The Hatfields and the McCoys have to take a backseat to the
Quillians and the Hassetts, the two feuding families at the center
of Linda Fairstein's latest novel. With her ensemble characters ---
Assistant DA Alexandra "Alex" Cooper and NYPD detectives Mike
Chapman and Mercer Wallace --- working with their supporting
coterie, BAD BLOOD is a riveting and truly interesting read.
When Amanda Quillian is found brutally murdered, the team quickly
comes to the conclusion that Amanda's husband, Brendan, hired a
hitman to do the dirty deed. Brendan is arrested, indicted and
defended at his trial by smart, suave Lem Howell. Before becoming a
defense attorney, he mentored Alex in the District Attorney's
office where they developed an ongoing affection and mutual
respect. But when the sparks start to fly in the courtroom, the
gloves come off and each fights mercilessly for their side --- that
is, until Brendan grabs a court officer's gun and shoots her in the
head. For a few moments the chaos becomes the cover Brendan needs
to make a clean escape.
Alex, Chapman and Mercer lead the complex investigation into
Amanda's murder, discovering who Quillian really is, where he could
be hiding and who might be helping him. Their queries take them
from Manhattan to the Bronx and then to a "big dig" deep
underground in the center of Manhattan, where an old murder
surfaces that leads to another related killing --- both of which
are the underlying events for the hatred between the
The third-generation Irish workers on site are the descendants of
their immigrant grandfathers who first descended into the black
hole that would take them 60 feet down to a dark and dangerous
workplace. They burrowed their way through bedrock and mud to build
the subway systems, "gas mains, housing for electrical wiring,
sewers and shafts of every variety --- as well as the two
antiquated tunnels that have carried billions of gallons of fresh
water daily, for almost a century, from upstate to the five
boroughs…all built by a small cadre of construction workers
known as sandhogs. They have not only created this underground
kingdom but they are the only men ever to see most of it."
Fairstein came to writing after 25 years as the founder and head of
the Sex Crimes Unit, which is still a linchpin in the workings of
the NYPD. (Olivia Benson, the female lead in the long-running
television series "Law and Order," is based on the author.) And in
the same way that viewers of the show are witnesses to sex crimes,
readers are informed by Alexandra Cooper (Fairstein's alter ego)
that "most people don't treat victims of domestic abuse in the same
manner" as other victims --- even now, in the 21st century. As a
matter of fact, the subject of "intimate-partner violence" is a
running theme in all of Fairstein's books. But have no fear; she
writes only to inform, not to preach.
The architecture that holds Fairstein's stories together lies in
her plots, her gift for creating likable characters, her ability to
keep them fresh each time they appear, and her habit of shaping her
tales with heady historical "trivia," which imbues her work with
BAD BLOOD is not a perfect book. It flags in some places and
strains credulity in others, yet the reader is kept wanting more.
Fairstein does not write noir nor does she indulge in rock 'em sock
'em antics and cozies; rather, she presents a mystery, plus a team
to work together as colleagues and friends in order to solve it.
Her audience can count on being firmly and fully satisfied. BAD
BLOOD is no exception.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum. on December 22, 2010