Written by Linda Fairstein — This is the latest outing for Alexandra Cooper, the smart and beautiful New York prosecutor responsible for dealing with sex crimes. She is enjoying a break in the south of France with her French restaurateur boyfriend, Luc Rouget, when a gourmet dinner for friends is spoiled. Firstly, a mysterious pile of ancient skulls appears outside the restaurant. Then, the drowned body of a woman who used to help Luc with his accounts is discovered in a nearby lake.
While the local police try to solve the mystery of the lady in the lake, Alex is being wined and dined at an exclusive Cannes restaurant. Despite having vowed to turn off her Blackberry for the duration of her holiday, Alex receives a call from her boss. He wants her back in New York without delay, as a major international scandal is about to overwhelm the department. The head of a global financial organisation has been accused of sexually assaulting a migrant chambermaid in a luxury city hotel. Powerful pressure groups are mobilising in support of the alleged victim, while diplomatic and political allies of the financier threaten to derail the case. The body of a local petty criminal is found in a Brooklyn canal, and this discovery reveals a startling link to the drowned French woman.
Readers of earlier Alex Cooper books will be familiar with her colleagues in the Prosecutor’s Department. DA Paul Battaglia is the consummate politician who does his best to value virtue over votes, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are hard-nosed detectives who work in the Manhattan Special Victim Unit, and Pat McKinney is Alex’s chalk-and-cheese fellow prosecutor. Fairstein was the real-life counterpart to Alex Cooper, and so expect the minutiae of US legal procedure to be well to the forefront in the story.
The author’s own website describes the book as a ‘caper’, and if there is an opposite to Noir crime fiction, this is probably it. Alexandra Cooper is clever, glamorous and rich. Courtesy of her boyfriend, she has unlimited access both to exclusive New York eateries, and high society haunts in Cannes. Although at times there seems an over-abundance of information about the New York restaurant scene, we are not spared details about the crimes Alex must deal with in her professional capacity. The more gritty and grounded characters of Chapman and Wallace are cleverly used as a kind of conduit between Alex’s style and intelligence, and the mean streets where most of the crime happens. Despite her professional success, she can be emotionally vulnerable, and never more so than when torn between her slightly wayward French lover and the rock-like presence of Mike Chapman.
The New York of today is convincingly and vividly recreated, and there are many fascinating references to the hidden history of the city which lies, literally, beneath the streets and avenues. You’ll have recognised that the story of the accused financier is taken directly from the sensational case of Dominique Strauss Kahn which rocked America and France in 2011. In the novel, the prejudices and moral fault-lines which the real-life events exposed are graphically made part of the narrative. The apparently separate plot lines are carefully woven together, and the story is full of twists and surprises. This is the 14th book of the series, and will not disappoint existing fans, while being inclusive and self-contained enough to entertain new readers.
Little, Brown Book Group
CFL Rating: 4 Stars
US readers can purchase the book here.