Author: Linda Fairstein
Fairstein, former chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, returns with her ninth legal thriller starring prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. The author's own expertise again adds to the credibility of her fiction, in terms of courtroom banter, pacing, and those small "you couldn't make this up" details, such as the fact that shopping carts are the current favored receptacles for attorneys' case files. Her plotting is steady if formulaic. The big flaw in Fairstein's writing is that she has a tin ear when it comes to how people talk; her dialogue, often progressing in parallel phrases and clauses that are highly unlikely to occur in normal speech, is weighed down with backstory. Because she wants dialogue to do the work of narrative, she puts all manner of improbable words in her characters' mouths, thereby revealing motive and emotions. This tale starts with the trial of an upscale Manhattanite accused of murdering his wife. An explosion in the tunnels underneath the city interrupts the trial. Not surprisingly, the defendant is connected to the disaster. Again not surprisingly, Cooper must search within the tunnel system to find the answers. What works about this overly manipulative plot device, however, is that it gives Fairstein the opportunity to present some genuinely fascinating historical and engineering facts about the "city of death" far below Manhattan. Clunky in style but strong on procedural detail and background material.
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