The Bone Vault (Alexandra Cooper Series #5)

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In the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exquisite Temple of Dendur, a monument to an ancient world, a very modern debate is raging at a gala dinner: a controversial new exhibit is fiercely opposed by many among the upper echelon of museum donors. Alex Cooper steps into this highly charged ring of power players only to make a much more troubling discovery: a young museum researcher has been murdered, her body shipped to the Met in an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus. Together with cops Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, ...
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Overview

In the Metropolitan Museum of Art's exquisite Temple of Dendur, a monument to an ancient world, a very modern debate is raging at a gala dinner: a controversial new exhibit is fiercely opposed by many among the upper echelon of museum donors. Alex Cooper steps into this highly charged ring of power players only to make a much more troubling discovery: a young museum researcher has been murdered, her body shipped to the Met in an ancient Egyptian sarcophagus. Together with cops Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex must penetrate the realm of the city's cultural elite to find a killer intent on keeping some secrets buried for eternity.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
The fifth bestselling mystery from the former head of the Manhattan District Attorney's Sex Crimes Unit, Linda Fairstein's The Bone Vault is another hard-hitting, fast-paced, gritty tale of true-to-life murder and mayhem. When the body of a young scholar is found in an ancient sarcophagus, Assistant D.A. Alex Cooper sets out to bring the killer to justice. The victim worked for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Alex soon suspects that her murder is connected somehow to the intense rivalry between the Met and its sister institution, the American Museum of Natural History -- two great New York City museums embarking upon their first cooperative exhibition. As Alex searches for clues among the millions of artifacts tucked away in the attics, exhibit halls, and sub-basements of the museums, she discovers that practically everyone had ready access to the means used in the murder...and to methods for disposing of the mummy that was displaced to make room for the new corpse as well. Of course, putting the fact that someone has a secret worth killing for on display makes it ever more likely that the killer will strike again -- this time at Alex. Sue Stone
The Los Angeles Times
The real stars are the museums themselves, with their shadowy miles of halls, stairs, vaults, crannies; their icono-, paleo-, archeo-, techno- and anthro- holdings in the millions; their swarms of personnel; their endless invitations to criminal grand guignol. That's where Alex and the NYPD hunt the killer and solve a chilling puzzle Fairstein has contrived for us. — Eugen Weber
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 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Fairstein returns with another thriller starring popular protagonist Alexandra Cooper (Deadhouse), a Manhattan assistant district attorney. This time out, she and her sidekick, cop Mike Chapman, are drawn into a particularly mysterious case: a Metropolitan Museum of Art intern is found dead in a sarcophagus, and though she's been dead for months, her body is perfectly preserved. When it is discovered that she died of arsenic poisoning, the plot thickens. This is fun reading; Fairstein's fast pacing, colorful suspects, and museum settings (the Museum of Natural History is also featured) make her book reminiscent of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child's Relic. Alex is, however, a weak point; she's just as fastidious and stilted here as she was in previous outings. Her relationship with pretty-boy newscaster Jake, her flashy L.A. entertainment lawyer best friend, and private jet rides to her vacation home in Martha's Vineyard combine to make her a poster girl for Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. Fairstein has already had some success with this series; if she imbues Alex with more depth, she'll have a real winner. Despite that flaw, this is recommended for public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/02.]-Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet Lib., Hammond, IN Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A gala reception at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is interrupted by the news that one of the museum's sarcophagi has turned up in a Newark freight yard with its mummified Middle Kingdom princess replaced by a much more recent corpse. Even before her boss, New York DA Paul Battaglia, has won his fight for jurisdiction over the remains of Katrina Grooten-a Cloisters intern who'd supposedly returned home to South Africa months ago-ADA Alexandra Cooper, head of Manhattan's sex crimes unit, has swung into action. Together with an old friend, homicide dick Mike Chapman, she traces Katrina to the Met's great sister, the Museum of Natural History, where, as at its rival and twin across Central Park, "most of what you see has been stolen from beneath someone's nose." The treasures locked away in both museums are so vast, and the Natural History Museum so honeycombed with unexplored corridors and storage rooms sealed years ago on the orders of demanding benefactors, that a lengthy investigation-interrupted by the highly experienced 14-year-old who cries rape and the S&M couple who insists that what he's doing to her is safe, sane, and consensual, is guaranteed. But it will take the revelations of an elusive friend of Katrina's to explain why the doomed girl traded her devotion to medieval art for an activist role in cultural anthropology-a career change that cost her life. Despite the Cornwellesque title, the fearless plunge into the dirty waters of museum politics suggests that Fairstein (The Deadhouse, 2001, etc.) may have found her own voice at last.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743436670
  • Publisher: Pocket Star
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Series: Alexandra Cooper Series , #5
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 4.00 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Linda Fairstein

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, America's foremost legal expert on crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence, led the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan for twenty-five years. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, she is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law. Her first novel, Final Jeopardy, introduced the critically acclaimed character of Alexandra Cooper and was made into an ABC Movie of the Week starring Dana Delaney. The celebrated series has gone on to include the New York Times bestsellers Likely to Die, Cold Hit, The Deadhouse (winner of the Nero Wolfe Award for Best Crime Novel of 2001, and chosen as a "Best Book of 2001" by both The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times), The Bone Vault, The Kills, Entombed, Death Dance, and Bad Blood. Her novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Her nonfiction book, Sexual Violence, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives with her husband in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Visit her website at www.lindafairstein.com.

