5.0 out of 5 stars Alex Cooper is a clever but vulnerable heroine
This book wastes no time in setting out some very juicy bait. Shortly after faking her own death as part of a sting operation planned by law enforcement types on the Jersey side of the river, political science professor Lola Dakota is found doing an excellent job of not faking her death --- having been squished by an elevator in her Manhattan apartment building after...
Published on April 1 2004 by Tin Man
3.0 out of 5 stars 4th but not best -- plus I have a Peeve...
So here we have Linda Fairstein's fourth novel about her leading lady Alexandra Cooper. Fairstein in real life (not sure when she does her writing) shares the same job as Cooper in fiction, head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the DA's Office in Manhattan; so the streets of Gotham are once again our setting. And the now familiar supporting cast, especially Alex' foil,...
Published on Feb. 20 2002 by Jerry Bull
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5.0 out of 5 stars Alex Cooper is a clever but vulnerable heroine,
This book wastes no time in setting out some very juicy bait. Shortly after faking her own death as part of a sting operation planned by law enforcement types on the Jersey side of the river, political science professor Lola Dakota is found doing an excellent job of not faking her death --- having been squished by an elevator in her Manhattan apartment building after first having been strangled. By the time you finish the first chapter, the hook is set, and author Fairstein is reeling you in like a trout. Don't fight it.
Cooper and Chapman are equals in intellect, but whenever Cooper gets knocked to the ground, Chapman is there to pick her up and dust her off. It would have been far more satisfying if just once Cooper hauled off and smacked somebody. Given some of the lowlifes Ms. Fairstein has sent up the river, I wouldn't be at all surprised if there were occasions when she felt like bypassing the legal system altogether and just opening up a jumbo can o' whoop-ass. I can't think of a better way to relieve the kind of professional stress that must surely be a part of Ms. Fairstein's life than letting her fictional alter ego dish out a little pay-back.
But then that wouldn't really be in character for Cooper. In this team, she supplies the glitz, and Chapman, the grit. In the end it's not that Cooper is a thinly-drawn character, it's that she's a subtle string quartet competing for the reader's attention with a supporting cast that's as hard to ignore as an under-rehearsed marching band --- and just as much fun. So even if she is quiet and cultured, even if she has a weekend place on Martha's Vineyard and a network news dude for a boyfriend, Cooper gets the job done, and in a fine and entertaining fashion.
2.0 out of 5 stars Endless and Unfocused,
By A Customer
I'm a Fairstein fan, having loved her first and third books (and having found the second not quite up to par), but "The Deadhouse" is pretty much D.O.A. Extremely convoluted and even confusing at times, it rambles on and on...and gets nowhere. Huge clues (like shoe boxes full of cash) are dropped into the story and then ignored by our heroine Alexandra Cooper and her wise-cracking sidekick, Det. Chapman. The plot twist that propels this tired tale to its conclusion doesn't pop up until page 300 of the paperback addition, and by that time you probably won't give a hoot whodunit or why. (Besides, it's patently absurd.) I did find the historical information on Blackwell's Island fascinating (hence the two stars), but again, Fairstein has no idea what to do with it. And isn't it strange that in four books, we've never met anyone in Alex's family? The poor woman seems to spend every holiday alone! Worst of all, the "thing" that the murderer is killing everyone to get his/her hands on is never even found. Whatever happened to a writer wrapping up her plotlines? Fairstein is capable of terse, linear story telling, but she's just not a good enough writer to handle the red-herring laden plot she's devised for herself.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great story, would have liked more history in it!,
Fairstein is a new author for me. I actually spotted the view of the smallpox hospital and that's what made me pick the book up. I have been researching hospitals and institutions, any place where deaf people could have been sent just for being deaf in the U.S. (from about 1850 through the 1940's). So I often come across pictures, photographs, etc. of these haunting places. This was obviously a fiction, but I enjoyed the information concerning these islands and their institutions in New York. Incredibly amazing on several fronts. First off, we sure take our freedoms for granted now...back then, no one had freedoms except the very wealthy and powerful. Even if they committed heinous crimes, they could live in fairly splendiforous means with lower class criminals providing slave labor. Second, it's incredible that so many of these places were architecturally magnificent. Did their architects even consider what these places were going to be used for? What was the purpose of making a place that beautiful, where people were sent to die of infectious diseases? Kind of odd if you ask me!
I enjoyed the books protoganist, Alex Cooper, though I get a bit uncomfortable with stories having to do with sexual crimes if it is overdone as a means to sell books. I don't think Fairstein is guilty of this and I will most probably pick up another one of her books, because I liked this one. I enjoyed the sense of friendship between Cooper and the cop...they truly enjoy one another's company purely as friends, and they complement each others strengths and weaknesses. I've had a couple of friends like that, both at work and in my interpreters, so I am pleased to see it written about well in a book.
