Review: Gary Braver Teams with Tess Gerritson for Steamy Thriller 'Choose Me'

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday July 1, 2021

Gary Braver fans, rejoice: Tess Gerritsen aficionados, same! Braver, the best-selling author of bio-medical thrillers ("Elixir," "Gray Matter," "Tunnel Vision"), has returned after an 11-year hiatus, teaming with Gerritsen, a prolific New York Times best-selling writer ("The Shape of Night," the "Rizzoli & Isles" series) for a #MeToo-era thriller that chills and provokes.

The aptly-named "Choose Me" follows the final months of Taryn, a brilliant young woman from an underprivileged background who, having been abandoned by her father at an early age, feels a kinship with powerful women of classical literature — much more so than female figures who allow themselves to be used and then discarded by men. No patient Penelope she, content to be demure and await a wandering mate's uncertain return; Taryn identifies with the mythic rage and forceful nature of women like Medea and Clytemnestra. Fierce and strong-willed, Taryn nonetheless finds herself pouring her energies into a failed relationship with a young man who has already moved on.

That's when she settles her formidable energies on her literature professor, Jack Dorian — a man who, struggling in a strained marriage, is susceptible to the charms of a beautiful and smart woman like Taryn.

Gerritsen and Braver start the book with Taryn's death. Her body — grievously destroyed from a five-story fall — lies in a freezing rain for hours before being discovered, a poignant symbol of how the world has overlooked another talented woman even in the midst of tragedy. But was Taryn's death the result of an impulsive suicidal leap? Or is there more to the story?

Boston police detective Frankie Loomis — middle-aged, wise to the ways of a male-dominated world, and clever in letting men underestimate her at their own peril — is unconvinced. With a prestigious grad school slot already secured, and a promising paper in the process of being written with an already-famous collaborator, why would Taryn have taken her own life? The theory of her suicide being the result of a breakup doesn't sit well with Frankie, even if her less dedicated partner is willing to accept the obvious, and let the story presented by the scenario tell itself.

The books alternates between Frankie's investigation and flashbacks to the events leading up to Taryn's death. Along the way, a string of possible culprits emerge: The entitled, upper-class ex; a pair of mean girl classmates; a devoted, but frustrated, male classmate (a bundle of building rage and, while not termed as such, a classic "incel"); and Jack himself, who, against his better judgment, finds himself inexorably falling into a chain of consequences that will change his life forever... and maybe end it.

The two writers mesh well, their styles just different enough to help differentiate Frankie and Jack's sections and make them distinctive. This is a departure for Braver, being neither a bio-medial thriller nor the sort of horror novel he wrote in his early career under his real name, Gary Goshgarian; the writers are playing more on Gerritsen's turf, the procedural, but there's more happening here than a murder mystery. Complex characters abound; Gerritsen and Braver aren't afraid of ambiguity or letting their characters veer into unlikability. But more to the point, the book deftly — even relentlessly — probes the emotional crevices and social fault lines between the genders, celebrating female empowerment even while acknowledging that women and men alike can (like the figures from classic Greek literature that Taryn admires) become victims of their own terrors and obsessions.

"Choose Me" is a juicy and haunting addition to the oeuvres of both writers. We can only hope it's the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership.

"Choose Me" is available now from Thomas & Mercer.


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Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.