Biography

Linda Fairstein is passionate about putting sex offenders behind bars and had done just that many times, both in real life -- as one of New York City's premier sex crimes prosecutors -- and in her fiction, with her popular series of Alex Cooper mysteries.

Born and raised in Mount Vernon, New York, Fairstein attended Vassar College, where she majored in English literature. She went on to receive a law degree from the prestigious University of Virginia School of Law in 1972. In November of that year, Fairstein was assigned to the staff of the New York County District Attorney's office and was soon heading up the Sex Crimes Prosecution Unit, where she developed a reputation as one of the toughest prosecutors in the office's history. Fairstein spent the next two decades dedicating herself to nailing the worst of the city's sexual offenders, working on such high-profile cases as the Preppy Murder and the Central Park Jogger.

In 1993, Fairstein was named "Woman of the Year" by New Woman and Glamour magazines. A year later, her groundbreaking nonfiction book, Sexual Violence: Our War Against Rape, was named a Notable Book by The New York Times.

Fairstein's first foray into fiction writing was 1994's Final Jeopardy, which introduced the tough, savvy assistant D.A. Alexandra "Alex" Cooper -- a character close to the author's own identity -- who was well received by fans and critics. As Publishers Weekly noted, Alex's "greatest appeal lies in the warmth of her friendships, the humanness of her mistakes and her unswerving devotion to protecting the next female from harm."

Since then, Fairstein has continued to chronicle Alex Cooper's crime-solving adventures in a string of bestsellers that draws on the author's thoroughgoing knowledge of the legal system and longtime affection for the Big Apple. A believer in public service, Fairstein sits on the board of directors of several nonprofit groups, among them the National Center for Victims of Crime, Phoenix House Foundation, and New York Women's Agenda, and has also served on President Clinton's Violence Against Women Advisory Council, New York Women's Agenda Domestic Violence Committee, the American College of Trial Lawyers, The Women's Forum, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

In an interview on her publisher's web site, Fairstein explains that her career and her life's mission are one in the same: "I think so much more is possible in terms of what we are able to give women who have been victims of violence and how they can triumph in a courtroom," Fairstein reflects. "So to take this -- the professional life I've had over the last 30 years and to mix it with the great pleasure of writing -- is something I never dreamed I'd actually be able to accomplish."

Good To Know

Fairstein is married to Justin Feldman, a lawyer who helped run Robert F. Kennedy's 1964 United States Senate campaign.

Fairstein has admitted to having her eye on the post of United States Attorney General, and in fact interviewed for that position in 1993.

Cold Hit made President Clinton's highly-publicized vacation reading list in 1999.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 5, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Mount Vernon, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Vassar College, 1969; J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1972
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I spent a long afternoon at the morgue. I had left my desk at the Manhattan district attorney's office shortly after lunch to review autopsy results on a new case with the deputy chief medical examiner. A nineteen-year-old, dressed in an outfit she had bought just hours earlier, was killed outside a social club as she waited on a street corner for her friends.

Now I walked a quiet corridor, again surrounded by death. I did not want to be here. I paused at the entrance of an ancient tomb, its painted limestone facade concealing the false doorway to an underground burial chamber. The faded reliefs that decorated its walls showed offerings of food and drink that would nourish the spirit of the dead. I didn't harbor any hope that the young woman whose body I had seen today would ever be in need of the kind of good meal displayed before me.

I made my way past a granite lion and nodded at the uniformed guard, who slouched on a folding chair beside the elegantly carved beast, once the protector of a royal grave. Both were sleeping soundly. The outstretched arms of the neighboring alabaster monkeys held empty vessels that had no doubt been receptacles of the body parts of some mummified dignitary of the Old Kingdom.

Voices echoing from behind me suggested that I was not going to be the last arrival at this evening's festive dinner. I quickened my pace and swept by cases filled with goddesses' stone heads, perched on shelves holding jeweled sandals and golden collars that had been buried with them for centuries. A sharp left turn brought me face-to-face with the enormous black sarcophagus of a Thirtieth Dynasty Egyptian queen, held open by two iron posts, so that passersby could see the image of her soul portrayed on the inside of the upper lid. The dark, heavy casket with a faint outline of the slender body it once housed chilled me, despite the unseasonal warmth of the late-spring night.

Then I turned the last corner, where the darkness of the funereal rooms gave way to the glorious open space that housed the Temple of Dendur. The northernmost end of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a sloping, glass-paned wall soaring above the sandstone monuments, opening the vista into Central Park. It was almost nine o'clock, and the streetlamps beyond the windows lightened the night sky, giving definition to the leafy green trees bordering the great institution.

I stood at the edge of the moat that surrounded the two raised buildings in this stunning wing, searching the crowd for my friends. Waiters in sleek black suits zigzagged back and forth among the guests, stopping to dispense smoked salmon on black bread and caviar blinis. They were trailed by others who carried silver trays filled with glasses of white wine, champagne, and sparkling water, dodging the elbows and arms of the assembled museum members and supporters.

