“Rizzoli & Isles: Die Again”

By Tess Gerritsen

Ballantine Books, New York, 2014

352 pages, hardcover, $27

“While most of us go about our everyday lives, someone, somewhere is committing an unspeakable act,” Millie Jacobson observes toward the end of Tess Gerritsen’s “Die Again.” “And that’s when Rizzoli and Isles go to work.”

That sums it up nicely. The detective and doctor duo familiar not only to readers but to watchers of the “Rizzoli & Isles” television series, run into plenty of unspeakable stuff in the 11th novel of Gerritsen’s series. The new investigation travels from their home base in Massachusetts all the way to South Africa, where something, it quickly becomes clear, is definitely up.

Millie’s part of the story — brought to bear from Gerritsen’s firsthand experience with the African bush — centers on a safari deep in Botswana. There are bugs, heat, dangerous animals (especially cats) and dangerous humans, though who is help and who is harm is not clear for a long time. Millie’s boyfriend, Richard, behind whom she has reluctantly tagged on the trip, is a cocky, Ernest Hemingway-wannabe from comfy London. Several others on the safari seem innocent or stupid enough, and one or two, not least of whom is the guide himself, pose different kinds of uncertainty that Richard is happy to stir up.

While we hear about the deteriorating situation in Botswana, seemingly unrelated — and unspeakable — events are unfolding in New England. Detective Jane Rizzoli finds herself at the scene of a horrific murder, in which a couple of otherwise lovable house cats, it turns out, have played a grisly role. Dr. Maura Isles, the medical examiner, is drawn inevitably into the investigation, and they soon discover complications relating to felids much larger than the specimens in the murder victim’s apartment.

“Never trust a big cat,” Dr. Alan Rhodes warns Isles when she goes to look into a fatal mauling at the Suffolk Zoo. It so happens this is exactly the advice Millie and her safari mates have been getting in Botswana, too.

In Massachusetts, Rizzoli is not so sure the murder in the kitchen and the death in the zoo are isolated unspeakabilities. The investigation takes the detectives briefly to Maine (“a place where bad things happen,” Rizzoli reflects uneasily) and to some testosterone-jugged characters at varying degrees of obnoxiousness. There’s plenty of opportunity for irony at the expense of puffed-up men, and Rizzoli is always quick to pounce on it — or just bear it.

How this all fits together is of course the puzzle from the start, and as always, Rizzoli and Isles are up to the task. Along the way, they learn a good deal about cats, especially the large ones, though this book is also apt to set you wondering afresh exactly what’s going through your household companion’s little mind that he’s not, well, speaking about.

“Die Again” is another exceptionally well-paced detective yarn by the prolific author and former physician who lives in Camden. If you’re a fan of TV shows like “CSI,” “NCIS” and “Criminal Minds,” you’ll definitely enjoy this book.

Off Radar takes note of books with Maine connections about twice a month in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel’s What’s Happening? Contact Dana Wilde at [email protected].