Tess Gerritsen

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Tess Gerritsen
BornTerry Tom
(1953-06-12) June 12, 1953 (age 69)
San Diego, California, United States
OccupationAuthor, surgeon
EducationStanford University, University of California, San Francisco
GenreSuspense, Mystery
SpouseJacob Gerritsen
Other namesTerry Gerritsen (real name)

Tess Gerritsen (born Terry Tom; June 12, 1953[1]) is the pseudonym of Terry Gerritsen,[2] an American novelist and retired general physician.[3]

Early life[edit]

Tess Gerritsen is the child of a Chinese immigrant and a Chinese-American seafood chef. While growing up in San Diego, California, Gerritsen often dreamt of writing her own Nancy Drew novels.[4] Her first name is Terry; she decided to feminize it when she was a writer of romance novels.[2] Although she longed to be a writer, her family had reservations about the sustainability of a writing career, prompting Gerritsen to choose a career in medicine.[5] In 1975, Gerritsen graduated from Stanford University with a BA in anthropology, intrigued by the ranges of human behavior.[6] She went on to study medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.[5] She received her medical degree in 1979 and started work as a physician in Honolulu, Hawaii.[7][8]

While on maternity leave, she submitted a short story to a statewide fiction contest in the magazine Honolulu. Her story, "On Choosing the Right Crack Seed", won first prize and she received $500.[7][9] The story focused on a young male reflecting on a difficult relationship with his mother. Gerritsen claimed the story allowed her to deal with her own childhood turmoil, including the repeated suicide attempts of her mother.[7]

Writing career[edit]

Inspired by the romance novels she enjoyed reading while working as a doctor, Gerritsen's first novels were romantic thrillers.[7] After two unpublished "practice novels", Call After Midnight was bought by publisher Harlequin Intrigue in 1986 and published a year later.[10] Gerritsen subsequently wrote eight romantic thrillers for Harlequin Intrigue and Harper Paperbacks.[7]

Other genres[edit]

Gerritsen at a book signing.

In 1996, Gerritsen wrote Harvest, her first medical thriller.[10] The plot was inspired by a conversation with a retired homicide detective who had recently traveled in Russia. He told her young orphans were vanishing from Moscow streets, and police believed the kidnapped children were being shipped abroad as organ donors.[11] Harvest was Gerritsen's first hardcover novel, and it marked her debut on the New York Times bestseller list at number thirteen.[12] Following Harvest, Gerritsen wrote three more bestselling medical thrillers: Life Support,[13] Bloodstream,[14] and Gravity.[15]

In 2001, Gerritsen's first crime thriller, The Surgeon, was published and introduced homicide detective Jane Rizzoli. Although a secondary character in The Surgeon, Rizzoli has been a central focus of 13 subsequent novels (see below) pairing her with medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles.[16] The books inspired the Rizzoli & Isles television series starring Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander.[17] Gerritsen also made an appearance in the series' final season as a writer who helps Isles establish herself in the literary field.[18]

Although most of her recent books have been in the Rizzoli/Isles series, in 2007 Gerritsen wrote a stand-alone historical thriller titled The Bone Garden. A tale of gruesome murders, the book is set primarily in 1830s Boston and includes a character based on Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes.[19][20]

Gerritsen's books have been published in 40 countries and have sold 25 million copies.[16]

Other works[edit]

Film & Television

Adrift (1993)

Rizzoli & Isles (2010)

Island Zero (2018)

Magnificent Beast (2022)

Gerritsen co-wrote the story and screenplay for Adrift, which aired on CBS as Movie of the Week in 1993 and starred Kate Jackson and Bruce Greenwood.[21]

She has contributed essays in volumes published by Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers. She also blogs regularly about the writing business, both on her own website and on a mystery writers site, Murderati.com.

She is also the composer of the musical piece "Incendio" for violin and piano, a waltz that features in the plot of her novel "Playing With Fire".[22] The composition has been recorded by violinist Susanne Hou.[23]

Chinese legacy[edit]

Gerritsen's mother told her traditional Chinese stories eg. about Monkey King. Her novel The Silent Girl uses Chinese martial arts and traditional motives in contemporary Boston. One of the victims is a Chinese chef.

Works inspired by Gerritsen[edit]

Yakov's Lament (2012), a solo violin piece by French composer Damien Top, is inspired by Gerritsen's novel Harvest.[24]

Personal life[edit]

Gerritsen is married to Jacob Gerritsen, who is also a physician. She has two sons.[25] She enjoys gardening and playing the fiddle, and lives in Camden, Maine.[4][26]


The Surgeon received a RITA award Romance Writers of America in 2002 for Best Romantic Suspense Novel.[27]

In 2006, Vanish received the Nero Award for best mystery novel, and was nominated for both an Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America and a Macavity Award.[28][29][30] She has also won approval from several of her contemporaries, including James Patterson and Stephen King, the latter of whom described her as being "even better than Michael Crichton".

