EXCERPT & Q&A: TESS GERRITSEN – THE SHAPE OF NIGHT



“Suspense doesn’t get smarter than this.” —New York Times bestselling author Lee Child

“Tess Gerritsen’s clever plotting and medical knowledge give her thrillers that extra edge. Expect a white-knuckle ride to very dark places.” —New York Times bestselling author Paula Hawkins

“Gerritsen has a knack for creating great characters and mysterious plots that seem straightforward but also dazzle with complexity and twists.” —Associated Press

“Be prepared for an exciting ride with unexpected twists and terrific writing.” —Library Journal


After an unspeakable tragedy in Boston, Ava Collette flees to a remote coastal village in Maine, where she rents an old house called Brodie’s Watch. In that isolated seaside mansion, Ava finally feels at peace…until she catches a glimpse of the long-dead sea captain who still resides there. Rumor has it that Captain Jeremiah Brodie has haunted Brodie’s Watch for more than a century.
One night Ava confronts an apparition who looks and feels all too real, an apparition who welcomes her into his world—and into his arms. Even as Ava questions her own sanity, she eagerly looks forward to the captain’s ghostly visits. But she soon learns that the house she loves comes with a terrible secret, a secret that those in the village don’t want to reveal: every woman who has ever lived in Brodie’s Watch has also died there. Could the ghost of Captain Brodie be responsible, or is there a flesh-and-blood killer at work? A killer who is now circling ever closer around Ava.

With THE SHAPE OF NIGHT, Gerritsen weaves a sensual and atmospheric story that will make you race to find out, along with the heroine, what is real and what is not.

 

Except from THE SHAPE OF NIGHT by Tess Gerritsen, copyright © 2019 by Tess Gerritsen. Used by permission of Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

New York Times bestselling author Tess Gerritsen earned international acclaim for her first novel of suspense, Harvest. She introduced Detective Jane Rizzoli in The Surgeon (2001) and Dr. Maura Isles in The Apprentice (2002) and has gone on to write numerous other titles in the celebrated Rizzoli & Isles series, most recently The Mephisto Club, The Keepsake, Ice Cold, The Silent Girl, Last to Die, Die Again, and I Know a Secret. Her latest standalone thrillers are Playing with Fire and The Shape of Night. A physician, Tess Gerritsen lives in Maine.

Q) Readers know you best for your Rizzoli & Isles series which inspired the hit TNT television series, but you’ve written several standalone novels including your latest, THE SHAPE OF NIGHT. What sets this new novel apart from some of your recent books?

A) It’s a psychological suspense novel with a dark and sexy twist: What if you found the perfect lover, but you’re not certain he’s real – or if he might end up killing you? Unlike my Rizzoli & Isles crime novels, which are focused on hard-boiled police investigations, THE SHAPE OF NIGHT is about a vulnerable woman who is very much alone and haunted by a secret shame.  When she moves into an isolated mansion on the Maine coast, she begins to fear for her sanity – and her life – but she has no one to turn to.  This thriller is told from a very personal, very intimate point of view.

Q) THE SHAPE OF NIGHT is an exciting blend of romance and suspense set in a haunted house where readers are left with the question: if you can’t trust your own eyes, what can you trust? Can you tell us a bit about the book’s inspiration?

A) My mother believed in ghosts. When she was a child growing up in war-torn China, she saw a number of ghosts, and my own childhood was filled with her stories (which she assured me were absolutely true) about the supernatural world. She belonged to a parapsychology society in San Diego, and we had a parade of unusual guests visiting our home, where séances were a regular occurrence.  I recall one dinner guest who suddenly went into a trance over dessert and began to channel a thousand-year-old spirit.  I grew up a confirmed skeptic, but I’ve never lost my fascination for ghost stories and I’ve always hoped for a glimpse of a ghost.  Alas, I’ve never seen one.

Q) Did any movies/ TV Shows you watched help get you into the mindset to write such a different novel?

A) One of my favorite TV series as a kid was “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” starring Hope Lange. It’s about a widow who moves into an old house that’s haunted by a long-dead sea captain. Their romance is sweet and purely chaste, but as someone with a twisted imagination, I couldn’t help thinking: what if the story had a dark and sexy twist?  What if the sea captain’s house has a legacy of past murders, and what if my heroine (Ava) is haunted by a shocking secret of her own?

Q) In addition to the great suspense, THE SHAPE OF NIGHT is such a romantic novel with a light touch of the paranormal—what inspired work in those genres as well?

A) While I’m now known as a thriller writer, I began my writing career years ago as a romantic suspense author.  I’ve never lost my love for that genre, which for a writer is a delicate balancing act between murder mystery and romance. I’ve wanted to dip my toes back in those waters, and THE SHAPE OF NIGHT gave me a chance to revisit the genre.  It also brought back just how difficult it is to write.

Q) Your protagonist Ava is a cookbook writer and food features prominently throughout the novel. Why did you decide to weave in this element and where did you come up with the recipes?

A) My father worked as a cook in his family seafood restaurant in San Diego, so I had a childhood of great food and a deep appreciation for the art of cooking. I also know how much hard work goes into running a successful restaurant. My dad would be up at 5 AM to buy fresh fish from the boats, he’d spend all morning skinning and filleting it to serve at lunch, he’d continue cooking for the dinner service, and he’d roll home and into bed around midnight. He taught me that there are only a certain number of meals we can eat during a lifetime, so we should make every one worthwhile.  Don’t waste your appetite on a bad meal.  That’s very much Ava’s philosophy: to savor every meal, take pleasure in its anticipation, and be comforted by the rituals of the kitchen.

Q) THE SHAPE OF NIGHT is set in a small town in Maine and features a haunted house once owned by a local sea captain named Jeremiah Brodie. What is it about small town life that inspires your writing?

A) I live in a small Maine town, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else. I love the rhythm of the seasons, knowing that there’s a time for planting the garden and a time for hunkering down to await a snowstorm. In fact winter is when I work best, when the world outside is white and colorless, and I’m forced to bring forth color in my imagination.  I also like the fact I can walk down Main Street and recognize at least a few people, and that I’ll often be called by name in the grocery store.  I’m also inspired by small-town secrets.  Our village is a microcosm of the larger world, with our own scandals and crimes, but also acts of true generosity.  It’s like the world in miniature, with dramas acted out by people you just happen to know.

Q) There are several New England-specific locations noted throughout the book. Were any of these places pulled from your life in particular?

A) Tucker Cove is fictional (named in honor of a flamboyant Camden personality named Kay Tucker, sadly now deceased), but there are a few real locations such as Cape Elizabeth and some Boston neighborhoods. I try to avoid setting thrillers in real small towns (except in disguise) as I do not want to upset my neighbors.

Q) What are you working on next?

A) A spy novel featuring older characters, an age group that’s too-often overlooked in fiction and TV. I love the idea of seasoned heroes and heroines who’ve long ago put away their weapons, but are now called back to service because, as it turns out, experience really does

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