The Bone Vault Hardcover – Jan 21 2003
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One of the special pleasures of this lively series, written by a veteran sex-crimes investigator for the Manhattan district attorney's office, is the unusual glimpse it gives readers into corners of New York no tourist and few residents ever see (The Deadhouse). Here she turns her attention to the city's major cultural edifices--the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Natural History, and the Cloisters--and takes us behind their sealed doors to investigate the murder of a museum curator whose mummified body turns up in an ancient sarcophagus just before it's shipped out of the country. Together with her partners, cops Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, assistant DA Alexandra Cooper retraces Katrina Grooten's steps from her native South Africa to the discovery of her remains on a New Jersey pier. Along the way, the mysteries of the ancient world get equal billing with the more contemporary whodunit, and Cooper and her pals get a firsthand look at the murderous New York art world, too. Fairstein's thrillers offer an in-depth tour of truly off-the-beaten-path Manhattan as well as solid plotting, well-drawn characters, and snappy dialogue. What the DA's office lost when the author retired to write full-time is the mystery fan's biggest gain! --Jane Adams
From Publishers Weekly
Fairstein's 25-year stint as head of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan DA's office once again makes for an authoritative and fact-filled mystery (her fifth after The Deadhouse) featuring alter-ego assistant DA Alexandra Cooper. "Coop" is an attractive workaholic in her 30s, ambivalent about her current relationship with an always-on-the-road NBC correspondent. While she's attending a reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, new Met director Pierre Thibodaux pulls her aside and asks for help with a recent crisis: a customs security dog found that a Met sarcophagus ready for shipment back to Cairo contained the corpse of a young female researcher from the Cloisters, the Met's medieval branch. Coop calls her usual NYPD sidekick detectives, brash Mike Chapman and burly Mercer Wallace, and the trio sets out to search among the museum's bookish staff and rich benefactors for a killer with a motive. In the meantime, Coop and Chapman, who should be a couple but don't know it yet, lecture one another on ancient history and contemporary law, and place bets on Jeopardy questions. Readers also learn about such subjects as Inuit funeral rituals, the average growth rate for human hair, the habits of stalkers and rapists and modern techniques of sadomasochism. Fairstein has a heavy-handed way of working this information into the dialogue, and the plot resolution strains credibility. Yet the quick-witted Cooper is as likable as ever, and fans of Fairstein's other books will find this satisfying-if not standout-fare.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
Katrina Grooten was a quiet, studious, hard-working intern at the Cloisters, the magnificent but foreboding home of the Museum's collection of medieval art. According to its records, Katrina had left her job several months earlier to return to her native South Africa: her eerily preserved body is grisly proof she'd never made it home. And the, whi lines on her fingernails are the telltale sign of her killer's modus operandi: arsenic poisoning.
But why would anyone want Katrina dead? As Alex and NYPD Detective Mike Chapman begin their investigations, they encounter an establishment whose culture is as curious as the exhibits they display, and whose secrets and rivalries are as ancient. And then, in the depths of the museum, they discover a number of mysterious vaults, whose bones hold the clues to Katrina's murder. . .
This was my first time reading Linda Fairstein, so for all I know all of her books are like this, but "The Bone Vault" just seemed overstuffed. I'm sure Fairstein wanted to paint a realistic portrait of the hectic, never-ending schedule of a sex-crimes prosecutor. That is admirable, and much of it kept me turning the pages, but she just keeps piling it on. There's a stalker, backstabbing co-workers, a lying teen, an S&M tape, a weekend in Martha's Vineyard, reflections on Sept. 11 and various romantic yearnings. Yet none of it has anything to do with the main mystery at hand.
Speaking of the mystery, it didn't make much of an impression. Murder among the secret lairs of Manhattan's finest museums is an interesting concept, one that drew me to the book in the first place. And Fairstein obviously did a great deal of research, cramming the book with facts, tidbits and history until it's bursting at the binding. Even worse, most of it is relayed through clunky dialogue and exposition in the form of museum tours the characters take. Some of it is interesting, but a lot of it is as dry as a, well, bone.
