Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Book Review: Night Watch

I just finished the latest book by Linda Fairstein called Night WatchThe title is a play on a very famous painting by Rembrandt. Ms. Fairstein specializes in high crime murder mysteries that brings in interesting historical and social details. Once again, she did not disappoint.

Her female protagonist, Alex Cooper, is a top notch assistant district attorney for Manhattan. Her specialty is sex crimes. The expertise that Alex shows is the real life expertise of the author. Ms. Fairstein started the sex crimes unit at the Manhattan district attorneys office, which became the prototype for these departments nationwide. (Some of us are old enough to remember a criminal justice system devoid of Ms. Fairstein's innovations.) So the court scenes, the crimes, the law and how the DA deals with victims and perpetrators is staight from true life.

This particular addition to the Alex Cooper series takes place on two continents. You begin in the south of France, where of course Alex ends up in the middle of a murder mystery; to Manhattan Island where the possible future President of France is drawn into high profile sex crime (sound familiar? Think DSK.); to the new age of drug smuggling, which by the way, has nothing to do with South and Latin America.  The legal machinations, tabloid exploitation and political expediency of the event is laid out clearly for the reader. The time and effort the lawyers, police and forensic experts take in caring for the victim, while trying to elicit the truth of the matter, makes you feel comfortable that our legal system really does work and is staffed by descent and honest people. Fairstein takes you on an interesting journey.

What is also thought provoking,  is how she resolves the outcome of the alleged rape. This, of course, leads you to believe that this is probably why DSK was sent back to France, instead of living out his life in a maximum security prison in New York State. Certainly you could assume it is all conjecture on her part. It is afterall a novel. Yet having been a prosecutor for decades, the author has an idea of what may or may not inhibit a case's presentation in a courtroom.

The other entertaining aspect of her novels are the historical details, including a slice of life that you would never think about. In this case it is the "star-rated" restaurant business. She takes you into the highly competitive and driven orbit of the world's gourmands, all of whom require perfection in their food, drink, atmosphere and experience. Furthermore, you are brought into the era of  prohibition's rapscallions, learning the secret effect this period had on the NY restaurant industry. Needlesstosay, as a self-proclaimed history buff, I found this all quite alot of fun.

If you are looking for a quick paced exciting story, one that will keep you guessing to the end, I recommend this book as the perfect summer novel. Actually, I read it in one afternoon...just couldn't put it down.

Qi en Pace,


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