Nina Baum saw me before I spotted her. "You came just late enough to miss most of the speeches. Smart move."

She signaled to one of the servers, and handed me a flute of champagne. "Hungry?"

I shook my head.

"The morgue?"

"Not a very pleasant afternoon."

"Was she — ?"

"I'll tell you about it later. Chapman thought he had a lead on a case he's been handling that's reached a dead end, so I wanted to get a clear understanding about the pattern of injuries and how they'd been inflicted. That way, if he picked up a suspect and I got a chance to question the guy tonight, I'd be ready for him. Turned out to be a bad tip, so there's no interrogation, no arrest. It's on the back burner for a while."

Nina looped her arm through mine and started to walk me toward the steps. "Why didn't you bring Mike with you?"

"I tried. Once I told him it was black tie he sent me home to shower and change. No penguin suit for him, not even to see you. He'll catch you later in the week."

Mike Chapman was a homicide detective. Best one on the job, in my view. Nina Baum was my closest friend, and had been for exactly half my life. We were eighteen when we met, assigned to be roommates at Wellesley College when we arrived freshman year. She was married now, living in California with her husband and young son. She had met Mike many times during the decade that he and I had worked together on cases, and she looked forward to spending time with him whenever she was in town.

"First we'll find Jake." She led me up the steps, past the lone palm tree that stood on the platform below the great temple. "Then I'll introduce you to my boss and all the museum heavyweights."

"How's Jake behaving? You still have a job after tonight or is he hounding everybody here, looking for scoops?"

"Let's say we've raised a lot of eyebrows around town. I keep telling people that I've only borrowed him for the evening, but when you read tomorrow's gossip columns, you might begin to wonder. You must have a lot of friends here, 'cause they can't figure out why I'm hanging on to him and why you're nowhere to be seen."

"'Who is that auburn-haired beauty who whisked in from the coast and stole NBC correspondent Jake Tyler right out from under the long arm of the law? Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper has a warrant out for her arrest. And also for the return of the terrifically sexy — and backless — navy blue sequined dress that this interloper slipped out of Alexandra's closet when she wasn't looking.' That's what I'm likely to see in the tabs?"

"I figured you loaned me the guy for the evening, how sore could you be about the sexy, backless gown?"

Nina had arrived in New York a day earlier. She was a partner in a major L.A. law firm, where she had developed an expertise in packaging large entertainment projects for big-screen and television movies. Tonight's event was staged to announce an historic occasion for two great New York institutions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, with some help from Hollywood, would hold the first cooperative exhibition in their histories.

The controversial mix of scholarship and show business had had a difficult birth, struggling to overcome resistance from trustees and curators, administrators and city officials. But blockbuster shows like the Met's "Treasures of Tutankhamen" and the Costume Institute's collection of Jacqueline Kennedy's White House clothing filled the museum coffers and argued for the drama of a spectacular twenty-first-century display of the two museums' collective greatest hits.

Nina's California client, UniQuest Productions, had successfully bid on all the media marketing rights to the new project. "A Modern Bestiary," as the show had been titled, would feature all the fantastic animals of the world, as represented in both collections, from hieroglyphs, tapestries, and paintings to mounted specimens and stuffed mammals. There would be dazzling, high-tech creations and virtual dioramas, IMAX time trips to examine artists and artifacts in their natural habitats, and commercial tie-ins for souvenir sales in museum shops and on the web. There would be Rembrandt refrigerator magnets, triceratops lapel pins, plastic human-genome Slinkys to bounce down staircases across America, and snow globes with endangered species of the Amazon being doused by acid rain.

Nina steered me toward a short, dark-haired man with too much facial hair and a collarless tux shirt. "Quentin Vallejo, I'd like you to meet Alexandra Cooper. She's — "

"I know, I know. The best friend." Quentin did the up-and-down thing. My five-ten frame towered over him, so his eyes just focused at the level of my breasts and worked their way south to my knees before lifting back up to meet my glance. "The sex crimes prosecutor. Nina talked about you for the entire flight yesterday. That's an interesting job you've got. We ought to have a chat sometime, just the two of us. Like to hear more about what you do."

Quentin turned to exchange his empty wineglass for a full one, and I gave him a nod as I walked away. Nina blew him a kiss and followed me.

"That's the guy who's running this show?"

"Worked with Spielberg for twelve years. He's absolutely ingenious at designing interactive materials and futuristic movie images. Makes inanimate objects look like flesh and blood. He sees things in ways that nobody else does."

"That much was obvious to me." I stood on tiptoes, looking over heads and shoulders for any sign of Jake. "Did the big guns at the Met and Natural History ever meet Quentin before today?"

"You think we wouldn't have done a deal if they had?"

"Have you lost your mind? This museum was founded by old men. Very rich, very white, very Presbyterian. Natural History was pretty much the same. The good old boys may be dead and buried, but this place isn't exactly run by the most diverse crowd in town."

