The real-life 1980 murder of Metropolitan Opera violinist Helen Hagnes inspires an eighth case for ADA Alexandra Cooper, head of New York’s Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit.
Unless you believe, along with Freud and Fairstein, that it’s all about sex, the murder of prima ballerina Natalya Galinova doesn’t belong in the Sex Crimes Unit’s bailiwick at all. But don’t tell that to Alex, whose appetite for trying abusers has been whetted only by the case of Dr. Selim Sengor, a Turkish psychiatric resident who lures female guests to his lair, has sex with them after he’s drugged them unconscious and videotapes the festivities for archival purposes. Talya’s disappearance in the middle of a Met performance by the Royal Ballet is disturbing enough, especially after her shattered corpse is discovered at the bottom of an airshaft, but there’s no evidence of sexual assault. What keeps Alex on the case, apart from her lifelong love of dance and the boundless accommodation of her NYPD colleagues Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, is an unsavory discovery in the home of Talya’s rumored lover, powerful Broadway producer Joe Berk: four TV monitors recording the movements of unwitting dancers in changing-rooms and bathrooms. Berk is such a likely suspect, and so good at defending himself against each accusation with threats and counterpunches, that most of the other characters get tossed aside—especially Lucy DeVore, a model whose hope of playing Evelyn Nesbit in a forthcoming Berk production end all too swiftly when she falls from her red velvet swing. There’ll be more subplots, brainwaves and nuggets of backstage information en route to a damsel-in-distress finale, but Fairstein, perhaps because she’s following the outline of an actual case, manages to make the proceedings both muddled and shrill.
Don’t weep for Alex. She’s done better work (Entombed, 2005, etc.) and is sure to do so again.