Hell Gate, Linda Fairstein's twelfth novel featuring ADA Alexandra Cooper, is another ode to the history and architecture of New York City and a fascinating mystery. Fairstein has a knack for weaving multiple storylines and cases without muddling the narrative. As we all know, only ADAs on television have the luxury of having one case at a time.
The usual cast of characters is back in Hell Gate. The novel opens with the wreck of a human cargo ship and a promising New York politician crashing his car after fighting with his mistress. Sex scandals abound, yet Fairstein keeps the story from becoming salacious. As always, New York City itself is a character in the story, and the reader learns so much about the city's rich history. Some of it's tied to crimes, but much of it is there because it's fascinating.
Hell Gate borrows a few characters from the headlines. Bloomberg isn't mayor here, but he was. Paterson is the governor of New York, and Spitzer did fall from grace. There's a currency to this book that I really enjoyed. If you follow New York City and state politics, you'll enjoy quite a few snarky jabs at familiar faces, names and characters.
If you're a fan of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, you should really read Linda Fairstein. She ran the SVU at the Manhattan District Attorney's office for decades, and now she writes wonderful novels. Thankfully, she manages to write one each year, but I find I even enjoy rereading them, which is rare for mystery novels. She is one of my favorite authors.
Normally, I recommend starting with Fairstein's first novel (Final Jeopardy), but I think the political storylines in this novel might entice fans of political thrillers, and these storylines have some amount of currency to them. Yes, some of the characters may be unfamiliar to new readers, but the focus is really on the mystery and politics in this novel; there are mentions to the social lives of our favorite detectives, but even new readers will be able to follow the story. The novel does begin with a lot of characters. I've read all of Fairstein's novels, and there were a few faces popping up I could not remember. I wasn't sure if they were knew to this book or not, but Fairstein provides enough background that it doesn't really matter if you remember the characters or not. Either way, I really enjoyed it.