Dead Connection

by Alafair Burke

the last few years, Alafair Burke has delivered a fine series of
mystery novels featuring District Attorney Samantha Kincaid. These
books catapulted Burke (the daughter of bestselling author James
Lee Burke) into the big time. Her newest procedural features NYPD
detective Ellie Hatcher, an attractive, bright and street-smart

Hatcher lives with a haunted past. Her father, who was a cop in
Wichita, Kansas, where she grew up, died mysteriously in pursuit of
a serial killer dubbed the College Hill Strangler. After an
internal investigation by his department, his death was ruled a
suicide. But even as a kid Ellie never believed her father would
take his own life. She felt a cover-up was easy to pull off because
her mother would not question any findings or complain about losing
the compensation to which she was entitled. Burke says of her new
leading lady: "Her father always told her, Find the motive, and the
motive will lead you to the man." These words are the foundation of
Hatcher's tenaciousness and unflagging commitment to bring justice
to victims.

In DEAD CONNECTION, Burke's story unfolds around the latest
cyber-phenomenon: online dating services. In this Sargasso Sea of
strangers who put themselves "out there," victims could be exposing
themselves for trouble rather than love. Yet, ironically, Burke
herself met her husband through "an online dating service [and goes
on to say]…there I found the plot of [this novel]
and…Ellie Hatcher."

Hatcher is surprised and flattered when bombastic detective Flann
McIlroy asks her to be assigned temporarily to his department. So
far the investigation has revealed that the only common thread in
the lives of the dead women is the dating service to which they all
subscribed. And he proposes to use the rookie as bait to catch a
killer. She is not quite sure how she feels about this since she
thought she was chosen for her brains. But her desire to work with
the "legendary" McIlroy overrides any misgivings on her part. She
doesn't dare question the plum assignment.

As they embark on their quest, one very explosive fact emerges:
both Hatcher and McIlroy are hardheaded, stubborn people who want
to do things their own way. But as the very junior side of this
unlikely team is constantly reminded, she must take her lead from
her older colleague. Ultimately, their relationship works and
brings both pathos and humor to a chilling story.

As the two delve deeper and deeper into the dating service, they
come to find the owner a scoundrel who may have dealings with the
Russian mafia. If he does, how does that impact their serial killer
investigation? Have they stumbled into a new crime and a new
investigation? In spite of this possible complication, Ellie and
Flann diligently continue searching for a mass murderer. And can he
be part of some Russian tactic by using the Internet? As Ellie
continues to think all of this through, she remembers how the
College Hill Strangler played head games with her father. She
slowly comes to the conclusion that her job is to find a mass
murderer who's playing games with her. Can this insight help her in
her quest to find this madman?

Alafair Burke's previous novels were tightly written and well
plotted, and the characters all worked in sync. Unfortunately, in
DEAD CONNECTION she doesn't pull the various subplots together into
a cohesive whole. Here, the main plot seems to get out of control,
and she leaves too many unanswered questions. And Hatcher, while
charming and savvy to a certain degree, is too young and naïve
to be a New York City detective. Burke built a solid fan base with
her Samantha Kincaid series; her audience can only hope that she
will return to familiar territory starring a more interesting
heroine, or imbue Ellie Hatcher with more gravitas. Nevertheless,
DEAD CONNECTION is the perfect summer read.


Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on December 29, 2010

Dead Connection
by Alafair Burke

  • Publication Date: November 4, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
  • ISBN-10: 0312944810
  • ISBN-13: 9780312944810