I have been an avid reader ever since I was old enough to schlep my book bag home from the library by myself. New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein and I may have something in common, but she has gone far beyond checking out books. She has done an incredible job of researching the myriad details about the New York Public Library that, I would guess, not even most of the New York public is aware of. This is an instant hook for those of us who love books, history and mystery.
In LETHAL LEGACY, the 11th thriller in Fairstein’s Alex Cooper series, the Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor becomes involved in the investigation of librarian Tina Barr’s death following a report from her neighbor that she had been assaulted by a man seen running from the apartment in a firefighter suit. Alex interviews the woman, but Tina refuses to cooperate and leaves the emergency room before she is examined. That probably would have been the end of it. But when Alex’s boss, the model of political awareness, takes an unusually intense interest in the case, her senses switch to high alert.
Is there more to Tina Barr than meets the eye? Once her body is discovered, the answer becomes obvious. That is when Detective Mike Chapman and Special Victims Unit Detective Mercer Williams join forces with Alex to investigate further. The investigation leads them to the New York Public Library, where Tina was working as a conservator for rare books and maps. It seems that there are certain maps that are so valuable that collectors have been known to kill for them --- and those who have collections guard them with their lives.
When Karla Vastasi is found murdered in Tina’s apartment, the plot thickens. Karla happened to be the housekeeper for Minerva Hunt, one of the heirs to the Library’s most valuable collections. Thus, the investigators have a loose connection from which to work as they seek to unravel the threads that tie all these factors together. Meanwhile, we are treated to an insider’s view of many of the secrets held by the imposing old edifice --- secrets that may destroy the legacies of some of the library’s most prominent contributors.
Recently, many authors have taken to creating characters who tend to be rude, cranky and downright nasty. That’s why it’s such a pleasure to watch the interaction among Alex, Mike and Mercer. By chapter four I was wishing I could join them for dinner and drinks as we catch up on our cases. It’s not necessary to start the series with the first book, FINAL JEOPARDY, but I always enjoy doing that, especially when I know I don’t have to wait for the next installment. It’s right there at the library!
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on December 30, 2010