DEATH DANCE - Linda Fairstein

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Death Dance is the 8th book Linda Fairstein's series featuring Alexander Cooper. This was my third outing with Alex Cooper, having read a couple of the early books in the series sometime ago, and it was particularly interesting to see where the series had gone in the intervening years.

Alex is an Assistant District Attorney, working in the sex crime division, passionately devoted to her job and to the victims she sees herself as representing. Teamed up firstly with long-time friend Mercer Wallace, they are investigating the drugging rape of two visiting Canadian girls, when called to a missing prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Natalya Galinova after first being listed as officially missing, is eventually found brutally killed in the backstage area of the Opera House. Alex and Mercer team up with Mike Chapman, the third member of a group of long-time friends and colleagues, to investigate the murder. They do this in and around the backstage of the Opera House and amongst some powerful players in the New York theatre world.

Along with these two major investigations, the NY Police are also trying to track down a serial rapist who is attacking women in local parks.

The central plot regarding the death of the ballerina takes most of the focus in the book and, aside from Alex having a life long love of ballet, it was never really clear why a sex-crime prosecutor would be involved so closely in the non-sex related death of Galinova. The investigation of the death proceeds very slowly, intertwined with some interesting aspects of the Opera House, theatre venues in New York and with a cast of "theatre types" both management and talent. There is an unfortunate inconsistency in some of that follow-up which dragged me right out of the story and some fem-jep towards the end which really seemed too convenient. Meanwhile, the investigation into the rape of the two Canadian girls proceeds quickly and a suspect is easily identified. The resolution of that crime is less satisfactory from Alex's point of view, but could have struck a strong chord of reality if the final page dramatic climax had been avoided. The rapist in the park is also resolved but again, the methodology used is a little out of the blue and the plot line never really got much focus throughout the book.

One of the strengths of this book is the long-term relationship between the three investigators. They know each other well and have been through a lot together. The references to previous events, presumably from earlier books, are quite easy to assimilate and give a real feeling for the long-term friendship.

The rather crowded plot; the inexplicable actions in a sub-part of the ballerina's death; a glaring piece of fem-jep which seemed rather unnecessary, and a final "rapping up" of absolutely every loose end on all the sub-plots on the final pages of the book detracted. For me, this was an interesting read, but not one of my all-time favourites from this author.

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"New York Times" bestselling author Linda Fairstein takes readers behind the scenes of New York City's theater world -- from Lincoln Center to the lights of Broadway -- in a riveting new novel, rich with her trademark blend of cutting-edge legal issues, skillful detective work, and heart-stopping suspense. Teaming up with longtime friends -- NYPD's Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace -- Assistant DA Alex Cooper investigates the disappearance of world-famous dancer Natalya Galinova, who has suddenly vanished backstage at Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera House -- during a performance.

The three colleagues are soon drawn into the machinations of New York City's secretive theatrical community, where ambition takes many forms, including those most deadly. Among Galinova's lovers is Joe Berk, the colorful, strong-willed boss of the Berk Organization, one of four family companies that own all the legitimate theaters on Broadway. The aging ballerina was using Berk to help revive her career at the time of her disappearance.

Cooper, Chapman, and Wallace go underground and backstage at the Met, explore Berk's unusual apartment on top of the Belasco Theatre with its rumored ghostly resident, and then discover bizarre circumstances at City Center, which has a peculiar history not one of them knew about until now.

Within the glamorous but sordid inner sanctums of the Broadway elite, the team confronts the ruthless power brokers who control both the stars and the stages where they appear. They meet Joe's niece Mona Berk, who is mounting a vicious campaign to extract her share of the family fortune, and stunning starlet Lucy DeVore, whose beauty may be her fatal undoing. Chet Dobbis is theartistic director of the Metropolitan Opera, and therefore privy to the most scandalous exploits among its famous inhabitants. He also knows every inch of the labyrinthine building into which the ballerina disappeared...

Meanwhile, Alex is working on a very different case, using a creative technique to nab a physician who has been drugging women in order to assault them. As Dr. Selim Sengor eludes capture, Alex must navigate the new investigative world of DFSA -- drug-facilitated sexual assault -- intent on proving him guilty.

Complicating her quest is the explosive legal and ethical dilemma of using the existing DNA databank to solve new cases. Can Alex convince a judge to let her prosecute a man for a violent crime using DNA that was collected for a prior case in which he was never charged? Or do the suspect's civil rights prevent law enforcement from keeping his DNA on file to be used against him at any future time?

"Death Dance" is a spellbinding thriller combining a former prosecutor's fresh insight into hot-button legal issues with the unique history and spectacle of New York theater, and its shocking twists make this novel Linda Fairstein's most chilling adventure yet.

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