COLD HIT – (Alexandra Cooper #3)
Renowned sex-crimes prosecutor and bestselling author Linda Fairstein sends her acclaimed heroine, the stylish and steely-nerved D.A. Alexandra Cooper, on a hunt for a killer inside New York City’s glitzy art world.
Alexandra Cooper has seen many murder victims, but few more disturbing than the silk-clad body of a woman, her hands and feet tied to a ladder, pulled from the turbulent waters at Manhattan’s northern tip.
With her colleagues, including NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex races against the clock and hopes for a “cold hit” — a DNA match that would reveal the identity of the murderer by linking the crime to someone already in the police database.
But as the case pulls her into the exclusive world of East Side auction houses and cutting-edge Chelsea galleries, Alex discovers she may be marked as an expendable commodity in a chilling and deadly scheme….
She joined the Manhattan District Attorney’s office in 1972 as an Assistant District Attorney. In 1976 she was promoted to the head of the sex crimes unit, where she worked to support victims of crime. During her tenure, she prosecuted many controversial and highly publicized cases.
Linda left the District Attorney’s office in 2002, and continued to consult, write, lecture and serve as a sex crimes expert for a wide variety of print and television media outlets, during a number of high-profile prosecutions.
She has written several crime novels featuring Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper. The novels draw on her own legal expertise and several have become international best sellers.
“It was after eight o’clock, and all I could see of the sun was its gleaming crown as it slipped behind the row of steep cliffs, giving off an iridescent pink haze that signaled the end of a long August day. Brackish gray water swirled and broke against the large rocks that edged the mound of dirt on which I stood, spitting up at my ankles as I stared out to the west at the Palisades. The pleats of my white linen skirt, which had seemed so cool and weightless as I moved about the air-conditioned courtroom all afternoon, were plastered against my thighs by the humidity, and I swatted off the mosquitoes as they searched for a place to land on my forearms”
“Good girls keep diaries; bad girls don’t have the time”
“There isn’t anyone in the business,” he went on, “who hasn’t been accused of selling a forged piece, by accident or design, over the years. And then there’s the current brouhaha in the auction houses, with the government charging sellers with rigging the bids to knock up the prices. On the surface, gentlemen, it’s a world of exquisite beauty and refinement. But it’s every bit as filthy and cutthroat as any other commercial enterprise, as soon as you get beneath the top layer of gouache”
“Maybe Chapman wasn’t entirely crazy – live fast, die young, and be a good-looking corpse”
“The truth is so rare, Alex. I like to use it sparingly”
“Mike ignored me and walked off. I understood the dynamic and knew that, as close as the three of us were, I was an outsider in these circumstances. The fraternity of police officers who put their lives on the line every day for the rest of us circles the wagons pretty tightly when one of their own is harmed”
“I’m telling you, the lunatics are really running the asylum when it comes to the criminal courts”
“The Internet was creating more opportunities for perverts than most of us had imagined, and law enforcement agencies were less aggressive than the cyber-geeks in coming up with solutions”
“There were days when my colleagues and I were sure there was nothing left that one human being could do to another that could shock us. And then, without fail, something else came along to prove us wrong”
“Me, I always thought the international art world was for the elegant and elite. Classy, calm, sedate, cultured, I’m tellin’ you, there are more lowlifes in this business than all the Hannibal Lecter wanna-bes in the world.”
“A hunt for a killer inside New York City’s glitzy art world”
I have made it something of a personal mission to clear a large swathe of physical books from my many library shelves, which have sat neglected and feeling sorry for themselves for many a long year, as my addiction with Kindle downloads has consigned them to a long-forgotten history. I have no idea where most of them even came from, probably one of the many charity shop forays I used to regularly participate in.
Reading this as I am in 2022, I have to remind myself that this book was originally published in 1999 (I guess that almost makes it vintage by today’s standards and just goes to show how long it has been sat on my shelves!). Crime detection and forensic techniques have evolved exponentially since then and we have also experienced the rise of the sexual and racial equality movements in the workplace, together with the enactment of anti-bullying and anti-misogynistic laws, so dropping myself back into the culture of the times is a must if I am to fully appreciate the storyline.
If I am not even attempting to play catch-up with a firmly entrenched and long running series, I will generally read book #1, so that I can get acquainted with the characters and their backstory, thus giving me the option to dip in and out of the series thereafter. However, Cold Hit, book #3 in the series, seems to have appeared on its own, on my shelves, thus I am already at a bit of a disadvantage, so here goes nothing…
When an elegantly dressed woman’s body is pulled from Manhattan’s Hudson River, with her hands and feet tied to a ladder, the race is on for Assistant DA and Head of the Sex Crimes Unit Alexandra Cooper, together with NYPD Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, to track down the killer.
