Dr. Maura Dorthea Isles is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' Chief Medical Examiner and Jane Rizzoli's best friend.
As a child, she was shy and weird, spending a lot of time alone instead of with friends. She grew up not asking much from her adoptive parents, which resulted in their giving her less attention, emotionally affecting her more than she let on. When she was 10, she was sent to boarding school. In high school, she was nicknamed "Maura, The-Bore-A" because her classmates thought she was boring.
She grew up knowing nothing about her biological parents, but she did always wonder what it was like to have a sibling, more than what it would be like to meet her parents. She did, however, try to look for them before she went off to college. She went to the fictional Boston Cambridge University for college.
During college, she was part of the college's equestrian team. Once, during an equine dressage event, she rode nude on a horse as protest against the budget cuts.
When she was 20, she became seriously romantically involved with Garrett Fairfield, but she did not choose to commit to him after college because of a gut feeling.
Dr. Maura Isles is introduced in "See One. Do One. Teach One" as the coroner, and later the "Queen of the Dead" by an officer, when a reporter tries to get her statement as she enters a crime scene staged much like those of the infamous serial killer, the Surgeon's. Evidently knowing Jane for a long time, Jane stays over at Maura's apartment for the night when Angela shows up at hers. Here, Jane meets Bass, Maura's tortoise, for the first time.
In "The Beast in Me", as Maura is performing the autopsy on the homicide victim, Colin Doyle, she is shocked when she receives news from the laboratory that his DNA was either contaminated, or his DNA matches hers. When she realizes that the man on her autopsy table is her brother, she becomes somehow emotional about wanting to know her biological parents and sibling. She asks Jane to find out who killed her brother and why, and ends up getting more than she bargains for when they discover who her biological father is: Patrick "Paddy" Doyle, the infamous Irish mob enforcer. Before the others could tell Maura what they found, Paddy goes to the morgue as "Selsi" (Isles spelled backwards) to identify Colin. Maura tries to get his DNA, and when Paddy realizes this, he flat out gives Maura a sample of his blood and leaves. She seems confused, not knowing whether she should be happy that she now knows who her father is, or if she should be bothered that her father is a stone-cold killer, even if the men he killed were all bad people.
Realizing that the killer of her brother may have been one of Paddy's enemies, the detectives decide to quietly search for the killer so that Paddy's enemies do not get wind of her relation with Paddy. Patrick later "abducts" her so that he can talk to her without being spotted. Maura demands to know who her mother is, but Paddy evades the question, saying that she is alive but in both her parents' interest to not tell her who she is, saying they both chose to give her up to keep her safe. He hints that she left him because of the fact that she never got to be with Maura because of who he was. He also tells him that Colin is her half-brother, that their mothers were different and that Colin was raised by his. Before Colin's mother died, she managed to tell him about Paddy and he searched for him when he was 15. With Colin's intelligence, he could have done anything but ended up being more like Paddy, instead. Paddy then shows Maura his pictures of her, saying that he had always kept an eye on her, but Maura rejects him by saying that she grew up with a different father. She asks him how he could just kill people on command, and he replies that he only hurts people who deserve it, but Maura does not accept the answer. Paddy wants to keep her safe, saying that his enemies will get to her, but she turns the help away. She does, however, accept the phone that he gives her, asking her to call it when they find out who killed Colin so he could keep her safe from them.
Maura opens up to Jane about him, saying that he had a gentleness she was not expecting, and that she doesn't believe that cold-blooded killing was all there was to him, saying that she did not believe he was dangerous, especially to her. Other than that, Maura becomes distressed that she may end up having the evil genes of her father and half-brother. Despite this, she does not want to help his father find Colin's killer so he can kill for revenge. Jane, on the other hand, thinks Paddy may be dangerous but trusts that he wants to protect Maura. When they find the killer, Jane tries to convince Maura to call Paddy and give him information about the killer that may be out to get Maura. Maura still refuses. Eventually though, they find the Colin's killer dead, with a picture of her as a baby with Patrick Doyle pinned to his chest with an ice pick, clearly the message Patrick meant to send to his enemies about staying away from his family.
In "Ocean Frank", Maura takes a sabbatical from the ME's office to go to Paris, France, and work on her novel.
|“||You wanna know what's truly odd about you? You are the dumbest genius I know.||”|
–Jane to Maura, "What Doesn't Kill You"
Maura is a walking library, able to spout out a litany of facts, regardless of whether or not they are relevant to a case. She tends to babble on about the state of the victim, the information being precise and using scientific terms. She also seems unable to help herself from telling those around her the etymology of terms brought up.
She also used to never want to "guess" the conditions of the murder and of the victim, and is often irritated when Jane makes conclusions and conjectures outside of the autopsy; however, she has shown to begin making conclusions and guessing in some cases of the series.
She absolutely loves examining dead bodies, saying that she used to prefer them over live ones, who would just judge, tease and make fun of her. She used to be afraid of people, or at least how they treat her, but she had gotten over it with exposure. Although still slightly socially awkward, she has become more comfortable with her colleagues. She does have a tendency of diagnosing people about their conditions a little too often.
Maura is not easily ruffled and has a steady temperament. Also, in the past, Maura could not bring herself to lie; and apparently when she does so in the past, she begins to hyperventilate, although throughout the series, she has had to lie often for Jane, who encourages her to, and has eventually began lying as jokes to Jane. Despite this, she still gets hives and itches when she lies.
She has an impeccable taste in clothing, always going around in nice clothes, even when going to work or just having a casual night at home. She also seems to shop online whenever she is stressed. Though Maura is socially awkward and has trouble with men due to her brutal honesty and habit of revealing all their medical conditions, she isn't awkward around Jane.
She can analyze x-rays and blood chemistry, can slice open muscles and organs, but possesses no scalpel with which to dissect human emotions.
|“||Jane: You're a genius.
Maura: Yes. I am.
–Jane & Maura, The Beast in Me
|“||Why do you always look like you're about to do a photo shoot?||”|
–Jane to Maura, See One, Do One, Teach One
Differences from Novel Character
- Dr. Maura Isles is described as having "raven" hair with bangs in "The Apprentice", the book that marks her first appearance. She is described in later books as someone who takes her job seriously and she does not dress too comfortably in expensive designer clothing, unlike her TV counterpart.
- The first time Maura and Jane meet is in "The Apprentice," as she replaces the retiring Medical Examiner. At this point, Jane was already in the Homicide Unit.
- Her ringtone on Jane's phone plays Chopin's "Funeral March".
- Maura can speak fluent Serbian ("Cuts Like a Knife").
- Maura is afraid of the flesh-eating bacteria, Chromobacterium violaceum.
- Maura drives a Toyota Prius.
- She's allergic to ibuprofen (East Meets West).
- At the beginning of Post Mortem, she is beginning to learn sabre fencing (In Dead Weight, she uses this skill in self defence). She later describes herself as an amateur philatelist (stamp collector).
- She is taking a creative writing class in There Be Ghosts.