If you watch any of the versions of Law and Order that are continually running on one cable channel or another, the local police are quickly pulled into the case following an accidental discovery of a crime. The police lead the way for 20-30 minutes and then the prosecutors start to take over. By the end, we only see cameos of the police as they make brief testimonies and look for last minute evidence. Occasionally, a high-profile crime involves the federal authorities who do their best to oust the local prosecutors and cops. The federal authorities seem to have their own agendas.
Cover-Up is quite a change from that tried-and-true formula. As the story opens, federal prosecutor Melanie Vargas has taking her FBI boyfriend, Dan O'Reilly, out for dinner to celebrate his birthday. Before the evening ends, he's summoned to the crime scene and invites Melanie along. When the local prosecutor can't take the violence at the horrific scene, Melanie finds herself the woman on the stop and is soon handling the press. But the crime scene makes no sense. Why would top investigative reporter, Suzanne Shepard, be out in a part of Central Park known for gay rendezvous in a rainstorm? What's the reason for the extreme violence perpetrated against her? Someone has a grudge, but that's true of everyone she's ever reported on.
The case soon takes on political overtones when the father of one of Melanie's fellow prosecutors is linked to Shepard by a threatening package. Melanie's boss is about to get married and can't be bothered to run proper interference and Melanie is accused of running a cover-up.
In the middle of all this, Melanie acquires a stalker who likes to send threatening e-mails.
At the same time, Melanie finds her relationship with Dan up in the air when Dan's ex-father-in-law dies. The personal dimension is further developed as Melanie struggles with baby sitters and a cheating ex-husband who doesn't take his paternal responsibilities very seriously.
As the case evolves, more and more suspects appear. Each has a decidedly unpleasant aspect. Despite this, the judges aren't at all sympathetic and make progress more difficult than it needs to be.
The suspense, danger, and pace of the story build nicely over the course of the book. The ending will surprise you and provide an appropriate coda for a story of intense hate and sadism.
Ms. Martinez has a nice ability to capture the common elements of a day, as well as tell her gripping tale. That contrast makes her story telling seem more real, which makes the tension more powerful. You'll also find yourself being interested in the characters, even the ones that aren't developed very much. It's a rare skill to be able to make even incidental characters seem interesting.
Ms. Martinez could do a little more to steer the reader into feeling the pulse behind the story by what she has her narrator think about. Once Ms. Martinez develops that ability, there's no stopping this excellent author. With that skill, she won't have to rely quite so much on shock tactics to get your attention.
If you find the gruesome a little hard to take, you'll find this book to be over the top. But compared to much crime literature, I found the violence level to be acceptable.