A pair of hot cases carry Alexandra Cooper from her bailiwick as head of Manhattan’s Sex Crimes Prosecution unit back to a past series of crimes—and the distant past of an American literary giant.
According to DNA samples recovered from the scene of a brand-new assault on a Swedish student, the Silk Stocking Rapist, who’s been quiet for five years, is at it again. But the strangling of freelance writer Emily Upshaw with an actual silk stocking, decides Alex, must be the work of a copycat. Even before she’s begun the fight to persuade her boss to file an indictment of John Doe as the Silk Stocking Rapist lest the statute of limitations wipe his slate clean, Alex is faced with a Jane Doe: a skeletal corpse immured alive in a downtown tenement that NYU is bulldozing. The victim was evidently walled up alive in the Poe House some 25 years ago, in a manner strongly reminiscent of its one-time tenant’s horror classic “The Cask of Amontillado.” Readers asking what John and Jane Doe have to do with each other haven’t been paying attention to Alex’s six earlier adventures (The Kills, 2004, etc.). Instead of stooping to the easy task of picking holes in the logic or plausibility of a pair of boldly plotted investigations that entangle Poe’s memory and methods in unnerving new chapters of violence, they’re advised to sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the torrent of crime scene detail, Poe allusions large and small, and anecdotes about sundry lesser crimes before the two headline cases go their separate ways.
Avoiding both the surfeit of personal chitchat and the whispers of international intrigue that have marred several of Alex’s earlier cases, Fairstein delivers half a great suspense novel and an honorable attempt at a second half for her best outing since Alex’s strong debut in Final Jeopardy (1996).