When you pick up a Linda Fairstein novel, you can be certain of three facts: 1) You are in for a satisfying read of a polished whodunit by an author who has 15 bestsellers to her name; 2) the book features a continuing cast of colorful characters; and 3) the author’s professional credentials include a career as a real-life Assistant District Attorney with the Manhattan Sex Crimes Division. As if that weren’t enough, you will be given a guided tour of the best that is New York City through Fairstein’s eyes. She knows the city’s long and colorful past, its history, geography and architecture as none other than perhaps author Pete Hamill. Each book features a landmark that brings to life the icons of the city’s most famous places and personalities.
DEATH ANGEL takes place in Central Park, a nearly 800-acre island within the island of Manhattan. When an unidentified young woman’s body washes up near the famous Angel of the Waters statue overlooking the vast reservoir that provides the water supply for the largest city in the United States, Alexandra Cooper, the ADA for the city’s Sex Crimes division, is called in to sit on a task force to determine who the woman is and how she died. The task force includes her frequent NYPD detective partners and longtime friends, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace.
"Newcomers will relish the lush history tour, while long-time fans may relish the idea of Alex and Mike discovering that they perhaps share more than a professional interest in one another."
Alex and the wisecracking Mike have always maintained a certain chemistry, perhaps better described as electricity. Their sharp exchanges bristle with competitive angst, and one of their friends has described them as sounding like a long-married couple, yet they’ve always kept their relationship on a strictly professional basis. Alex was involved in an intercontinental romance with a French restaurateur, Luc Rouget, in last year’s NIGHT WATCH when Luc unknowingly became entangled in a drug smuggling ring. This nearly ended both of their lives and ultimately their plans for marriage.
At the same time, Mike was discretely enjoying a dalliance with a New York City judge, a practice frowned upon by city ethical standards. When Alex returns to work after the drug bust involving her former lover, Mike is uncharacteristically hostile, much to everyone’s surprise and Alex’s dismay. When it is disclosed that Mike’s badge is on the line because of the brief clandestine relationship with the judge, who turns out to be unstable and possibly dangerous, a new layer is added to their already complex personal friendship.
The murder and search for a psychopathic potential serial killer doesn’t deter the judge, turned stalker and blackmailer, who complicates their jobs and their lives. The action-packed climax brings the focus back to the crime, but meanwhile we are enchanted with the story of Central Park that takes center stage for a major portion of the book. This magnificent park, which occupies one-and-a-half square miles of Manhattan Island with a zoo, a carousel, forests, meadows, lakes and trails, is largely taken for granted by the tens of millions of people who frequent it each year. Few realize its unusual history, and as Alex, Mike and Mercer look for the secrets behind the death of the unknown girl, they uncover some startling facts and history of how and why the massive park came into being.
As they and a huge force of police officers comb every lake and forested pathway, they discover artifacts scattered near the site where the girl’s body was found, one of which is a solid sterling silver miniature of the famous Angel that can be seen from almost anywhere in the park. These clues may lead to solving the crime and perhaps reopening some of Mike’s cold cases.
Newcomers will relish the lush history tour, while long-time fans may relish the idea of Alex and Mike discovering that they perhaps share more than a professional interest in one another. Fairstein disclosed in a recent interview that a frequent question during book signing appearances is “When are Alex and Mike going to get together?” You’ll learn what happens when two such strong-willed and volatile personalities try to breach the combative walls they’ve built in their years of working together.
Reviewed by Roz Shea on August 2, 2013