- Action Girl: Rarely shies away from action. Even injured, she still wants to be the one to take people down.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: In the books that the series is based on, Jane Rizzoli is consistently described as plain or average looking. This is a significant characteristic, as she tends to have an irrational jealousy and dislike of beautiful women. She's also described at petite in stature, but here, she's being played by the tall and gorgeous Angie Harmon (though Harmon has played Jane as a little more rough and tumble as time went on).
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: Rizzoli is a tall, mature, dark haired woman.
- Ascended Extra: Rizzoli is actually a secondary character in "The Surgeon", the first book in the series, and author Gerritsen had planned to kill her off before positive reader feedback changed her mind.
- Berserk Button: Harm or threaten her family or Maura and she will show you why she's the top homicide detective in Boston PD.
- Big Sister Instinct: Has taken this role to Barry Frost, warning him against reconciling with the ex who cheated on him and dumped him.
- Brains and Brawn: The Brawn to Maura's Brains. While Maura prefers either to work in her lab or just quietly think things over, Jane prefers being out in the field and does not shy away from physical action.
- Deadpan Snarker: Sometimes in spite of herself. Even when she's around people she'd be better off not pissing off, she still can't help but snark at or about them.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Clementine.
- Even the Girls Want Her: In the episode "I Kissed A Girl", Jane goes undercover at a lesbian bar to snuff out a killer. She gets hit on by no less than three women.
- Forced Miscarriage: She gets hit in the abdomen while pregnant and later finds out the impact was severe enough to cause her to lose the baby.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Maura. They are almost inseparable, both at work and in their spare time, and Jane seems much closer to Maura than to her relatives or even to her lovers.
- Hidden Depths: Jane is actually rather good at ballet and chess.
- Impaled Palm: Jane still bears the scars from when The Surgeon literally pinned her hands to the ground.
- Inferiority Superiority Complex: In the books. Her abrasive personality and drive to succeed stems from feelings of inadequacy over her plain looks, plus years of being The Unfavorite both at home and on the job where's she's usually the only woman.
- Informed Attribute: Jane describes herself as strong and athletic even though Angie Harmon has the lithe, muscular frame of a toothpick. She might be telling the truth, but she sure doesn't look it.
- Jerkass Has a Point: She's a complete bitch about partner Thomas Moore getting involved with Catherine Cordell and about another partner, Barry Frost, mooning over a beautiful witness, but she's not entirely wrong—a cop becoming involved with a victim/witness seriously compromises his/her judgement and the integrity of the investigation. Cops and cases have gotten into serious trouble for this in Real Life.
- Limited Wardrobe:
- While she does occasionally wear other clothes, her work uniform is a pantsuit and short-sleeved, V-necked T-shirt. The only variation is the colour of the shirt and whether she wears anything underneath it - sometimes a camisole shows in her V-neck, and sometimes not.
- Lampshaded by Jane when her apartment has burned down and she has to replace her wardrobe: according to her, the task mainly involves buying 20 identical T-shirts.
- Meaningful Name: In the books. Jane is literally a "plain Jane".
- Middle Child Syndrome: She's usually overlooked by her mother in favour of older brother Tommy or little brother Frankie.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: It turns out she was accepted to BCU, but ended up not going because of her family situation. She also pretended not to know anything about chess when she was the one who taught Tommy how to play.
- Only Sane Woman: Jane qualifies, given how often the expression on her face resembles that of someone in the process of herding cats.
- Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: She's so devoted to her pantsuits that even her wedding "dress" is one (as are her bridesmaids), and she's utterly miserable having to wear dresses as her pregnancy progresses.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: With Maura.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Tomboy to Maura's Girly Girl.
- The Unfavorite: Angela always seemed to favor her boys over Jane, and even more so in the books.
- What Beautiful Eyes!: Noted by partner Thomas Moore in the first novel.
- What the Hell, Hero?: In the books. Gets called out on her irrational dislike of attractive women a handful of times. First partner Thomas Moore is utterly infuriated and disgusted to realize that she hates Catherine Cordell for the way she looks, and suggests that the real reason men aren't attracted to her isn't because she's plain, but because of her unattractive personality. In another book, her next partner Barry Frost outright snaps at her, "You've got some real issues, you know that?", when he picks up on her distrust of a beautiful witness.
- Working-Class Hero: Her working-class background is often pointed out and contrasted to upper-class girl Maura.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: It's not as extreme a case as with Jane. Maura is described as "attractive" in the books, but as played by Sasha Alexander she is far more stunning than one would have imagined.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: Maura is an Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette the books.
- All Women Love Shoes: Especially telling is her reaction when Jane quips that she hid her shoes. Oh, and she provides the page image.
- Ambiguously Bi: Even discounting the ton of Les Yay she has with Jane, she's put an awful lot of thought into what kind of women she'd be into if she were a lesbian, and she makes some comments that indicate that she wouldn't mind having sex with a woman.
- Ascended Extra: Isles doesn't exist at all in "The Surgeon", and when she makes an appearance (in "The Apprentice"), she's a minor character. From the third book ("The Sinner") onward, her role enlarges to be almost equal with Rizzoli in most books, or the primary character in several.
- Berserk Button: Go ahead, go after her shoe collection. See how far you get.
- And for the love of her fair metropolis, if Jane gets hurt...
