Saturday, August 10, 2013

Book Review: Death Angel by Linda Fairstein

I have reviewed Linda Fairstein's books before. I am a huge fan. (And its not simply because I had applied to the Manhattan DAs office while in law school and remember Ms. Fairstein as a pioneer in sex crimes prosecution.) I find her character of Alexander Cooper to be the dogged fighter for justice that we all hope inhabits every district attorney's office. I like her relationships with her cohorts. She brokers no nonsense and never backs down from a fight. Cooper, or Coop, as she is called in the book, is very human. You see her failings, her loves, her disappointments and her desires.

Now no book that revolved around the Manhattan District Attorney's Office would be complete without a peek into the world of office politics and actual New York City political jockeying. She has quite the acerbic tongue when she wants to, does Ms. Fairstein and I thought that it is such a shame that this book came out after all those political perverts tried to make a comeback. I am certain mocking zingers would abound with wild abandon... of course then again there is always the next book.

You also find the requisite sexual tension between characters in this book series that has any reader saying..."kiss her already you big dumb jerk"....

Meanwhile, as I always say the interesting thing about mystery books is not simply figuring out the "whodunit" questions, but learning  exploring and educating yourself. Ms. Fairstein's books never disappoint in that regard as well. History is the backbone of every major city and New York has history galore. This adventure takes the reader on a magical mystery tour of Central Park.

It begins with the murder of a homeless teen, found near an iconic  Central Park landmark. We learn about how the Park came to be, who designed it, what reasons they thought the Park was important and what motivation led to the Park. We learn the Park's layout. We learn about its monuments. We  learn about the Park's glory days and its worst moments. We are privy to information about its most private passages and its best kept secrets. Central Park is a living breathing part of New York City, bigger than the principality of Monaco (a little tidbit I learned from the book). Some say NYC wouldn't be our New York, without the Park. I agree.

The story also takes you into the halls and bastions of the world of "old money." The lives of those that Edith Wharton had once written about in her books, still exists within the hallowed halls of some of NYC's oldest institutions. The rhythm by which these individuals live their lives and how they run their worlds is fascinating. The world of the 400 families of the New York City register never really came to an end, no matter how egalitarian you think our society.

You look inside one of the most glamorous and most written about buildings in New York, the Dakota. You learn its history. You understand its architecture. You meet not the owners so much as those that work in the building. You see a dichotomy of lives. A social structure that we are adamant doesn't exist in the United States, but it does.

Saddest of all, you are eventually taken into the world of those that society forgets about. The lost and the homeless. The mentally ill and the misbegotten. Those who live not at the fringes of society but under the radar in the hopes of simply making it another day. This is not history. This is today. In a city that is one of the wealthiest in the history of the world, you would think there would be a better safety net and one that would help those in greatest need, but there is not. One day I hope that we, as a society, will find a way, a real way, to help those mentally ill and terribly damaged people properly.

Meanwhile, as with all good reads, you are kept guessing to the very end. With homeless teens, mental patients, crazy judges and a 40 year old cold kidnapping cold case thrown into the mix, this story will have you reading well into the night. It is after all about New York City, the city that never sleeps.


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