Tess Gerritsen’s new Rizzoli & Isles thriller, “Die Again,” opens both of its central story lines with signs – appropriate, as both deal with tracking killers. The first appears to a group of people on an African wildlife safari in Botswana, the print of a leopard that passes through their camp in the middle of the night. The second sign is of a more urban kind: an overstuffed mailbox in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, reported by the neighborhood mail carrier.

Unretrieved mail brings Detective Jane Rizzoli to an uncommonly gruesome crime scene. The homeowner, Leon Gott, has been strung up nude by his heels in his garage, and gutted “like a pig carcass hanging in a slaughterhouse.”

The victim’s living room is a shrine to dead animals, disturbingly lifelike trophy heads hung for show – rhino, tiger, lion and zebra, among others. The victim was a renowned taxidermist. Missing from the crime scene: the pelt of a rare snow leopard he was working on for a gun-loving, right-wing radio show host.

Gerritsen, a noted Maine author, certainly knows how to rivet the reader’s attention. And she is masterful in shifting between the two story lines. For the first half of the book, the tales on distant continents advance in parallel, with little to connect them other than large predators.

Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles can’t make sense of the clues in their Boston case. The snow leopard was an aging zoo animal that had been euthanized. The prime motivation for it being put down, however, was a sizable donation to the zoo by the radio show host, who wanted the prized pelt for mounting to be displayed in his mansion. In Botswana, tension builds between Millie Jacobson, a London bookshop owner, and her blowhard, adventure novelist boyfriend, Richard Renwick. Tension spikes with the death in the night, apparently by a large predator, of Clarence, the African tracker guiding the tour. Then, the slaughter of tour clients mounts, one by bloody one.

Back in the States, Isles becomes aware of a series of murders that share various characteristics to taxidermist Gott’s, including ones in Maine, Nevada and Montana. She begins to see a pattern, including claw marks on the body, evisceration and bodies hung in trees like leopard kills. Isles eventually learns of the killings in Africa and wonders if they might be linked, and whether there is any tie to an ancient “leopard cult,” a secret society believed to be responsible for numerous deaths in the early 20th century. Could the cult killings have shifted to America?

“Die Again” is one of the most richly plotted and suspenseful of all the stories in Tess Gerritsen’s trademark series. The author has commented elsewhere that her publishers are ever eager for her to churn out a book each year, but she favors taking longer to get the story right. The two-year spread between this and her last book in the series is well worth the wait.

Frank O Smith is a Maine writer whose novel, “Dream Singer,” was released in October 2014. It was selected as a Notable Book of the Year in the literary fiction category by Shelf Unbound, the international indie book review magazine. Smith can be reached via frankosmithstories.com.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.