Medical examiner Maura Isles and detective Jane Rizzoli confront a series of satanic murders in Boston in Gerritsen's lastest thriller, The Mephisto Club. Once a family physician in Honolulu, Gerritsen now lives in a village in coastal Maine
The Bible, especially apocalyptic literature, plays a big role in The Mephisto Club. Has religion always interested you?
About seven years ago I told my literary agent that I wanted to write a religious thriller. But she said, "I don't think they're selling." (Laughs) I'm an agnostic and I grew up totally without religion, but I was an anthropology major in college. So my whole approach to the Bible is through cultural anthropology. I look at the Bible with a great deal of curiosity but without the sense of having been "indoctrinated" as a child.
There's a house in The Mephisto Clubthat people speculate is evil. Do you believe that a place can be evil?
Sometimes you wonder whether there is a portal for bad things to come out. I also feel that there's a genetic or biological basis for why certain people commit terrible acts.
You explore this fascinating idea of the Nephilim, a race that's half-human and half-fallen angel that's rooted in ancient theology.
The real core of that comes from two texts found in the Dead Sea scrolls that never made it into the Bible and have not been discussed in Jewish literature either. But the things they bring up—about the Nephilim and the fallen angels—have been mentioned in other sources. According to the Book ofJubilee, nine-tenths of the Nephilim were destroyed during Noah's time, but God left one-tenth on earth to worship Satan as a challenge to mankind. So because I am a scientist, I wondered: what if there's this strain of genetic material that's been going through time that can cause people to be violent? That intrigued me.
Have you ever had a personal encounter with evil?
Yes. When I was about 10 or 12, we had a very close family friend, everybody's favorite single uncle. He would come to our house all the time to visit. And one day we discovered that he had come to our house just after killing his sister-in-law in a very horrible way. I saw him, I spoke to him—and I couldn't tell there was anything wrong! So I ended up believing that you can't tell the truth from someone's face. The Nephilim, in fact, are supposed to be handsome, intelligent and charismatic—just like many actual serial killers.