If you thought Sex Crimes Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper had already examined a body planted on every single block of Manhattan (Night Watch, 2012, etc.), you’ve forgotten about Central Park.
The young woman perhaps three months dead who’s washed up beneath Bow Bridge reunites Alex with her old buddy Detective Mike Chapman, NYPD Homicide. And her other friends would love to see Alex and Mike thrown even closer together. Although the crime is so old, the killer so long gone and the victim so impossible to identify that Alex suspects that her vindictive higher-ups have tossed her the case to guarantee that she will fail, she’s still likely to spend plenty of time with Mike, and there’s no reason that can’t be quality time, even intimate time. The fly in the ointment is that Mike’s being stalked by Judge Jessica Pell, who’s miffed that he’s been pulled off her security detail because the threats she claims imperiled her life don’t seem to have panned out, and she’s stuck on Mike and antagonistic toward Alex. The evidence in the Central Park murder points to serial rapist Raymond Tanner, but Alex annoys everyone by her persistence in tying the case to the kidnapping a generation ago of little Lucy Dalton from the famed Dakota. Luckily, Alex is massively well-informed about the park’s history and topography, and nearly every witness she talks to gets a chance to add more details about the neighborhood.
Fairstein seems less interested in dramatizing official procedure or generating suspense than in serving as a relentlessly didactic tour guide in the mode of Margaret Truman. You’ll learn an awful lot about Central Park, but one thing you won’t learn is that the setting guarantees a successful thriller.