Why I wrote LAST TO DIE

When I was ten years old, I got a fingerprint kit for my birthday. I’d been obsessed with Nancy Drew mystery novels, and I was convinced that I, too, could be a spunky girl detective and track down all the dangerous criminals lurking in my suburban San Diego neighborhood. The fingerprint kit consisted of a brush and a baggie of black powder. I practiced by dusting various surfaces in my house, blowing off the excess powder, and using Scotch tape to capture the patterns. I never nabbed any dangerous criminals, but I did discover the interesting fact that fingerprint powder is really hard to clean off white walls and furniture.

Thus ended my career as spunky girl detective.

The years passed and I grew up to become a doctor and then a thriller novelist, but I never forgot my childhood fantasy of being a crime-fighter. I realize now that it was a variation of a universal fantasy we all share: that even ordinary people can do extraordinary things. It’s a theme we see often in fiction and in movies: Harry Potter, the despised boy living under the stairs, becomes the world’s greatest wizard. Luke Skywalker, a farm boy, becomes a Jedi knight. So why couldn’t a mere kid help catch a criminal?

In my newest novel Last to Die, that’s exactly what happens.

It’s the tenth in my Rizzoli and Isles crime series starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles. This time they’re on the hunt for a killer who’s stalking three surviving orphans of different family massacres. Assisting Jane and Maura are a few brilliant young sleuths who belong to The Jackals, a student forensics club at the remote and mysterious Evensong boarding school. The three threatened orphans — Claire, Will, and Teddy — are now sheltered at Evensong, where frightening new events at the school make Jane Rizzoli wonder if the killer has tracked the orphans to the isolated sanctuary that was supposed to keep them safe.

But Evensong is no ordinary school, and Evensong’s students are certainly not ordinary children. Among the students is sixteen-year-old Julian “Rat” Perkins, who saved Maura’s life in my book Ice Cold. As president of The Jackals Club, Julian leads this oddball group of amateur detectives, and they have more than a few tricks up their sleeves — tricks that may save the lives of Jane and Maura.

I never fulfilled my childhood fantasy of being a girl sleuth who catches bad guys. But I can finally bring that fantasy to life in Last to Die, where it just might be the kids who bring down the killer.

7 replies
  1. knaster180
    knaster180 says:

    Hi Tess,

    I, too, had my fling with a fingerprint kit. When I was a substitute teacher, I received a call to fill in for a teacher who went on sick leave. He left 2 months before the school science fair, and I had to come up with an idea. I bought in a fingerprint kit, and all the students were fingerprinted and we did n entire lesson on it. Not to toot my own horn, but we won the district science fair that year.

    Now, pertaining to Last To Die. You always manage to come up with a storyline that holds the reader in their seats until the very end of the book. I applaud you, Tess. Ever since I started reading The Harvest, I have been intrigued with you and your books, as well as the t.v. series Rizzoli and Isles. I can’t wait to get my copy of Last to Die. As always, you have a fan for life.


    BTW…I have always wondered if any of those students mentioned above have ever been fingerprinted again since that first time. Hmmmmmmmmm….

  2. CCampbell
    CCampbell says:

    Tess, I just finished Last To Die and loved it. Thank you for always managing to scare me, thrill me, and make me laugh out loud with every one of your novels! So I have to ask: Any idea how many more books I can look forward to featuring Jane Rizzoli & Maura Isles? I love your girls and especially with the ending of this book, I’m anxious to see where they end up. I hope I’ll have many more of their adventures to join them on…

    Thanks for all your hard work!

  3. last to die
    last to die says:

    Just got finished with ‘Last to Die’.. What a wonderful labyrinth of scary twists & turns in this story!! Oh how I HATED finishing it! The best intentions to make it last ALWAYS goes out the window when I begin each new adventure..

    Have to say, many potential changes in some of the lead characters’ lives.. so as the book ends one always wonders ‘what’s going to happen next?’ So, thanks again Tess, for allowing me another visit with old friends (can’t wait to see them again)

  4. petremihai
    petremihai says:

    Oh, my god!
    You are getting better and better with each book. Last to die has a plot as sophisticated as Jeffery Deaver`s books, which is very, very good. You just become no. 1 on my favourite writers list alongside Deaver.

  5. Kathie
    Kathie says:

    I have been reading rizzoli and Isles for years, so you can imagine my excitement when these novels became a TV series. I never miss an episode. However, the last book, “Last to Die” left me bewildered and confused. Maybe I am missing something, but if Nicholas Clock is a “good guy” why did he terrorize the students and staff at Evensong by tying them up and holding them captive in the basement? He also killed 2 people, and his son Teddy killed the school psychologist, however unintentional it was. Yet the book ends with them happily “riding off into the sunset.” Even though this book was a page turner throughout, I found myself hanging in the wind at the ending. It was very disappointing and just didn’t make sense to me.

  6. KisOThundr
    KisOThundr says:

    #6 Kathie made excellent points. I agree that I do not understand the actions of the father and son against those at the school.

    I also have a problem with the sniper that was found, shot in the eye with an arrow, the day before. Who was he working for/with and who killed him? Why include all of that but not explain it.

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