"Somebody on the project did his homework. Our advance group managed all the hands-on work to get this event up and running. Probably the preppiest-looking film team I've ever seen west of the Mississippi. Hired a white-shoe law firm here to handle the contract work. Saved the outing of Quentin for tonight's gala, the big announcement."

"How'd that go?"

"Listen to the buzz. The trustees, the press, the upper crust — whoever these people are, they seemed thrilled about the news." Nina steered me to the small recess at the center of the taller building, the gateway to the Temple of Dendur. She was looking for a quieter place to tell me about the presentation that I had missed.

"Do you know Pierre Thibodaux?" She pointed to the podium, where a tall, dark-haired man was being led away from a small group of museum officials. He motioned to his colleagues with a raised finger and stepped into the adjacent corridor.

"Only by reputation. New guy in town." Thibodaux had replaced Philippe de Montebello as director of the Met less than three years ago.

"He's taken all the meetings with our advance crew himself. This show is his baby. Brilliant, mercurial, handsome. You've got to meet him — "

"Ladies, you can't be leaning against the building, y'all hear me?" a security guard said.

We walked out of the narrow opening and searched for another quiet nook.

"Let's get out of this wing so we can have a normal conversation. There are as many living, breathing jackals in here tonight as there are limestone ones standing sentry over all the Egyptian galleries. I somehow think poor Augustus didn't foresee when he built these monuments that they would become the most prized cocktail space in Manhattan."

I could tell that Nina was annoyed with me, as she tried to follow me back down the steps.

"Who's Augustus? What the hell are you talking about? The temple is Egyptian, right?"

I had been coming to the Met since my earliest childhood, and knew most of the permanent exhibits pretty well. "Half right. It was built near Aswan, but by a Roman emperor who ruled that region at the time. Augustus had it erected in honor of two young sons of a Nubian chieftain who drowned in the Nile. I hate to dampen your enthusiasm, Nina. I've just been around too much death today not to wonder why we find it appropriate to organize our festivities in and around the tombs of all these ancient cultures. Wouldn't people find it offensive to have the next cocktail party at Arlington Cemetery?"

"Sorry they're not serving scotch tonight, Alex. Take it easy, will you? We can leave any time you'd like. Who's the old dame hanging on to Jake?"

He had spotted the two of us and was making his way to the foot of the platform on which we stood. A silver-haired woman with lots of dangling sapphires — from earlobes, wrists, fingers — had grasped Jake by the arm and was bending his ear about something. I stopped on the bottom step and fished in my purse for some coins to toss in the moat.

"Look out for that crocodile, darling. The most dangerous creature in Egypt, the embodiment of the essence of evil." Jake held out his hand to lower me down as I tossed a few quarters in the water, for good luck. The ebony croc mocked the gesture, his gaping mouth posed for eternity, seeking something meatier than the quiche that was being circulated around the room.

I kissed Jake's cheek, which was already covered with the shapes of pursed lips in a variety of colors. "I don't mind that you're in loco husband for Nina, but who's the rest of my competition?"

"That last woman? Just one of the trustees. Didn't catch her name. Gushing about how exciting the joint show is going to be and asking whether the networks are covering the fireworks tonight."

"Fireworks?"

"There's supposed to be a preview, a five-minute sound-and-light show to kick off the news about the bestiary exhibition. Here comes Thibodaux. He'll do the honors."

Instead, the director walked straight toward us, smoothing his jacket with one hand and his hair with the other. "Nina, may I have a word with you? Do you know where Quentin is?"

"I'll find him for you. Pierre, I'd like you to meet my — "

"Enchanté." He greeted us tersely but his eyes searched the room over my shoulder. He and Nina broke away, retracing our steps to look for the producer.

I glanced at my watch. "Soon as we tear her loose, think you'd treat your two dates to burgers at '21'?"

"My chariot awaits you, madam."

Nina, Quentin, and Pierre had their heads together at the top of the stairs. The director did a double take over his shoulder as Quentin pointed down at me. Nina was shaking her head in the negative and trying to block me from Quentin's line of sight. You're right, pal. Whatever it is, keep me out of it.

Pierre Thibodaux didn't wait for the others to descend the two tiers of steps.

"Miss Cooper? Mr. Vallejo just told me that you're a prosecutor. May I have a moment with you, alone, for some advice? Do you mind, Mr. Tyler?" This time, no guard admonished us as Thibodaux led me back up to the platform, removed the rope between the two pillars at the entrance of the Temple of Dendur, and stepped into the quiet archway.

"You're a bureau chief in the Manhattan district attorney's office? I need your help in dealing with the police tonight."

"Here, at the museum?"

"No, actually, in a freight yard. I'm going to make a few remarks to close the evening and send all these people on their way. We'll forgo the drama of the UniQuest Productions pyrotechnics. The last thing we need tomorrow is any bad publicity linked to our splendid new show."

"Perhaps I can make a call to the proper — "

"There's a shipment of exhibits going abroad, stored in containers for transit. It's a very routine occurrence for us. Crates go in and out of the country all the time. Exchanges with other museums, items we've deaccessioned or loaned to foreign institutions. Happens regularly."

"I doubt there's anything that I can help you with. If you've got a problem with Customs — " I said, as Thibodaux continued to speak over my objection.