The story concerning a woman who dies, even after gaining protection from her abusive husband, is very complex. It got a little confusing trying to follow the threads of the story in some parts. But on the whole, an enjoyable mystery. Just would have liked a lot more historical information about that island and its hospitals...maybe the author would consider writing a nonfiction about that?
Karen L. Sadler,
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting plot but not much else,
As is standard with Fairstein novels, The Deadhouse has an interesting plot/mystery but Fairstein's poor writing detracts from the novel. Read this for the mystery-but don't expect anything else.
The main focus of The Deadhouse revolves around the murder of a professor, Lola Dakota. Setting this in academia could have provided Fairstein with a lot to write about and rich characters to explore. Unfortunately (and I say this as a former academic), Fairstein seems to be completely clueless about how universities really function-and how divided academic disciplines are. Even at an experimental school, very few professors work across disciplines. As a medical historian, I was also insulted by Fairstein's bizarre assumption that an archeological dig would include a political scientist and a biologist. Historians and anthropologists would slit their throats before they allowed people with such different approaches to walk near an archeological site. Academic politics are characterized by a surreal number of turf battles (ironically, these battles-among people who essentially do the same thing-would have provided a much more interesting backdrop for the novel).
Along the way, various different sex crimes occur and one gets a glimpse into the problems and issues which confront D.A.s working on sex crimes. This is always the most interesting part of Fairstein's novels and I would have preferred it if she followed several of these stories all the way through.
I also have a peeve with Alexandra. She is perfect-perfectly bland-and I find myself annoyed by the fact that Fairstein always likes to keep her at the "perfect" age for a single woman-36. Why can't she age? Why is she always virtuously eating salads? Why does Jake like her? There is nothing real about this woman. She's a piece of cardboard. The other characters are poorly developed as well (including Lola-she's a non-academic's silly idea of what a maverick academic is).
Read this for the mystery-which is, as always, interesting but if you are looking for characters to care about, skip this one.
3.0 out of 5 stars 4th but not best -- plus I have a Peeve...,
So here we have Linda Fairstein's fourth novel about her leading lady Alexandra Cooper. Fairstein in real life (not sure when she does her writing) shares the same job as Cooper in fiction, head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the DA's Office in Manhattan; so the streets of Gotham are once again our setting. And the now familiar supporting cast, especially Alex' foil, detective Mike Chapman and a few others in bit parts, are reprised from the first three stories. A serious boyfriend, NBC news correspondent "Jake", has a fairly large part first coaxing Alex to come "shack up" and later throwing her away over a hot murder lead he won't share with our leading lady.
The plot this time is about college professor Lola Dakota who has been stalked by an ex-husband so ruthlessly that the NJ DA's office stages a fake murder to entrap the ex, which ostensibly works, only to have Lola turn up really dead just a few hours later under mysterious circumstances. Thereafter, we get a hundred boring pages about an obscure island near Manhattan which housed prisoners and insane people and smallpox victims, et al, during mostly the 1800's. Various of the college staff are working there as (I guess -- it's not all that clear) historians and archaeologists, and there are rumors of missing diamonds and so on to add to the intrigue. Meanwhile, the repartee between Cooper and Chapman, their relationship often bordering on the amorous in earlier stories, but rather biting in this one, breaks up the history lesson as the murder leads get worked in a chapter here and there.
I recommend these stories, but urge the interested to start with any of the first three not this one. To me, this one lacks cohesiveness, lacks charm, and lacks tension: while the suspense does build, the ending to some extent comes too quick and too easy, despite some trumped up personal jeopardy to Cooper.
And now to my pet peeve -- I absolutely cannot believe for one second that a top executive in the NYC DA's office runs around on one single case as much or more than the detectives solving crimes. Last I knew, DA's prepare and try cases, grill witnesses including the police, and spend more time with law books and associates in court than roaming the streets hunting for clues. If we weren't told Alex' real job, with brief stops to her office for literally a few minutes here or there on other matters, we would swear she was a police detective working undercover or something. I really have to wonder if Fairstein does this in real life, because if not, why does she insist Cooper run around as though she were a disciple of Sara Paretsky's V.I. Warchawski. I have to put this prejudice off to the side every time I read one of these stories.
