Top critical review
Alex and Mike investigate the death of a college professor.
on October 15, 2001
In "The Deadhouse," Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper and Detective Mike Chapman once again team up to solve a homicide. Lola Dakota (an unfortunate choice of name) is the victim. Dakota was a distinguished professor of political science and an acknowledged expert on the history and politics of New York City. Someone strangled Lola and pushed her down an elevator shaft in the apartment building where she lived.
Who had reason to want Lola dead? Certainly her husband, Ivan Kralovic, is a suspect, since he had been abusing and stalking Lola for years. Lola's colleagues at King's College are suspects, since she had clashed with some of them. Alex and Mike interview many of Lola's friends and acquaintances in an effort to find a motive for murder.
Complicating the case is the fact that Lola was working on a historical project, an architectural dig on Roosevelt Island (formerly called Blackwells Island), in Manhattan. It seems that many years ago, the island was used to keep New York's undesirables away from the rest of the city's population. At one time or another, prisoners, people who were destitute and insane, or victims of contagious diseases such as smallpox, were confined to institutions on this island. Lola and her colleagues are using the tools of urban archaeology to uncover some of the island's secrets. Could this work somehow be connected to Lola's death?
I like the characters of Alex Cooper and Mike Chapman. Alex is beautiful, smart, sophisticated and dedicated to her job. Mike is irreverent, politically incorrect and a great detective. Although Mike and Alex are seeing other people, it is obvious that they care for one another deeply, and their attraction to one another is a recurring theme in this series.
Another positive aspect of this book is the background information about Roosevelt Island that Fairstein provides. Fairstein obviously researched the island's history thoroughly and I found this aspect of the novel fascinating.
Unfortunately, the mystery of Lola's murder is handled very badly. The suspects are not compelling characters and the solution to the mystery is incoherent and implausible. The ending of the novel falls flat and is extremely unsatisfying. I am tired of killers who endlessly explain why they committed murder to their captives. This device is used once again here and it detracts from the ending, which is devoid of excitement and suspense. As much as I like the the main characters of Alex and Mike, I give "The Deadhouse" low marks as a mystery and suspense novel.