(Jump down to read a review of The Kills)
(Jump down to read a review of The Bone Vault)
(reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JAN 29, 2006)
In Entombed, Alex Cooper is on the trail of the so-called "Silk Stocking Rapist," a perp who has operated on the Upper East Side of Manhattan off and on for a number of years. This time, he tried to rape a Swedish exchange student and when she fought back, he brutally injured her. In another case, a crew at a construction site in Greenwich Village unearths the skeletal remains of a woman who was buried alive. It turns out that the killer may have had an obsessive interest in the works of the great American writer, Edgar Allan Poe.
Alexandra Cooper's job is running the sex crimes prosecution unit of the Manhattan DA's office. She works with her good friend, Mercer Wallace, who is a member of the police department's Special Victims Squad. Alex and Mercer's colleague, Mike Chapman, is a sharp homicide detective who enjoys teasing Alex mercilessly. All three become embroiled in the case of the entombed skeleton, and when more bodies pile up, they realize that the killer is still at large and eager to cover his tracks.
Fairstein's knowledge of police procedure and the criminal justice system lends a touch of realism to the proceedings. She effectively describes the emotional and physical torment that the victims of sex crimes suffer, as well as the difficulties facing the prosecutors who try to bring the offenders to justice. Cooper's handling of the "Silk Stocking Rapist" case is well done and makes for compelling reading.
The second case, which deals with the madman who buried a woman alive, is not as tight or as realistic. This case leads Alex and her colleagues to learn quite a bit about Edgar Allan Poe's life and works, including the fact that he once lived in New York City. This plot, however, has a number of holes and far too many coincidences to be convincing. The large cast of characters, including a randy professor, a disgraced policeman, a venal psychiatrist, and a frightened businessman, are one-dimensional and underdeveloped. In spite of its flaws, however, Entombed is fast-paced and filled with enough action and excitement to satisfy most thriller junkies. Fairstein's fans won't want to miss this one.
- Amazon readers rating: from 51 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Entombed at SimonSays.com(back to top)
"The Kills "
(reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAR 9, 2004)
The trial is already promising to be a near impossible fight for Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor Alex Cooper. Paige Vallis has accused Andrew Tripping of raping her in front of his own son, intimating that if she didn't have sex with him, he'd hurt the boy. It's the worst kind of "he said-she said" mess, DNA doesn't much matter because he admits to having sex with her, the child's testimony is impossible to get, and worse, the main surprise witness, Kevin Bessemer, has escaped from police custody. It soon becomes a moot point...during the trial a mysterious man enters the court, and Paige is forced to reveal some secrets from her past... secrets that may be the reason she ends up being murdered.
She's not the only murder victim. Queenie Ransome, an elderly black lady, is found murdered in her apartment; the sexual pose she's found in is a mimic of a sensual picture of her hanging over her bed from her younger days. She has nothing...she's been living in a shabby apartment, everything about her bespeaks of poverty, so why was she killed? Her exciting and glamorous past as mistress of King Farouk of Egypt may hold the key. But what do these two cases have to do with one another? Harry Strait, the man who scared Paige to silence, might know...but he's not telling.
This is my first Fairstein book. I was interested because she's lived much of what she writes... her character is based on the same position that she held, that of district attorney. Thus, you can assume that the various aspects of procedural (which are too complicated and too bullheaded to be made up) and the court room are all correct. Not only does she write of these situations in a very realistic way, but also she manages to make it interesting, with good characters (Judge Moffett is fun to read, but would be a pain to work with, I think, in real life) and twists that seem reasonable. She's a very business like writer in that she sticks to the story. Any forays into the personal life are brief, neat interludes such as Alex stopping to play final Jeopardy with her two main men, Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman, or when she tries to figure out her failing relationship with reporter Jack Tyler. I liked how this worked out because you get enough emotional background to care about the people, yet the story, with its well done turns, is allowed to shine on its own. As it should be.
The historical details, especially that of Egyptian King Farouk, help make Queenie's story fascinating. Fairstein adds in just the right amount of details to make Queenie's past sound exciting and exotic, if, in the end, tragic. (Did you know Farouk loved red cars...he collected them, and wouldn't allow anyone else in his country to own one?) The killers aren't after just any old bit of loot, either, and what it turns out to be, and the connections it creates, is a real surprise.I'm not a huge courtroom drama reader, but I really enjoyed The Kills; it provides plenty of excitement inside the courtoom and out.
