cover image Likely to Die

Likely to Die

Linda A. Fairstein. Scribner Book Company, $24 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-684-81488-9

Several notorious recent crimes perpetrated in New York City and elsewhere inform Fairstein's follow-up to last year's Final Jeopardy, foremost among them the murder and assumed rape of a prominent Manhattan physician in her hospital office. When Fairstein, who's head of the Manhattan DA's sex crimes unit, sticks to the basics of these cases and the prosecutorial and police procedures used to handle them, she writes with an authority that crime buffs will relish. But Fairstein has already chronicled the life of a sex-crimes prosecutor in her 1994 memoir, Sexual Violence. Here, she seems to be mythologizing her life and work: returning narrator Alexandra Cooper is Fairstein's apparent alter ego (from job to personality to hair color), and too often the book feels self-aggrandizing. Whatever talent at fiction Fairstein possessed she apparently drained in writing the superior Final Jeopardy. The investigation into the doctor's killing unfolds with minimal suspense. There are a few false leads, flatly presented, a couple of cliched attempts at tension--a car tries to run Cooper down; she receives a threatening note--and a villain who, when revealed, seems arbitrary. The circuitous road to justice is cluttered with story debris, including a lackadaisical side-trip to England and pedantic lecturing on criminal justice issues by both Cooper and the cops she works with, plus juvenile banter among these characters and tips on how a stylish ADA does her hair and nails. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternates; Mystery Guild main selection; author tour. (June)