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Linda Fairstein's "Death Dance" again features Alexandra Cooper, the New York City Assistant District Attorney in charge of the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit. This novel follows the usual Fairstein formula. Alex is looking into various cases, including an alleged rape committed by a psychiatric resident after he supposedly drugged two Canadian students who were staying in his apartment. The central plot, however, deals with the murder of a dancer named Natalya Galinova at the Metropolitan Opera House.
The main suspects are Joe Berk, a fabulously wealthy theater mogul, his son and niece, Briggs and Mona, a director named Chet Dobbis, and Natalya's patron, Hubert Alden. Nor can detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman, who are investigating the case along with Alex, rule out the possibility that the perp may be one of the hundreds of stagehands, carpenters, or other behind-the-scenes workers who populate the Met. After attempts are made on the lives of other victims, the police redouble their efforts to find the killer.
Alex Cooper is, as always, a dedicated and brilliant prosecutor, and her friendship with Mike Chapman continues to be one of the most important constants in her life. Unfortunately, she has been unable to coax Mike out of the depression that brought him low after the death of his girlfriend, Val. He is still grieving and shows few signs of being able to move on with his life. Still, Alex, Mercer, and Mike are a delightful modern-day version of the Three Musketeers. Together, they interview suspects, follow up promising leads, and pool their resources in an effort to make sense of all the evidence that each case generates.
Another given in Fairstein's books is that she researches some aspect of life in New York City and provides the reader with a mini-travel guide. This time, we are treated to a history of New York's theaters, with fascinating trivia about Lincoln Center, Broadway, and the many individuals who spend their lives either in front of or behind the footlights.
The problem with this novel, as well as with others in this series, is the thin plot. Fairstein has her protagonists interviewing the same suspects repeatedly, going over the same ground ad nauseam. The deceased woman, Natalya, never comes to life, nor do any of the suspects, all of whom are caricatures. The ending is a convoluted and far-fetched excuse to put Alex in danger while Mike and Mercer try to bail her out. If Fairstein were to plan her storylines as carefully as she researches New York lore, her novels would be far more compelling and memorable.