- Amazon readers rating: from 33 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Kills at MostlyFiction.com(back to top)
"The Bone Vault"
(reviewed by Hagen Baye MAY 28, 2003)
"You didn't know how dangerous museum work could be, did you?"Former sex crime prosecutor, Linda Fairstein, shows just how dangerous museum work could be in her fifth crime fiction novel of the Alexandra Cooper series, The Bone Vault. The dead body discovered in an Egyptian sarcophagus en route somewhere abroad from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is found to be that of Katrina Grooten, a former curator at The Cloisters. She was part of the team of curators from The Met, its subsidiary Cloisters and The American Museum of Natural History preparing for the first ever joint exhibition of these world-renowned cultural institutions. She is found to have been poisoned by arsenic, and, almost miraculously, her body showed no sign of decomposition. Alexandra Cooper and the NYPD detectives assigned to assist the Sex Crimes Unit she supervises -- Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace -- soon realize that solving the murder will be a daunting task, given the immense size and labyrinthine nature of the spaces within these museums and the pervasive availability of arsenic for legitimate museum purposes; as well as the existence of conditions within their massive subterranean spaces conducive to the preservation of a dead body. There is also any number of suspects, ranging from the very head of the Met to the lowlife who had attempted to rape Katrina several months before she was killed.
With The Bone Vault, Fairstein offers more than a suspenseful, well-plotted crime mystery. The book is infused with much information about the origins and history of the American Museum of Natural History and the Met, along with the Cloisters, which houses the Met's medieval collection. As is the case with the better mysteries, the reader is also treated with an education about the subject matter that is at the heart of the story. In The Bone Vault, we learn about the historic development of these great institutions, including, quite literally, the skeletons in their closets, as truly, at the heart of the murder under investigation is the raging modern debate over what to do about the previous generations' abominable desecration of the graves of aboriginal peoples to retrieve their bones for the sake of scientific research.
Until last year, Linda Fairstein served for some thirty-years as an assistant district attorney to Robert Morgenthau, the District Attorney for the borough of Manhattan of the City of New York. The last twenty-five years of her stint were spent heading up that office's Sex Crimes Unit, where she not only personally prosecuted some of the better well-known sex crime cases, such as the Central Park jogger and the "preppie-murder" cases, but she was in the center of significant advances in this field of law, such as the greater protection given to victims' rights and technological advances in legal research and investigation (e.g., DNA, the use of the computer and the internet).
Fairstein has acknowledged that her Alexandra Cooper character is modeled after herself with respect to the way Cooper conducts herself as a prosecutor. The reader gets to see a prosecutor in action, is given an insider's view of how she deals with the legal issues that confront her and how she goes about investigating her cases. Like the previous Alexandra Cooper books, The Bone Vault demonstrates how a prosecutor has to balance a number of cases that land in her lap at any particular time. Cooper does not have the luxury of being able to concentrate on the Grooten murder alone; she also has to handle cases involving statutory rape, an attorney into S&M and an internet pedophile, as well as worry about some crazy who is stalking her.
The Bone Vault also furthers Fairstein's other acknowledged purpose of showing how closely she as prosecutor fashioned a unique working relationship with the police assigned to her unit's cases. The characters of Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace in particular belie the dumb-cop image and provide examples of how intelligent, dedicated and decent the police conduct themselves in their work. Some may question Fairstein's objectivity in her treatment of prosecutors and the police. However, she does present a balanced view of law enforcement. For example, the victim in the statutory rape case claimed that the accused raped her at knifepoint. Rather than being satisfied with unquestionably throwing the book at this mutt who happily engaged in sex with underage girls, Cooper sensed that the girl was lying and cleverly got her to admit that she had invited the guy into her bedroom and made the accusations only after he made her jealous and angry by saying that he had better sex with her girlfriend.
In summary, the reader of The Bone Vault is treated to a fine crime mystery, an interesting lesson in museums, and an authentic (albeit fictional) account of how law enforcement goes about investigating and solving crimes.
- Amazon readers rating: from 47 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Bone Vault at MostlyFiction.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Final Jeopardy (1996)
- Likely to Die (1997)
- Cold Hit (1999)
- The Deadhouse (2001)
- The Bone Vault (2003)
- The Kills (2004)
- Entombed (2005)
- Death Dance (2006)
- Bad Blood (2007)
- Killer Heat (2008)
- Lethal Legacy (2009)
- Hell Gate (2010)
- Silent Mercy (2011)
- Night Watch (2012)
- Death Angel (July 2013)
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- The official Web site for Linda Fairstein
- MostlyFiction.com interview with Linda Fairstein
- MostlyFiction.com review of Death Dance
- MostlyFiction.com review of Lethal Legacy
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About the Author:
Linda Fairstein was for twenty-five years America's foremost prosecutor of crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence as head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney's Office. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, she is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law. Recipient of the prestigious Nero Wolfe Award for "literary excellence in the mystery genre" for The Deadhouse, a New York Times bestseller, she is also the author of Final Jeopardy (an ABC Movie of the Week starring Dana Delaney), Likely to Die, and Cold Hit, all international bestsellers. Her nonfiction book Sexual Violence was a New York Times notable book in 1994. She lives with her husband in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.