What better excuse to curl up with a good thriller by a crackling fire than Linda Fairstein's latest venture into New York City's theatrical world, DEATH DANCE?
World-famous ballerina Natalya Galinova vanishes during a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House. New York City Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper, already at work on a reported dual rape case in her role as a sexual assault investigator, is called in by detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman because of her intimate familiarity with the theater world. The ballerina's body is soon discovered, bound and gagged at the bottom of a ventilating system at Lincoln Center. There are many potential suspects in her murder: her agent, Rinaldo; the voyeuristic Broadway producer, Joe Berk; his conniving daughter, Mona; and Lincoln Center's slick artistic director, Chet Dobbis.
Two days after the ballerina's murder, Berk is electrocuted when he steps on a sewer grate on the sidewalk outside the theater. He survives and remains a suspect, especially when a second actress he has been involved with takes a near fatal fall from a stage-prop velvet swing during an audition.
It is fair to say that Alex Cooper is an extension of her creator, Linda Fairstein, who spent 25 years as an assistant district attorney in the sex crimes division of the New York Police Department. Her vast knowledge of pretrial exploration, use of DNA, and police interrogation is teamed with her love of New York landmarks and the arts. The reader is treated to a fascinating behind-the-scenes exploration of the Metropolitan Opera House and a largely unheralded discovery of the City Center's great domed hall and its mysterious past.
A dual running plot gives us a glimpse of forensic evidence gathering as Alex pursues the foreign doctor accused of drugging and raping multiple victims. She juggles her responsibilities in apprehending the doctor, who has fled the country, the court that has clamped down on using on-file DNA evidence, and a third unsolved murder and rape in Central Park. How these cases intertwine is skillfully handled in Fairstein's accomplished hands.
Fairstein is an expert at cliffhanging chapter endings. Just as the reader is ready to lay the book aside to fix a meal or turn out the bed lamp, she smacks you with a well-timed, page-turning twist. DEATH DANCE is fraught with complex plot twists, exciting action and suspenseful possibilities.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on January 23, 2007