Review: Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

Title: Killer Heat (the 10th Alexandra Cooper novel)

Author: Linda Fairstein

Publisher: Little Brown [2008]

ISBN: 978-0-316-73172-0

Length: 401 pages

When the bound and tortured body of a young woman is discovered in an abandoned Manhattan ferry terminal District Attorney Alexandra Cooper and Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace start hunting for her killer. At the same time Cooper is also prosecuting a man who raped a woman in the 1970’s but who can only now be brought to justice due to DNA evidence and she’s also made it on to a gangster’s hit list and undergoes some scary moments due to that.

I’ve read all of the previous novels featuring Alex, Mike and Mercer and I must say that meeting up with them again is a bit like catching up with old friends. The strongest element to this series has, for me, always been these three characters who are particularly believable in their respective roles. For 25 years (until 2002) Linda Fairstein was New York’s chief prosecutor of sex crimes cases and I think that first hand knowledge shows in the legal details and the depictions of the cases being carefully constructed which always seem very realistic to me. It also influences the empathy with which the books treat victims of brutal sex crimes. This book has an especially poignant sub plot about a woman who was raped in the 70’s and her rapist went free because she couldn’t prove she had fought him. It really made me think about how far we’ve come in a relatively short space of time.

The friendship between the three is also something I enjoy, primarily because there’s never been a hint of unresolved sexual tension between any of them. They’re just staunch friends of the kind that people in the real world often are and people in fictiondom seldom seem to be and it makes a nice change from alcoholic loners or characters looking longingly at each other but never doing anything about it.

The plot of Killer Heat is a little disjointed. The sub plot concerning Alex being targeted by the members of a gang whose leader she had recently successfully prosecuted seemed a bit ridiculous, especially as it wasn’t really resolved (it just sort of stopped somewhere before the end of the book). The main story about the hunt for the killer of several woman relied heavily on long descriptions of a series of locations as well as more knowledge of American history than I’m ever likely to have so I did have to re-read a few parts before they made sense. I even resorted to Wikipedia once or twice which made me ponder what on earth we did before the entire world’s trivia was available at the end of one’s fingertips in the middle of the night.

Overall though the plot was resolved very satisfactorily and I was glad I met up once again with these characters. Fairstein’s personal knoweldge of the world she writes about brings an air of authenticity to this story in which the victims of crime are just as important, if not more so, than the perpetrators and investigators. I often think that victims get ignored or are depicted as basic stereotypes and this book definitely doesn’t do either of those things.

My rating 3.5/5

Other stuff

I couldn’t find a lot of other reviews. This one at In the News UK seems to dislike the things I like most including the fact that Fairstein resists the temptation to go for the obvious plot devices.

The 11th book in this series, Lethal Legacy, came out earlier this year and the 12th is due in February 2010.

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5 Responses to Review: Killer Heat by Linda Fairstein

  1. Maxine says:

    I read the first two or three of this series as when the first one came out it sounded right up my street from the blurb. I was so disappointed though. I bore with her for a couple more books to see if I liked them more, but I never did so I gave up. I don’t know why because on paper the books have many elements that I like. But I found the mysteries weak, the characters insufficiently “sticky” in my mind, and the gore factor not worth it. Although if you had raved about this book I might have been tempted to pick her up again, from your review I would not think it a must-read.

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  2. No Maxine it’s not a ‘must read’. In fact if I hadn’t read so many other disappointing books lately I probably wouldn’t have spoken as highly of it as I did but in comparison to Deaver, Cornwell, Reichs, Slaughter and George (all other ‘old favourites’ that have been woeful this year) it was a masterpiece.

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  3. Maxine says:

    I agree with your list of authors who seem to be operating below par. On the other hand, I’ve finally just read Nemsis by Jo Nesbo and thoroughly enjoyed it – even though the solution was unrealistic there were so many great things about this book.

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  4. Maxine says:

    Sorry, should have read “Nemesis”!

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  5. Pingback: Crime Fiction Alphabet: E is for Entombed « Reactions to Reading

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