Selected bibliography[edit]

Romantic thrillers[edit]

  • Adventure's Mistress (1985)
  • Love's Masquerade (1986)
  • Call After Midnight (1987)
  • Under the Knife (1990)
  • Never Say Die (1992)
  • Whistle Blower (1992)
  • Presumed Guilty (1993)
  • Girl Missing (Originally released as Peggy Sue Got Murdered) (1994)
  • Keeper of the Bride (1996)
  • Perfect Timing (2001)
  • Murder and Mayhem (2006)
  • Madame X (2008)
  • Playing with Fire (2015)
  • The Shape of Night (2019)
  • Choose Me (with Gary Braver)(2021)

Medical thrillers[edit]

  • Harvest (1996)
  • Life Support (1997)
  • Bloodstream (1998)
  • Gravity (1999)
  • The Bone Garden (2007)

Tavistock series[edit]

  • In Their Footsteps (1994)
  • Stolen (Originally released as Thief of Hearts) (1995)

Rizzoli & Isles series[edit]

  1. The Surgeon (2001) introduces police detective Jane Rizzoli
  2. The Apprentice (2002) introduces medical examiner Dr. Maura Isles
  3. The Sinner (2003)
  4. Body Double (2004)
  5. Vanish (2005)
  6. The Mephisto Club (2006)
  7. The Keepsake / Keeping the Dead (US / UK, 2008)
  8. Ice Cold / The Killing Place (US / UK, 2010)
    8.5 Freaks (short story, 2011)
  9. The Silent Girl (US / UK, 2011)[31]
    9.5 John Doe (short story, 2012)
  10. Last To Die (UK / US August 16 / 28, 2012)[32]
  11. Die Again (2014)
  12. I Know A Secret (15 August 2017)
  13. Listen to Me (5 July 2022)[33]


  1. ^ "Writers and secret identities". tessgerritsen.com. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014.
  2. ^ a b WRITERS AND SECRET IDENTITIES an essay by Tess Gerritsen posted to her blog Sunday, October 7, 2007 @ 11:45
  3. ^ BIO Archived July 25, 2010, at the Wayback Machine from the Tess Gerritsen Official Blog
  4. ^ a b Barr, Nikki (February 4, 2008). "An Interview With Tess Gerritsen". Daily Express. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  5. ^ a b High, Chris (2007). "Interview with Tess Gerristen 2007". Chris High. Archived from the original on May 17, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  6. ^ "CASA Newsletter" (PDF). Cultural and Social Anthropology Department, Stanford University. 1999. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
  7. ^ a b c d e Karm, Ali (September 2002). "Shots Magazine Interview: Tess Gerritsen". Shots Magazine. Archived from the original on May 1, 2003. Retrieved January 19, 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  8. ^ Holton, Carlotta G. (April 29, 2008). "Literary Spotlight: Tess Gerritsen". WritersNewsWeekly. Archived from the original on October 12, 2008. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  9. ^ Rowe, Beverly (December 2005). "Author of the Month". MyShelf.com. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
  10. ^ a b Daley, Yvonne (1997). "Author, Author". Stanford Alumni. Archived from the original on October 11, 2008. Retrieved January 20, 2009.
  11. ^ White, Claire (November 2001). "A Conversation With Tess Gerritsen". WritersWrite. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  12. ^ "PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: September 22, 1996". The New York Times. September 22, 1996. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  13. ^ "Best Sellers: Paperback Fiction". The New York Times. August 16, 1998. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  14. ^ "PAPERBACK BEST SELLERS: September 5, 1999". The New York Times. September 5, 1999. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  15. ^ "Best Sellers: Hardcover Fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  16. ^ a b Keyes, Bob (September 16, 2007). "Putting pen to paper". Portland Press Herald. Retrieved January 19, 2009.[dead link]
  17. ^ "'Law & Order's' Angie Harmon: 'I hope they make a museum out of the stages.'". Archived from the original on June 2, 2010.
  18. ^ Ori, Jack (June 11, 2016). "Rizzoli & Isles Season 7 Episode 6 Review: There Be Ghosts". tvfanatic.com. Retrieved June 12, 2016.
  19. ^ Tong, Denise (September 1, 2007). "One-on-One with Tess Gerritsen". Current Vine. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  20. ^ Sege, Irene (November 14, 2007). "Medical mysteries add twists to historical thriller". Boston Globe. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  21. ^ Vey, Barbara (February 7, 2008). "Paging Dr. Tess Gerritsen". Publishers Weekly. Archived from the original on May 16, 2008. Retrieved January 25, 2009.
  22. ^ "For author Tess Gerritsen, success brings more artistic freedom – finally". May 1, 2016.
  23. ^ "INCENDIO TRACK - NOW AVAILABLE on iTunes & Amazon!! - Susanne Hou". www.susannehou.com.
  24. ^ Gerritsen, Tess (August 26, 2012). "Cool media crossover: a violin solo based on my character". Archived from the original on September 10, 2014. I just found out that a solo violin piece called "Yakov's Lament" will have its world premiere in NYC on September 8th, performed by Met Concertmaster Darvarova at Symphony Space on Broadway and 95th. The composer, Damien Top, told me the piece was inspired by the orphaned boy Yakov in my medical thriller HARVEST.
  25. ^ Mehegan, David (September 2, 2006). "Death becomes her". The Boston Globe. Retrieved May 13, 2012.
  26. ^ "Tess Gerritsen: Official Site". Archived from the original on February 1, 2009. Retrieved January 19, 2009.
  27. ^ "Comprehensive List of RITA Winners". Romance Writers of America. Archived from the original on July 27, 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  28. ^ "The Nero Award Press Release". Archived from the original on April 5, 2008. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  29. ^ "Edgar Awards". Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  30. ^ "Mystery Readers International's Macavity Awards". Mystery Readers International. Retrieved January 26, 2009.
  31. ^ "Tess Gerritsen: Official Site of the NY Times Bestselling Author". Retrieved January 21, 2010.
  32. ^ "News & Events – Tess Gerritsen". Archived from the original on March 31, 2012. Retrieved April 7, 2012.
  33. ^ "Rizzoli & Isles: Listen to Me". Penguin Random House. Retrieved April 18, 2022.

External links[edit]