Crime Fiction Alphabet: E is for Entombed

My post this week for the crime fiction alphabet meme continues my homage to Sue Grafton, the original purveyor of a single word crime fiction alphabet, with a look at Entombed by Linda Fairstein.

This is the 7th book in Fairstein’s series featuring New York District Attorney Alexandra (Alex) Cooper and the detectives who have become her friends over the series, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace. The novel features two main cases with the first involving a skeleton which is discovered in the wall cavity of a building due to be demolished. Because Edgar Allan Poe once lived in the building the case generates more curiosity than concern initially but when it is revealed that the skeleton is a relatively recent one and that a rapist who previously terrorised the city but was never caught has struck again on a victim who used to work in the same building, the find takes on more sinister overtones.

I have read 10 of Fairstein’s 11 Alex Cooper books over the years and, unlike some of my other favourite authors from my early days of crime fiction reading, she has never truly disappointed me. Some of the things that I particularly enjoy about this series are present in abundance in Entombed including the focus on different aspects of American cultural history, a subject I am woefully ignorant about but enjoy reading about because I now have family living in the US and always feel like I should know more. In this book the focus is on Poe’s life and work and this element is woven well into the story via the introduction of a group of Poe enthusiasts called the Raven Society. Also, for fans of the series there is, as always, the friendly competition between the three main characters to answer (or is that ask?) each evening’s Final Jeopardy question which is another unique feature of this series that I’ve always gotten a kick out of.

Fairstein has held the same position as the fictional Cooper and so the legal and procedural details have always felt very genuine. With so much media comment about violence against women being depicted in crime fiction I’m particularly pleased to be talking about this series because I cannot recall a single time when any description of violence in these books felt gratuitous. Subjects such as the rape or torture of women are dealt with but generally from the point of view of the victim and how they cope and are treated by ‘the system’. Here the story focuses on the young Swedish exchange student who is raped and almost killed rather than on her rapist’s point of view. I also think the books do a good job of exploring the complex legal issues surrounding sex crimes and this one is no exception with Alex attempting to indite the rapist based on his DNA profile even though they don’t know the name of the individual.

Towards the end of this book there’s a major incident in the personal life of one of the three main characters and this highlights another strong aspect of this series which is the strong relationships that feature. Although Alex is not terribly lucky in love she does have terrific relationships with both Mike and Mercer and also has some strong female friendships that help her cope with the traumas she observes and is occasionally part of.

My only review of one of this series here at Reactions to Reading is Killer Heat which I read earlier this year. It’s probably my least favourite of the series but I still rated it a very respectable 3.5.

My previous crime fiction alphabet entries are

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11 Responses to Crime Fiction Alphabet: E is for Entombed

  1. Excellent review, Bernadette – I always like it, too, when the author has solid background knowledge that comes through in a book. To me, the people and events in a book should be genuine. When the author either has been in the profession s/he writes about, or at least is thoroughly familiar with it, everything seems more authentic.

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  2. Maxine says:

    I love the way you are addressing this meme, Bernadette. I hope you manage to get down the whole alphabet using single-word titles, I’ll be so impressed if you do!
    I read the first two or three of this series but I am afraid didn’t get into it, so did not read any more. I am not sure what it was about the combination of characters and story that put me off because on paper I should like the series. But, sadly, it was not to be.

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  3. Very good post. It was a pleasure to read about a new to me author and his book.

    Here is my Crime Fiction Alphabet: E post!

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  4. Nice post Bernadette. I’ve read about half of Fairstein’s books. Not a huge fan – think her writing is ‘okay’, but not much more.

    I do like the detail she gets into about NYC, including historic footnotes and interesting tidbits that even locals wouldn’t be aware of. I too like the way she deals with sexual crimes stuff quite well.

    I just find I can’t get into her characters (esp Alex, who seems a bit too much like an aspirational/heroic version of the author herself) and dialogue etc as much as with other writers – it seems a little contrived/on-the-nose at times…

    ENTOMBED was probably one of my faves of the ones I have read however.

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