"What doesn't usually happen is that one of the ancient sarcophagi was opened for inspection a few hours ago. There was supposed to be a mummified princess in the coffin, Miss Cooper. Twelfth Dynasty, Middle Kingdom. A couple of thousand years old and quite valuable. Instead, there's a corpse inside. Someone has substituted a body, I'm afraid. A few centuries younger than my princess, no doubt, but just as dead."

Copyright © 2003 by Linda Fairstein

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One

I spent a long afternoon at the morgue. I had left my desk at the Manhattan district attorney's office shortly after lunch to review autopsy results on a new case with the deputy chief medical examiner. A nineteen-year-old, dressed in an outfit she had bought just hours earlier, was killed outside a social club as she waited on a street corner for her friends.

Now I walked a quiet corridor, again surrounded by death. I did not want to be here. I paused at the entrance of an ancient tomb, its painted limestone facade concealing the false doorway to an underground burial chamber. The faded reliefs that decorated its walls showed offerings of food and drink that would nourish the spirit of the dead. I didn't harbor any hope that the young woman whose body I had seen today would ever be in need of the kind of good meal displayed before me.

I made my way past a granite lion and nodded at the uniformed guard, who slouched on a folding chair beside the elegantly carved beast, once the protector of a royal grave. Both were sleeping soundly. The outstretched arms of the neighboring alabaster monkeys held empty vessels that had no doubt been receptacles of the body parts of some mummified dignitary of the Old Kingdom.

Voices echoing from behind me suggested that I was not going to be the last arrival at this evening's festive dinner. I quickened my pace and swept by cases filled with goddesses' stone heads, perched on shelves holding jeweled sandals and golden collars that had been buried with them for centuries. A sharp left turn brought me face-to-face with the enormous black sarcophagus of a ThirtiethDynasty Egyptian queen, held open by two iron posts, so that passersby could see the image of her soul portrayed on the inside of the upper lid. The dark, heavy casket with a faint outline of the slender body it once housed chilled me, despite the unseasonal warmth of the late-spring night.

Then I turned the last corner, where the darkness of the funereal rooms gave way to the glorious open space that housed the Temple of Dendur. The northernmost end of the Metropolitan Museum of Art was a sloping, glass-paned wall soaring above the sandstone monuments, opening the vista into Central Park. It was almost nine o'clock, and the streetlamps beyond the windows lightened the night sky, giving definition to the leafy green trees bordering the great institution.

I stood at the edge of the moat that surrounded the two raised buildings in this stunning wing, searching the crowd for my friends. Waiters in sleek black suits zigzagged back and forth among the guests, stopping to dispense smoked salmon on black bread and caviar blinis. They were trailed by others who carried silver trays filled with glasses of white wine, champagne, and sparkling water, dodging the elbows and arms of the assembled museum members and supporters.

Nina Baum saw me before I spotted her. "You came just late enough to miss most of the speeches. Smart move."

She signaled to one of the servers, and handed me a flute of champagne. "Hungry?"

I shook my head.

"The morgue?"

"Not a very pleasant afternoon."

"Was she -- ?"

"I'll tell you about it later. Chapman thought he had a lead on a case he's been handling that's reached a dead end, so I wanted to get a clear understanding about the pattern of injuries and how they'd been inflicted. That way, if he picked up a suspect and I got a chance to question the guy tonight, I'd be ready for him. Turned out to be a bad tip, so there's no interrogation, no arrest. It's on the back burner for a while."

Nina looped her arm through mine and started to walk me toward the steps. "Why didn't you bring Mike with you?"

"I tried. Once I told him it was black tie he sent me home to shower and change. No penguin suit for him, not even to see you. He'll catch you later in the week."

Mike Chapman was a homicide detective. Best one on the job, in my view. Nina Baum was my closest friend, and had been for exactly half my life. We were eighteen when we met, assigned to be roommates at Wellesley College when we arrived freshman year. She was married now, living in California with her husband and young son. She had met Mike many times during the decade that he and I had worked together on cases, and she looked forward to spending time with him whenever she was in town.

"First we'll find Jake." She led me up the steps, past the lone palm tree that stood on the platform below the great temple. "Then I'll introduce you to my boss and all the museum heavyweights."

"How's Jake behaving? You still have a job after tonight or is he hounding everybody here, looking for scoops?"

"Let's say we've raised a lot of eyebrows around town. I keep telling people that I've only borrowed him for the evening, but when you read tomorrow's gossip columns, you might begin to wonder. You must have a lot of friends here, 'cause they can't figure out why I'm hanging on to him and why you're nowhere to be seen."

"'Who is that auburn-haired beauty who whisked in from the coast and stole NBC correspondent Jake Tyler right out from under the long arm of the law? Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper has a warrant out for her arrest. And also for the return of the terrifically sexy -- and backless -- navy blue sequined dress that this interloper slipped out of Alexandra's closet when she wasn't looking.' That's what I'm likely to see in the tabs?"

"I figured you loaned me the guy for the evening, how sore could you be about the sexy, backless gown?"