The body is identified as that of Denise Caxton, estranged wife of renowned art dealer, Lowell Caxton, although they still live in separate suites within the same sumptuous apartment and have shared ownership in a high-class and prestigious NYC gallery. The third Mrs Caxton married her much older husband for status and money, whilst for Lowell, Denise was his trophy wife and protegee. Their rocky marriage was not made easier by the many extra-marital affairs, of which they both took full advantage, the drugs which Denise had begun taking and of which Lowell did not approve, nor the modern and unconventional artists she had begun cultivating in her own right, even down to opening her own separate gallery with a new partner Bryan Daughtry, himself a suspect in a very bizarre and unsolved murder case in another borough of the city.
Lowell reveals that he too had been recently attacked, receiving a hairline bullet graze, although this had also happened in a different city borough and the details had not yet been associated with those of his wife’s murder case. A straightforward murder investigation becomes much more complicated, when it transpires that Denise had first been subjected to a brutal kidnapping and rape, before her body had been dumped.
As the evidence mounts up, the team discover that there is much more to the investigation than a single isolated ‘domestic’ killing, with some of the ‘shadier’ aspects of the couple’s art dealings and indeed that of their many friends and associates, coming in for keen scrutiny. The deeper Cooper and the team dig and the closer they get to the truth, the more the bodies begin to stack up, as reputations are put on the line, the collective art community closes ranks, and the risk of exposure simply cannot be countenanced.
Things take a turn for the worst and things become very personal for the NYC Police Department, when a meeting between Mercer and Alex, with one of the prime suspects, goes horribly wrong and Mercer is left fighting for his life.
The police ‘family’ come together as one, to smash the web of lies and deceit they are collectively being spun and bring the perpetrator(s) to account. However, it seems that Alex can sometimes be her own worst enemy and whilst she did eventually manage to unravel the complicated machinations of this highly organised crime syndicate, it was only after she had placed herself in great personal danger and found herself fighting like a caged tiger, for her own survival.
The combination of murder, wrapped up together with theft and a price fixing scam, in the art world, was going to be a sure-fire winner for me, if the writing style and surrounding storyline were both good and strong, which they were and made even more authentic in that author Linda Fairstein once held a similar position in the Sex Crimes Unit, which she has assigned to her fictional namesake Alexandra Cooper.
Short, concise chapters kept this otherwise deliciously slow burning, well structured, highly textured and multi-layered story, moving seamlessly along. Fluent narrative and punchy dialogue, made for some excellent descriptive passages, which for me offered a genuine sense of time and place, yet never threatened to overpower the strength of the storyline, whose physical footprint was actually very modest, as the visit to Alex’s second home in Martha’s Vineyard, whilst offering a welcome, if very short break, never really influenced the plot. I can hear all the ‘armchair travellers’ out there groaning in dismay, however, if you are also an amateur art lover, then some good narrative on the subject does help to make up for any lack of location detail.
As I haven’t read any of the previous books featuring this well developed, crime-busting trio, I am making assumptions based on my own ‘gut feel’ about the characters. I found it relatively easy to drop into this investigation unnoticed and work out the vibes and synergy between them, although without having read book #1, I might be getting the dynamics quite wrong. At a first pass, Alex seems like quite a mismatch for the two erstwhile detectives, in fact I did wonder whether it is usual practice for an ADA to become quite so ‘hands on’ involved in a case, not that I’m complaining. If she hadn’t decided to follow a legal profession, she had always harboured dreams of becoming a ballerina. She is well educated, from a loving family background, cultured and owner of her own second home at Martha’s Vineyard. Mercer sounds like quite the gentle giant, a calming influence, but someone who will always have your back as both a colleague and friend. Mike Chapman seems like the rough diamond of the trio. Down to earth; tells it like it is; dedicated to doing his job to the best of his ability and probably at the expense of any personal relationships; will defend his friends to the very end; but if you get on his wrong side – look out! He obviously has a bit of a thing going for Alex, so I don’t know if there is any romantic history between them, as they banter and throw insults at one another, like an old married couple.
A large and sprawling cast of background ‘arty’ characters, were largely uninspiring, barely operating on the right side of the law and every one of them was a suspect, on my ever-growing list, although I came nowhere close to solving the case and unmasking the mastermind. I wondered what I could possibly say about them, which might somehow redeem them, or restore my faith in their humanity or moral compass? – and in all honesty I think my answer was, absolutely nothing! Not one single thing about this volatile cast made them compelling, easy to connect with, or to want to invest in. There was not even any good synergy between them, only mistrust and an overwhelming tendency towards duplicitous and manipulative behaviour. That applied equally to many of Alex’s work colleagues in the DA’s office, who all seemed intent on finding out whose shoulders they could stand on next, to work their way up the ladder of promotion.
Do I still feel a burning need to go back and catch up with the previous episodes of this series I have missed? – probably not. But will I be happy to get my hands on some of the remaining seventeen or so books in the series I have yet to read? – Absolutely, if the opportunity should ever arise!
A hardcover copy from my own shelves.
Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.
I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 4 out of 5 stars!