Lastly, it's not obvious that Fairstein is improving with experience. Whereas you can almost see the strength of Lisa Scottoline's skills improving every couple of books (she's up to 8 now), we see here more a very good entry level followed by little additional development of expertise. I think Fairstein could do better, and if it's a lack of time getting in the way, maybe she really should "quit her day job" (as they say) and write full time. Maybe a spinoff series about a lady detective might be a fine idea as well -- she certainly seems to enjoy the action she insists in portraying. We shall see.
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots to Yawn At,
In this slow-moving entry in the Alex Cooper series, Linda Fairstein gets badly bogged down in some fairly esoteric New York history as she tries to tell the tale of a murdered college professor named Lola Dakota.
It seems that Lola had an all-consuming interest in Blackwell Island, a corollary to Manhattan Island that once housed a horrific set of prisons and hospitals during the historic plague years. Fairstein gives us an exhaustive and confusing history of the place, including its famed smallpox hospital, long gone to ruins. It's not that the history is not interesting, but it bogs the story down time and again until the plot lines often becomea confusing maze.
There are many possible suspects in the murder of Lola, whose life was apparently as flamboyant as her name. Alex and Chapman are on the case, examining everyone from Lola's abusive and shady ex-husband, the prime suspect, to Lola's equally shady professorial colleagues at the university. Since the murder has taken place during the Christmas holidays, the investigation--and the story--frequently gets sytmied by a lack of momentum.
Never is the book more frustrating than when we get more-than-we-needed glimpses into Alex's private life, this time with new and serious beau Jake, a high-profile TV journalist. As in the first three books, Fairstein's descriptions of Alex's personal life never quite come to life. The scenes between Jake and Alex, from the bedroom to the elegant restaurants they frequent, are embarrassingly stilted and ring untrue. Contrast that with the high-energy relationship between Alex and her cohorts, Chapman and Mercer, and the lesser characters in Alex's world of cops and prosecutors, and it seems even more out of place.
In "The Deadhouse," particularly, much more so than the first three novels, this juxtaposition between Alex's intriguing and gritty work life and her sophisticated, wealthy, and--yes, boring--personal life, gets in the way of the story. The first three novels moved along at such a fast and interesting pace that the reader almost welcomed the breaks. But this novel is so slow-moving in every way, that the breaks simply serve to deaden one's interest. By the end of the book, I didn't much care who killed Lola or why, and I found the revelation of the murderer as big a yawn as the story itself.
Fairstein is a fine writer, and usually weaves an interesting tale, which made "The Deadhouse" even more disappointing to read. It is worth reading for those who are Alex Cooper addicts, but I certainly would not recommend this as a first taste of Fairstein. She can do much, much better.
4.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Page-Turner.....,
Assistant D.A., Alexandra Cooper, was sure it was the victim's husband. She'd been working for almost two years to get Kings College political science professor, Lola Dakota, to press charges. Dakota's husband had abused her, stalked her, and terrorized her, but on the day she was strangled and thrown down an elevator shaft, her husband had an airtight alibi. He was in jail. The only clue she and her favorite homicide detective, Mike Chapman, have to work with, is a note found in Lola's pocket with the word "deadhouse". Their investigation leads them to Kings College and her collegues, where they find out that Lola was involved with a special historical project on Roosevelt Island, a desolate strip of land in the East River where nineteenth century New York quarantined its sick, dying, and insane, and the worst of its criminals. Always tenacious and persistent, Chapman and Cooper dig deep, following leads and literally leaving no stone unturned, but won't quit until they find the murderer and get to the whole truth..... Linda Fairstein is back with another intricately plotted installment of her Alex Cooper series. The story is compelling, full of atmosphere and suspenseful, riveting scenes. The characters are engaging, well drawn, and interesting, and the writing is crisp, smart and intelligent. Ms Fairstein's indepth knowledge and expertise in the workings of the D.A.'s office and police department add real credibility to the story, and her extensive and detailed research into the history of Roosevelt Island is fascinating, and really makes this thriller stand out. The book does have a couple of weaknesses. The subplots about a stalker and Alex's and Chapman's separate love lives, become tiresome, adds nothing to the plot, and bog down the intriguing story line, and the ending is rushed and unsatisfying, leaving a few to many loose ends. But that said, The Deadhouse is a well paced, entertaining thriller that's hard to put down. This is the fourth novel of a great and realistic series. For those new to Alex Cooper and company, start at the beginning with Final Jeopardy, and read them all. If you're already a fan, The Deadhouse doesn't disappoint.
1.0 out of 5 stars Where's the chemistry?,
Actually, I think the book deserved 3 stars, but I wanted to bring down the 4 and a half star average. There was only one problem with this book and that is the chemistry between Micheal and Alexandra. If you look back at relationships in books and television, you'll know that the two male and female characters need to have unreqited sexual chemistry for it to work. For example, when they first filmed the pilot for X-Files, Scully had a long term boyfriend. Fortunately, they edited the scenes out.