Nina had arrived in New York a day earlier. She was a partner in a major L.A. law firm, where she had developed an expertise in packaging large entertainment projects for big-screen and television movies. Tonight's event was staged to announce an historic occasion for two great New York institutions. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Museum of Natural History, with some help from Hollywood, would hold the first cooperative exhibition in their histories.

The controversial mix of scholarship and show business had had a difficult birth, struggling to overcome resistance from trustees and curators, administrators and city officials. But blockbuster shows like the Met's "Treasures of Tutankhamen" and the Costume Institute's collection of Jacqueline Kennedy's White House clothing filled the museum coffers and argued for the drama of a spectacular twenty-first-century display of the two museums' collective greatest hits.

Nina's California client, UniQuest Productions, had successfully bid on all the media marketing rights to the new project. "A Modern Bestiary," as the show had been titled, would feature all the fantastic animals of the world, as represented in both collections, from hieroglyphs, tapestries, and paintings to mounted specimens and stuffed mammals. There would be dazzling, high-tech creations and virtual dioramas, IMAX time trips to examine artists and artifacts in their natural habitats, and commercial tie-ins for souvenir sales in museum shops and on the web. There would be Rembrandt refrigerator magnets, triceratops lapel pins, plastic human-genome Slinkys to bounce down staircases across America, and snow globes with endangered species of the Amazon being doused by acid rain.

Nina steered me toward a short, dark-haired man with too much facial hair and a collarless tux shirt. "Quentin Vallejo, I'd like you to meet Alexandra Cooper. She's -- "

"I know, I know. The best friend." Quentin did the up-and-down thing. My five-ten frame towered over him, so his eyes just focused at the level of my breasts and worked their way south to my knees before lifting back up to meet my glance. "The sex crimes prosecutor. Nina talked about you for the entire flight yesterday. That's an interesting job you've got. We ought to have a chat sometime, just the two of us. Like to hear more about what you do."

Quentin turned to exchange his empty wineglass for a full one, and I gave him a nod as I walked away. Nina blew him a kiss and followed me.

"That's the guy who's running this show?"

"Worked with Spielberg for twelve years. He's absolutely ingenious at designing interactive materials and futuristic movie images. Makes inanimate objects look like flesh and blood. He sees things in ways that nobody else does."

"That much was obvious to me." I stood on tiptoes, looking over heads and shoulders for any sign of Jake. "Did the big guns at the Met and Natural History ever meet Quentin before today?"

"You think we wouldn't have done a deal if they had?"

"Have you lost your mind? This museum was founded by old men. Very rich, very white, very Presbyterian. Natural History was pretty much the same. The good old boys may be dead and buried, but this place isn't exactly run by the most diverse crowd in town."

"Somebody on the project did his homework. Our advance group managed all the hands-on work to get this event up and running. Probably the preppiest-looking film team I've ever seen west of the Mississippi. Hired a white-shoe law firm here to handle the contract work. Saved the outing of Quentin for tonight's gala, the big announcement."

"How'd that go?"

"Listen to the buzz. The trustees, the press, the upper crust -- whoever these people are, they seemed thrilled about the news." Nina steered me to the small recess at the center of the taller building, the gateway to the Temple of Dendur. She was looking for a quieter place to tell me about the presentation that I had missed.

"Do you know Pierre Thibodaux?" She pointed to the podium, where a tall, dark-haired man was being led away from a small group of museum officials. He motioned to his colleagues with a raised finger and stepped into the adjacent corridor.

"Only by reputation. New guy in town." Thibodaux had replaced Philippe de Montebello as director of the Met less than three years ago.

"He's taken all the meetings with our advance crew himself. This show is his baby. Brilliant, mercurial, handsome. You've got to meet him -- "

"Ladies, you can't be leaning against the building, y'all hear me?" a security guard said.

We walked out of the narrow opening and searched for another quiet nook.

"Let's get out of this wing so we can have a normal conversation. There are as many living, breathing jackals in here tonight as there are limestone ones standing sentry over all the Egyptian galleries. I somehow think poor Augustus didn't foresee when he built these monuments that they would become the most prized cocktail space in Manhattan."

I could tell that Nina was annoyed with me, as she tried to follow me back down the steps.

"Who's Augustus? What the hell are you talking about? The temple is Egyptian, right?"

I had been coming to the Met since my earliest childhood, and knew most of the permanent exhibits pretty well. "Half right. It was built near Aswan, but by a Roman emperor who ruled that region at the time. Augustus had it erected in honor of two young sons of a Nubian chieftain who drowned in the Nile. I hate to dampen your enthusiasm, Nina. I've just been around too much death today not to wonder why we find it appropriate to organize our festivities in and around the tombs of all these ancient cultures. Wouldn't people find it offensive to have the next cocktail party at Arlington Cemetery?"

"Sorry they're not serving scotch tonight, Alex. Take it easy, will you? We can leave any time you'd like. Who's the old dame hanging on to Jake?"

He had spotted the two of us and was making his way to the foot of the platform on which we stood. A silver-haired woman with lots of dangling sapphires -- from earlobes, wrists, fingers -- had grasped Jake by the arm and was bending his ear about something. I stopped on the bottom step and fished in my purse for some coins to toss in the moat.