- Brains and Brawn: The Brains to Jane's Brawn.
- Cannot Tell a Lie: Jane likes to point out what seems to be Maura's innate inability not to tell the truth. There are some exceptions where she actually doesn't tell the truth, or at least not the complete truth, but it is made clear that these are rare exceptions.
- The Coroner: Maura works as a medical examiner and her main field is forensic medicine - though being close to a universal genius she is shown doing other kinds of forensic science as well.
- Crazy-Prepared: Of particular note, on one occasion, Jane tried to use the excuse that she hadn't shaved her legs to avoid inviting a guy back to her place that night. Maura pulls out a shaving kit from her purse, saying "Nice try."
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Dorothea
- The Fashionista: Maura is very interested in fashion, always well dressed, and sometimes criticizes Jane's fashion choices and tries to improve the way she dresses.
- Good Bad Girl: Maura expresses a strong interest in sexual matters. Despite her somewhat shy, introverted personality and her nerdy image she seems to have a healthy sex life. See Really Gets Around.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Jane. They are almost inseparable and seem to value each other's company above that of family or even their lovers.
- Hot for Preacher: In the books, becomes attracted to and eventually carries on an affair with a priest.
- Insufferable Genius: She doesn't do it on purpose, but it drives Jane batty nonetheless.
- Intelligence Equals Isolation: Maura reveals that her childhood wasn't exactly parties and ponies in "I'm Your Boogie Man." In her own words, "there was a lot of benign neglect" - her parents had their own lives to lead that frequently didn't involve the mundane details of parenthood, and they didn't much care what Maura did as long as she kept good grades. As a result, Maura buried herself in schoolwork, to the point that she gave them the brochures to send her away to boarding school. At ten years old.
- Morality Pet: A minor and not always effective one to her biological father Paddy Doyle Jr, a reputed mobster and killer. Paddy does seem to think she is the only good thing he's ever done and when his father, Paddy Sn. is getting ill, he asks Maura to help him get a compassionate release from prison and stay with Maura.
- Non-Idle Rich: Maura comes from a wealthy family and is financially independent. She works as a medical examiner because she loves her job, not to make a living.
- No Social Skills: While she does have some social skills, Maura is often somewhat awkward in social situations, and her rather blunt manner and inability to lie sometimes leads to embarrassing situations.
- Really Gets Around: She has had more partners than anyone else on the show, flirts with a man while examining a dead body, and pursued Giovanni solely to sleep with him.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Maura turning her back on the high society scene to work as a medical examiner. When Jane calls her out on her privileged background, she demonstrates quite convincingly that she "has [their] backs," using her connections to obtain several vital clues to the murder.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl: The Girly Girl to Jane's Tomboy.
- Actor Existence Failure: The unfortunate suicide of Lee Thompson Young.
- Afraid of Blood: Especially in the first season, Frost's squeamishness and physical discomfort at the sight of blood and dead bodies makes him the butt of many jibes from his more hardened colleagues.
- Beware the Nice Ones: In the book Keepsake, after Jane makes a snide comment about his attraction to a beautiful witness, he turns on her and snaps, "Fuck you, Rizzoli." and proceeds to chew her out about her persistent Irrational Hatred of beautiful women. Jane notes that Frost is usually such an easygoing Nice Guy that to see him react like this is downright scary.
- Black and Nerdy: Frost is well versed in computer technology, action figures, and MMORPGs.
- Embarrassing First Name: Barold.
- The Ghost: In the books, his wife is often referred to, but never seen.
- Good Cop/Bad Cop: In the books, Jane notes that he has the ability "walk into an interrogation room and make a suspect think that he's his best friend."
- Has Two Mommies: His mom and roommate come to town. The others figure out they are a couple, but are afraid to say anything. Turns out he knew all along, was just waiting for his mom to say something.
- Henpecked Husband: In the books, until his wife leaves him for another man.
- Killed Off for Real: Dies in a car accident, due to the real life suicide of his actor...
- Race Lift: Detective Frost is white in the books, African-American in the TV series.
- Token Minority: The only black member of the main cast.
- Vomiting Cop: Especially in the first season, he's easily nasueated by gore and dead bodies. This is often justified since some of the corpses have been decomposing for a while, but the other cops have become used to such things. He seems to be getting better about it, though.
- He has a moment like this in the second book after coming across the mangled body of a jumper.
Lt. Sean Cavanaugh
Played by Brian Goodman
Played by Idara Victor
Crime Lab and Medical Examiners
Played by Tina Huang
Played by Adam Sinclair
Played by Ed Begley Jr.
- Amazingly Embarrassing Parents: Even though Jane is in her thirties, she still often finds her mother's behaviour embarrassing.
- Big Secret: She was going around taking up any odd job she could find and acting funny any time money is mentioned. Her husband cheated on their taxes and left her holding a $27,000 debt. She doesn't want to let Jane and Frankie know so she can keep him looking good for them, but they find it out.
- My Beloved Smother: She is very protective of her grown-up children, who often are more than a little embarrassed or irritated at what they perceive as her attempts to control their lives.
- Parental Favoritism: Jane is blatantly ignored in favor of her brothers, especially Frankie.
- Parental Substitute: To Maura.
Patrick "Paddy" Doyle Jr.
Patrick Doyle Sr.
Dr. Hope Martin
Dr. Arthur Isles