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by Linda Fairstein
MacMillan Publishing Company, 1997
Review by Su Terry on Jun 8th 2004

Likely to Die

            Likely to Die by Linda Fairstein is the second in the "Alex Cooper mystery series." Alex Cooper is an assistant DA and bureau chief for the Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecutions Unit.  Likely to Die focuses on the vicious rape-murder of a world famous female neurosurgeon, professor, and humanitarian in her office at Mid-Manhattan Medical Center.

Likely to Die is set in the mid-1990s upscale Manhattan six months after the events of Final Jeopardy. The novel opens with the discovery of the brutal murder of Gemma Dogen, a true uber- physician. She is the head of neurosurgery, a professor in the medical school, and in her spare time offers her service free to third world countries. Unfortunately as wonderfully as she sounds, someone wanted her dead. Given the brutally of the attack, Dogen could not survive her wounds and was labeled, "likely to die." Was the vicious murder done by a spiteful student, an envious colleague, or a secret lover in her otherwise empty personal life.  Equally possible is one of the numerous homeless people that live under the medical complex who sneak up at night, steal surgical scrubs for clothing, and seemingly have free run of the complex after midnight. DA Battaglia, Alex's boss, has designated Dogen's rape-murder as top priority and has assigned Cooper as bureau chief of the Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecutions Unit as chief investigator. It does not help the press any that Battaglia's wife is on the Board of the Medical Center. As the investigation proceeds, Alex juggles her usual high number of cases, copes with pressure from her boss, and fends off Mickey Diamond, an unscrupulous court reporter for the NY Post. Along the way we are introduced to rogues' gallery of characters from the medical profession including, Geoffrey Dogen, Gemma's overly concerned ex-husband who was conveniently mountain climbing with his new wife, Robert Spector, the new head of neurosurgery who had nothing to lose and everything to gain from her death, and two overly zealous medical students, John DuPre and Coleman Harper, each with a few skeletons hidden in their closets. Alex works with her faithful staff of sidekicks, the smart talking Detective Mike Chapman, her ever-faithful and very pregnant office assistant, Laura Wilkie, and her neighborhood psychologist, David Mitchell and his dog, Zac (short for "Prozac").

I must admit the "Alex Cooper Mystery series" is my latest addiction. I can not seem to get enough of Fairstein's novels. While I have never been a fan of Grisham, Trurow, or the legal fiction genre, this series reads more like a literary version of the television show "Law and Order". (There is definitely enough of the "men in blue", crime scene analysis, and investigative snooping to keep this gal happy!) I must admit it is a real eye open to have a lawyer who must multitask juggling numerous cases, rather than exclusively focusing on only one case as most legal fiction does. As a character, Alex is slightly unbelievable in her ability to handle quite so many things without mussing up her lipstick or running her panty hose. And, like so many modern female heroines, although she is one step removed from Superwoman in her ability to survive certain disaster, she crumbles into tears over quite ordinary relational issues. Still, I trust that Fairstein knows of what she writes and is realistic in regard to her portrayals after all she is the role-model for her character and her life is the fodder for her plots. I also must admit to liking Chapman as the smart mouth detective. He strikes me as very realistic.

Linda Fairstein, like her character Alex Cooper, has been a District Attorney and Bureau Chief for the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit for over twenty years. Also like Alex Cooper, Fairstein lives in Manhattan and has a home on Martha Vineyard. Unlike Cooper, however, she is married. Her first book was the non-fiction, Sexual Violence: Our War against Rape (1993). There are two books in the Alex Cooper Mystery Series Final Jeopardy (1996), and Likely to Die (1997). Her website is: http://www.lindafairstein.com

            Likely To Die by Linda Fairstein is the second, but not the last, in the "Alex Cooper mystery series." It has enough legalese, police procedure, and fast paced action to thrill most readers. Although I preferred Final Jeopardy, Likely to Die is still one excellent read! Highly recommended.

© 2004 Su Terry

 Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.