"Look out for that crocodile, darling. The most dangerous creature in Egypt, the embodiment of the essence of evil." Jake held out his hand to lower me down as I tossed a few quarters in the water, for good luck. The ebony croc mocked the gesture, his gaping mouth posed for eternity, seeking something meatier than the quiche that was being circulated around the room.

I kissed Jake's cheek, which was already covered with the shapes of pursed lips in a variety of colors. "I don't mind that you're in loco husband for Nina, but who's the rest of my competition?"

"That last woman? Just one of the trustees. Didn't catch her name. Gushing about how exciting the joint show is going to be and asking whether the networks are covering the fireworks tonight."

"Fireworks?"

"There's supposed to be a preview, a five-minute sound-and-light show to kick off the news about the bestiary exhibition. Here comes Thibodaux. He'll do the honors."

Instead, the director walked straight toward us, smoothing his jacket with one hand and his hair with the other. "Nina, may I have a word with you? Do you know where Quentin is?"

"I'll find him for you. Pierre, I'd like you to meet my -- "

"Enchante." He greeted us tersely but his eyes searched the room over my shoulder. He and Nina broke away, retracing our steps to look for the producer.

I glanced at my watch. "Soon as we tear her loose, think you'd treat your two dates to burgers at '21'?"

"My chariot awaits you, madam."

Nina, Quentin, and Pierre had their heads together at the top of the stairs. The director did a double take over his shoulder as Quentin pointed down at me. Nina was shaking her head in the negative and trying to block me from Quentin's line of sight. You're right, pal. Whatever it is, keep me out of it.

Pierre Thibodaux didn't wait for the others to descend the two tiers of steps.

"Miss Cooper? Mr. Vallejo just told me that you're a prosecutor. May I have a moment with you, alone, for some advice? Do you mind, Mr. Tyler?" This time, no guard admonished us as Thibodaux led me back up to the platform, removed the rope between the two pillars at the entrance of the Temple of Dendur, and stepped into the quiet archway.

"You're a bureau chief in the Manhattan district attorney's office? I need your help in dealing with the police tonight."

"Here, at the museum?"

"No, actually, in a freight yard. I'm going to make a few remarks to close the evening and send all these people on their way. We'll forgo the drama of the UniQuest Productions pyrotechnics. The last thing we need tomorrow is any bad publicity linked to our splendid new show."

"Perhaps I can make a call to the proper -- "

"There's a shipment of exhibits going abroad, stored in containers for transit. It's a very routine occurrence for us. Crates go in and out of the country all the time. Exchanges with other museums, items we've deaccessioned or loaned to foreign institutions. Happens regularly."

"I doubt there's anything that I can help you with. If you've got a problem with Customs -- " I said, as Thibodaux continued to speak over my objection.

"What doesn't usually happen is that one of the ancient sarcophagi was opened for inspection a few hours ago. There was supposed to be a mummified princess in the coffin, Miss Cooper. Twelfth Dynasty, Middle Kingdom. A couple of thousand years old and quite valuable. Instead, there's a corpse inside. Someone has substituted a body, I'm afraid. A few centuries younger than my princess, no doubt, but just as dead."

Copyright © 2003 by Linda Fairstein
Read More Show Less

Introduction

1. THE BONE VAULT opens with Alexandra Cooper returning from the morgue and closes with her discovering a controversial collection of bones deep in the Museum of Natural History. How are these two outwardly dissimilar bone vaults linked thematically?

2. The investigation into Katrina Grooten's murder takes Alex through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and the Natural History museum. What do these museums have in common, and how is each distinct?

3. Alex says that she feels fortunate that her boyfriend Jake Tyler's unpredictable schedule helps him understand the demands of her own profession. But what are the drawbacks to this type of relationship? Do her concerns that Jake is leaking information about her cases point to larger issues between them?

4. Do you think that Alex made the right call in taking a tough stand with Angel Alfieri? What kind of person does it take to be able to make those kinds of judgment calls every day?

5. What are Alex and Mike Chapman's favorite rooms of the Met, and what do their choices tell us about them?

6. Alex's stalker, Shirley Danzig, has followed her from THE DEAD HOUSE to this novel. What does Shirley's presence add to this story? Why do you think that Alex waited so long to tell Chapman that Shirley was back in her life?

7. Alex wants to know as many personal details as possible about the victims she encounters, while Chapman doesn't want to know the deceased any better than the facts force him to. What do their investigative styles say about them? Is either approach better than the other?

8. Hiram Bellinger, a curator at the Cloisters, tells Alex and Chapman, "If you're going to work in a museum, get used to the factthat most of what you see has been stolen from beneath someone's nose" (p. 172). Were you surprised to learn this? How accurate do you think this statement is?

9. Similarly, Pierre Thibodaux argues that the Taliban's destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 justifies the museum's history of smuggling art away from the lands where it was created. Do you agree that some works of art are better off in the hands of curators half the globe away?

10. Although Alex welcomes Chapman's new girlfriend with open arms, she admits to herself that she feels a little jealous of Val's happiness. What, in particular, do you think she envies?

