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Legal Thrillers

Entombed, Linda Fairstein, Pocket Star, $9.99.

I've come very late to Linda Fairstein's party, but it's a mistake that's about to be rectified. I'd read her first book, Likely to Die, didn't love it, and was diverted by the press of so many other books to read. Our book club fixed that recently by selecting Entombed for a recent discussion. While no-one would read Linda Fairstein for her workmanlike and serviceable, even sometimes clunky, prose, there are lots of other delights this author has to offer a reader. One is a very strong central character, Alex Cooper, who, like Fairstein herself, is a New York city attorney in the District Attorney's office working with special victims. Anyone familiar with Law and Order (and who really isn't - it's on 24/7) will be familiar not only with special (a.k.a. sexual assault) victims but with some of the duties of the DA's office, many of which involve actual investigation. The parts of the book that deal with Alex's job are completely fascinating, and have the ring of authenticity. Because Fairstein is a novelist, though, she also gives her books interesting and different settings - this book begins with a skeleton found walled up in an old house once lived in by Edgar Allan Poe, and leads Alex to Poe's Cottage in New York City as well as to the New York Botanical Garden. If you are anything like our book club, you will probably feel a strong urge to re-read "The Raven" when you're done, as well as perhaps having a desire to visit the Botanical Garden, which sounds beautiful.

Fairstein also has several sidebar characters who are cops, and since I've only read the first book and this most recent one, I can only assume these are recurring characters because they're heavily involved not only as working partners but also as friends. These two characters were somewhat foggy to me; I was mainly interested in Alex, and I'm assuming that's because I'm not as invested in them as a regular reader of this series would be. But it does provide Alex access not only to the legal side of things but to the police side of things, which covers all bases. There are two separate plot threads in this book, both of which involve some interesting police procedural details as well as legal ones. Our book club as a whole felt some of the plot threads were summarily dropped while others went on too long, but overall we all felt (and I agree) that this was a fast and entertaining read. It was kind of like reading a Law and Order episode, and as I've yet to meet a mystery reader (or author) who isn't a fan of the show, this is a good thing. I'd definitely be up for more episodes in Alex's life - the next book is set in the Metropolitan Museum.

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