It’s the middle of the night. Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper is called to Harlem’s Mount Neboh Baptist Church, a beautiful house of worship originally built as a synagogue. But the crowd gathered there isn’t interested in architecture, or even prayer. They’ve come for the same reason Alex has: to find out why the body of a young woman has been decapitated, set on fire, and left burning on the church steps.
The only identifiable artifact on the charred remains is the imprint of a Star of David necklace seared into the victim’s flesh. Alex wonders if the fire was meant to destroy this woman’s body, or to draw attention to it. Her fears are confirmed days later, when a second corpse is found at a cathedral in Little Italy. The killings look like serial hate crimes, but the apparent differences in the victims’ beliefs seem to eliminate a religious motive. Convinced that another young woman is bound to die, Alex mines the depths of Manhattan’s many houses of worship to find a connection between the victims-and in the process uncovers a terrible and perilous truth that takes her far beyond the scope of her investigation, and directly into the path of terrible danger.
First Line: “Is that you with the broad, Detective?” the fire captain shouted at Mike Chapman in the darkness of a frigid winter night.”
Random Quote: “The emergency services unit was as exclusive a group of cops as you could find anywhere in the world. they pulled despondent jumpers off the cables of the city’s tallest bridges, rescued infants from abandoned elevator shafts, dragged crazies from precarious window ledges, managed the most dangerous hostage situations, and in Katie’s case, once safely maneuvered a corpse from the bottom of an antique city well while dangling upside down, supported by the partners she trusted daily with her life.”
Review: Linda Fairstein is one of a handful of writers with series that I enjoy enough to always read whatever the latest is. It’s a relatively select group that provides me with great reading comfort food and sometimes that’s just what you need. I have a lot of respect for Linda Fairstein and her pioneering work as a Sex Crimes DA back in the days when the victim deserved it. As bad as it is now, it is much much better than it used to be and women like Linda Fairstein helped make that happen. Bonus that she writes good crime fiction.
All of that said it’s feeling like she’s running out of steam in this series. Silent Mercy was really just okay, but definitely readable. I particularly enhoy her penchant for teaching about the history and architecture of New York, but she’s starting to head into Patricia Cornwell territory and that means I’ll stop reading her at some point. Both this book and the last one were pretty annoying. Her books have great secondary characters, including her detective friends Mercer and Mike, but she’s pretty much doing nothing for these characters. It’s great that Alexandra is one of the guys, but for two books now Mercer has played little role and Mike is just so snarky that I don’t know why anyone would stay around – and yet Alexandra always has an excuse for him. There’s subtle victimization in the relationship that makes me really uncomfortable given the context.
I think I’ll read one more of her books and if there isn’t huge improvement, we’ll part ways.
FTC Disclosure: Came from the Berkeley Public Library
Reading Challenges: Mystery & Suspense Challenge