Monday, April 12, 2010

"Hell Gate" by Linda Fairstein -- legal thriller set in NYC

There are two things I really appreciate about the Alex Cooper series of books. First, each book highlights a feature of New York history and/or architecture. I lived in New York for several years and enjoy reading about buildings I know and buildings I never had the opportunity to visit. And with so many images available on the Internet, I can look up the things Ms. Fairstein describes in the books. This book features historic mansions, especially Gracie Mansion. The publishers included a map of Manhattan that noted several of the buildings discussed in the book which was very helpful. I hope they do that for future books as well. From glancing at other reviews of the book, I think my fondness for the history and historical places in New York may be a minority view.  Also, it's a picky thing but the water tower pictured in the cover art is not the one described in the book. If you spend so much time talking about New York landmarks and the cover art features something that seems like it is one of the sites in the book, it would seem logical to actually use a photo of the landmark that is part of the plot.

The second thing is a legal thriller with a female protagonist. These books re definitely in the thriller category (rather than being courtroom dramas) because little of the book is spent in court. Alex goes out investigating with Mercer and Chapman and gets into the thick of things and often ends up in danger. Mercer and Chapman still treat Alex a little bit protectively but in this book she isn't relegated to damsel in distress, which I also appreciate.

The plot involves human trafficking and women brought to this country with promises of good jobs but forced into prostitution. That can be tough stuff to read, but most of the cases in this series can be a little tough as Alex Cooper is head of the sex crimes division. This wasn't my favorite book of the series, and it probably is weaker than the earlier books in the series, but I definitely enjoyed it. There were plenty of suspects to consider and I didn't guess the ending ahead of time.

Although I enjoy the New York history, I think it would be good if the next books returned more to the courtroom or at least more to the crime than the setting.

I got this book from the library.  Support your local library!!!

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