Here, we have Blondie and her faulted relationship to Jake. He doesn't trust her with his sources, and doesn't show respect for the dead... only interested in getting a scoop. And now Mike has a relationship to Valerie- a recovering cancer patient. Fairstein doesn't manage to hold the chemistry between Alex and Mike like the three previous books. Less banter and no sexual tension, only uncomfortable scenes that suggest both are jealous of the other's partners. It would have worked if there was chemistry, but apart from Mike rubbing Alex's hands warm at the police station... their relationship has become too professional.
SPOILER ALERT. If you haven't read the book, don't read this paragraph. Read the book? Okay. It's great to see Mercer is going to be a dad. He's never been a neccessary character before, and the series would work without him there. Netherless, as much as I don't care for that character his new life began the tense scene in the car where Alex poked fun at what she assumed was Mike's singular sex life. Painful, but the fight was funny. Both characters in their mid 30s are feeling time close in on them.
In general, a good, tension filled book. Of course, Alex is such a wimp in the end, following the bad guy into the hospital. "He isnt armed... scratch his eyes out with your manicure!!!!" I yelled. One question though... I don't know much about pounds. Down Under we use kilos. Isn't 115 pounds extremely light for a 5'10" woman. With blonde hair, ballerina's muscle tone... Fairstein desribing a media image of a perfect woman. I like that Chapman describes her as too skinny. Perhaps next time Alex will eat a steak with Jake, instead of him eating the steak and Alex having soup and salad. She's physically weak, and in her line of work she should know the dangers of being so defenseless.
One more point. The ending was unsatisfactory. Sure, itll be exciting to see how they deal with the stalker. No doubt it will be the end-of-the-book cliffhanger where our bony heroine manages to save herself, the day, and catchthe bad guy/girl all at once. Hopefully the next book sees more chemistry between Cooper and Chapman.
5.0 out of 5 stars Another compelling novel in the Alex Cooper series,
I've liked all of Linda Fairstein's novels so far. FINAL JEOPARDY, LIKELY TO DIE and COLD HIT. THE DEADHOUSE is no exception. I like the main character, Alexandra Cooper, who has the same occupation as Linda--in charge of the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney's office in Manhattan. Alex is smart and savvy, a strong but feminine woman with plenty of attitude, which she's not afraid to use when it's needed. I also like NYPD detective Mike Chapman, who assists Alex in her sleuthing, teases her constantly but affectionately, and shares with her a certain amount of chemistry.
The Deadhouse is a contemporary story with fascinating historical details of a part of New York I didn't know existed. It begins with the apparent death by murder of political science professor, Lola Dakota, which later becomes an actual death by murder. (You'll have to read the book to understand what that means.)
Number one suspect is Lola's abusive husband Ivan Kravolic, but Lola had also made enemies at King's College where she taught. Lola was evidently not an easy person to like and there are enough other suspects to keep Alex and the reader guessing. A slip of paper in the pocket of Lola's sweater leads Alex to The Deadhouse on Roosevelt Island where people were confined for various reasons in the nineteenth century. The plot is a complex one that kept me in suspense all the way to the exciting climax.
The movie of Final Jeopardy was a good one, and a successful one. I hope the rest of the books, including The Deadhouse, will be made into movies too. The Deadhouse certainly has enough action and suspense to qualify.
As always, Linda Fairstein's own work experience blesses the story with authenticity, but that would not be enough to make a great novel without her excellent writing, vivid characterization and a plot that sizzles. My attention was held completely all the way through.
3.0 out of 5 stars Did not enjoy it as much as I did her previous works,
The book starts with a 'staged murder' of an abused wife in order to fool her dangerous husband. Unfortunately, a few hours after he is arrested, his wife is strangled and thrown into an elevator shaft. The question is: Did the husband have a backup plan to kill his wife?
I will not spoil the book, but I was unhappy with the story itself. It is good to familiarize myself with the characters that I left behind in COLD HIT, however, the story is not really about them. It involves an abandoned hospital, located in Roosevelt Island, where very sick immigrants would be taken in order to die. Lola Dakota (the aforementioned wife) has an interest in this place that will be made clear at the end of the book. There are conspiracies, hit-and-runs, and old secrets involved in the mystery of the abandoned hospital.
Alexandra Cooper (Fairstein's protagonist) goes through the paces to solve the problem in this book but I think it would have preferred it had this book not been part of the series. I enjoyed Cooper in the other books and I suggest you try them.
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The Deadhouse by Linda Fairstein (Audio CD - Sept. 1 2001)
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