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Continuing with my American crime writers I discovered the Alex Cooper series recently and hoped I'd found another women detective with a big heart and plenty of courage. I did find this in Linda Fairstein's character, but I don't think she's going to make the grade for me. However, maybe I need to read some more. This particular book has all the ingredients for a smash hit so why do I hesitate?
As more women make the grade to star in their own series I am perhaps too inclined to compare them with other favorite characters. There are so many good authors with their female leads that I really need to start at the series beginning. But this came up among the new thriller books and it did look good with a blue background of a woman standing by a window looking over at a winged man, possibly an angel? The endorsements by Karin Slaughter and Kathy Reichs gave me hope that I was going to curl up with a real creepy read to go with the dark nights. So what did I think of Alex Cooper?
The blurb looked good, a serial killer who stalks women and kills them in gruesome ways, leaving their bodies in front of churches suggested a religious maniac, one victim was decapitated and the other has her throat cut and her tongue cut out. With NYPD cop Mike Chapman, assistant DA Alexandra Cooper is there at the scene of the first murder and closely follows the second. The interest in the murders comes at a bizarre time for Alex. She is already prosecuting a case against a priest charged with sexually assaulting some of his male parishioners. Her knowledge of religion is therefore at it's best and given the fact she is Jewish by birth adds another twist to a story that soon shows the hallmark of a zealous criminal, bent on punishing women who are leaders of their own religious communities.
As Alex and Mike investigate further it appears that the women were in some ways 'pariahs' in the eyes of the Orthodox churches. They are both from different backgrounds but share something in common and that will lead Alex, Mike and their other teammate Mercer Wallace to discover a killer with a special background and talent, putting them in jeopardy as they do so.
The character of Alex owes a lot to Linda Fairstein's own background as a middle-class Jewish woman with a comfortable home and a stable relationship with a French Restaurateur, Luc. Fairstein was a top New York City prosecutor before starting to write and she puts a lot of that experience into her novels and her character.
Alex is an assistant DA in this book and she does a lot of work with the Special Victims Unit, which entails working with rape victims and people who have been abused. It's because of that experience that she is at the scene of the crime so quickly.
She works with Mike Chapman a detective with NYPD and to a lesser degree with Mercer. All the characters are comfortable with each other and there isn't a lot of the teasing and black humor that is so much a part of normal detective and thriller stories, so I expect her earlier books have set the characters in a pattern.
I did feel quite caught up with the story but I didn't have an instant empathy with any of the characters and did feel something was missing. Perhaps I'm a snob but I felt the characters were too comfortable, with none of the edginess I've come to love with characters such as Temp Brennan etc.
As the book got underway I started getting bored with the story and wanted to skip a lot of the dialogue. This worried me as it suggested I wouldn't finish the book. I did plow on and eventually it got more interesting with an injection of some warm and friendship with further characters. I did get the feeling though that the placing of the bodies in different church locations were part of Fairstein's plan to inject some of her strong interest in churches and architecture into the book. She also does this with her abuse and rape victims since this was a special part of her former job.
Similarly she brings in womens' liberation in the church as part of the theme behind the murders and this should have appealed to me, but instead I found it contrived and purposeless. Perhaps you may feel I'm being harsh, but I did listen to some of the author's online video and frankly found it boring. As a woman who has come to terms with a female role in society I think we have fought most of that battle long ago.
When the perpetrator finally was unmasked my first thoughts were rather unkind. I couldn't see the relevance and found the plotting a bit absurd. There was some action going on and Alex finally stopped preaching and got her nails dirty, but by then it was all over for me. I'd lost the plot entirely and was just glad to finish the story.
I wouldn't bother with this one unless you're a diehard fan. I'd be interested to know if anyone does read this author; if so then what did I miss? There again, I love Stephen King and others find him hateful. I am in dire need of a different genre quickly.
If you do decide to give this a try then Amazon will take about £4.29 off you and that's a real crime.
Thanks for reading.