars

Bloodstream has its slow moments, but they're few and far between, with the author mixing devastating events with revelations as the writing takes us on a smooth path to the finale.

Characters - 4/5 Stars

There are a good bunch of compelling cast members; interesting personalities are abundant in this small town, and the dark past that haunts the populace reveals itself in a variety of ways as it strains to come into the light. I do find the frequent shifts in viewpoints to be jarring, but they all eventually coalesce into a tight picture.

Claire, unsurprisingly, is the best developed. She is our main character. Claire is the outsider of the town, the underdog fighting to prove her worth, her competence and capability as a doctor. It inspires and infuriates in all the right ways. Her heartbreaking past provides a solid feel for her personality, and she's a fine character to be with.

Her son, Noah, isn't as engaging. I don't know if it's just the whole teen-angst thing, but I find it hard to connect with him. 

Lincoln, Tranquillity's Chief of Police, is a nice counterpart to Claire. He's genuine and kind, accepting in a way that has caused, and is currently causing him, heartbreak. 

All in all, a great cast.

Writing - 4.5/5 Stars

Tess is a master when it comes to thrillers with medical experience, but Bloodstream goes a step further to highlight just how great she is at mixing genres into a cohesive story. Especially with this standalone's horror elements.

The sentences flow unencumbered, and visuals are sharp and shocking.

Overall - 4/5 Stars

Another hit for the author, at least for me. 

For more Tess Gerritsen reviews: Index

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