Unfortunately, all of it manages to bury the mystery in historical dust and subplot rubble. The suspects are interchangeable, with blank characterizations and hazy motives. The suspense level hums along at relatively low wattage. And with all the frantic goings-on before it, the climax is disappointing.
Still, I liked Alex Cooper and her rapport with cop Mike Chapman. I liked learning new things about the museums I had spent so many hours roaming. And I even liked the breakneck pace of a majority of the subplots.Read more ›
When the photograph of the deceased woman identifies her as Katrina Grooten by Thibodaux's assistant, Cooper and Detective Mike Chapman attempt to discover who would have had access to the sarcophagus in which she was buried and why anyone would have wanted the young museum employee dead. Working at the Cloisters, where the Met housed its medieval art, Katrina was part of a project that included the Museum of Natural History in a joint bestiary exhibit studying ancient monster type beasts.
While the varied descriptions of the museum exhibits and the vastness of the holdings may serve for dry reading, Ms. Fairstein keeps the pace flowing with her study of the interpersonal relationship between Detective Chapman and Alex, in an especially touching reminiscence of the aftermath of September eleventh. Fairstein's first-hand knowledge of the Manhattan D.A.'s office allows her to imbue her main character with realism, as she chronicles Alex's complex and ever expanding caseload. This truly stand out read will have readers reaching for more Alex Cooper novels and eagerly anticipating future ones.
I found myself annoyed almost from the first page, but because I have been such a huge fan of Linda Fairstein, I kept on going. And going. And going. It felt like the book grew a chapter or two every day, it was that difficult to plough through.
The main plot (and there are several confusing subplots as well) concerns the discovery of a young woman's amazingly well preserved body in a sarcophagus belonging to the Natural History Museum in New York. Or it is the Met? The description of the museums, their histories, their methods of operation, their hidden labyrinthian nooks and crannies, and above all, their rivalries, was somewhat interesting for a while, but halfway into the book, I no longer cared if I ever set foot in a museum again, New York's or otherwise.
At any rate, while investigating this murder, Alex and her cohorts, Chapman and Mercer, uncover a lot more than they bargained for. Surprise, surprise. There are plenty of loose ends that are never discussed again...but lucky us, we also get a highly annoying visit to Martha's Vineyard again, for another "girls' weekend out" at Alex's beach house, so we can all feel bad that we are not rich enough to enjoy same--from the perfect food, to the masseuse-for-three, to the luxe accommodations.
But what really sent me around the bend was the sidetrack into a soliloquy about September 11. With all due respect for the author's very real feelings about this event, the rest of America has them too.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper investigates when museum intern South African Katrina Grooten is found dead in a sarcophagus. Read morePublished on Nov. 4 2004 by Ez
Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper investigates when museum intern South African Katrina Grooten is found dead in a sarcophagus. Read morePublished on Oct. 2 2004 by Ez
I was at first pleased with the book but when it drifted into a political statement on the rights of minorities even to the point of a white woman from South Africa being raped by... Read morePublished on March 22 2004
I truly enjoyed this book and it was a page turner for me.
There were points where I got lost with all the characters, leads, museums and vaults, but frankly, I finished it in... Read more
I am fascinated by the facts that Fairstein includes in her novels. This time it is information about the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Natural History, and the Cloisters. Read morePublished on Oct. 12 2003 by Karen Kirsch
On paper, "The Bone Vault" looks like a sure-fire pleaser: a behind-the-scenes look at the wheeling and dealing of two mighty museums, New York's Metropolitan Museum of... Read morePublished on Sept. 7 2003 by sweetmolly
I like Fairstein's books. Great literature they are not, but they are very well-written and very researched. Read morePublished on Aug. 5 2003 by K. L Sadler
The book had an intriguing premise -- behind-the-scenes chicanery at two large NYC museums -- but the author's writing does not do it justice. Read morePublished on June 19 2003