11. Joan confides to Alex that she doesn't think that Jake is "the one." Do you agree?

12. Did you think it was important for Linda Fairstein to address the events of September 11th in this novel? How did the attack affect her characters? Why was Chapman able to open up about the experience only to Alex?

13. Ultimately, do you think that the bones that the museum holds should, when possible, be given back to the families and lands from which they were taken, or do you think that they now belong to the museum?

LINDA FAIRSTEIN, America's foremost legal expert on crimes of sexual assault and domestic violence, led the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney's Office in Manhattan for twenty-five years. A Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers, she is a graduate of Vassar College and the University of Virginia School of Law. Her first novel, Final Jeopardy, introduced the critically acclaimed character of Alexandra Cooper and was made into an ABC Movie of the Week starring Dana Delaney. The celebrated series has gone on to include the New York Times bestsellers Likely to Die, Cold Hit, The Deadhouse (winner of the Nero Wolfe Award for Best Crime Novel of 2001, and chosen as a "Best Book of 2001" by both The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times), The Bone Vault, The Kills, Entombed, Death Dance, and Bad Blood. Her novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Her nonfiction book, Sexual Violence, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She lives with her husband in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.

Visit her website at www.lindafairstein.com.

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. THE BONE VAULT opens with Alexandra Cooper returning from the morgue and closes with her discovering a controversial collection of bones deep in the Museum of Natural History. How are these two outwardly dissimilar bone vaults linked thematically?

2. The investigation into Katrina Grooten's murder takes Alex through the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cloisters, and the Natural History museum. What do these museums have in common, and how is each distinct?

3. Alex says that she feels fortunate that her boyfriend Jake Tyler's unpredictable schedule helps him understand the demands of her own profession. But what are the drawbacks to this type of relationship? Do her concerns that Jake is leaking information about her cases point to larger issues between them?

4. Do you think that Alex made the right call in taking a tough stand with Angel Alfieri? What kind of person does it take to be able to make those kinds of judgment calls every day?

5. What are Alex and Mike Chapman's favorite rooms of the Met, and what do their choices tell us about them?

6. Alex's stalker, Shirley Danzig, has followed her from THE DEAD HOUSE to this novel. What does Shirley's presence add to this story? Why do you think that Alex waited so long to tell Chapman that Shirley was back in her life?

7. Alex wants to know as many personal details as possible about the victims she encounters, while Chapman doesn't want to know the deceased any better than the facts force him to. What do their investigative styles say about them? Is either approach better than the other?

8. Hiram Bellinger, a curator at the Cloisters, tells Alex and Chapman, "If you're going to work in a museum, get used to the fact that most of what you see has been stolen from beneath someone's nose" (p. 172). Were you surprised to learn this? How accurate do you think this statement is?

9. Similarly, Pierre Thibodaux argues that the Taliban's destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 justifies the museum's history of smuggling art away from the lands where it was created. Do you agree that some works of art are better off in the hands of curators half the globe away?

10. Although Alex welcomes Chapman's new girlfriend with open arms, she admits to herself that she feels a little jealous of Val's happiness. What, in particular, do you think she envies?

11. Joan confides to Alex that she doesn't think that Jake is "the one." Do you agree?

12. Did you think it was important for Linda Fairstein to address the events of September 11th in this novel? How did the attack affect her characters? Why was Chapman able to open up about the experience only to Alex?

13. Ultimately, do you think that the bones that the museum holds should, when possible, be given back to the families and lands from which they were taken, or do you think that they now belong to the museum?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 26 )
Rating Distribution

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 26 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2010

    History, architecture, and art lessons in a mystery

    The Bone Vault is Linda Fairstein once again treating her readers to a great historical, architectural and art romp through 2 great museums in New York all the while revealing a different picture of the world of, the maintenance of and the acquisition of art and antiquities. Without any experience in working in museums, I don't know how to verify her accuracy. However, her writing is very believable. The background of these institutions is more compelling at times than her characters or the plot. A great rainy day read. Her book on the New York Public Library I'd recommend as well for the same reasons.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2003

    Blah Blah Blah

    This book was very disappointing. It had a very interesting look at the great museums of New York and the extensive information was impressive and thought provoking, the plot, however, was a snoozer. The story was anti-climactic.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    wonderful police procedural

    At the reception for a controversial show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Director Pierre Thibodaux speaks with guest attendee Manhattan Assistant District Attorney Alex Cooper. Pierre informs Coop, the head of Sex Crimes Division, that the corpse of a modern day female rather than the mummified remains of an Egyptian princess was found in a sarcophagus during a routine customs inspection. Coop brings in her ¿team¿ of NYPD detectives, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, to investigate the homicide. The threesome quickly learns the identity of the deceased Katrina Gooten, a worker at the Cloisters, Manhattan¿s monastery. The trio digs deeper into the museum, that of the Cloisters, and the Museum of Natural History as the trail takes them on a tour seemingly all over Manhattan in an attempt to find the killer. This police procedural story line is well designed and fun to read especially with the charged sexual relationship that both Coop and Mike react to by competing in cerebral contests that keeps the flesh from any lusty formations. When Linda Fairstein goes into her prosecutor¿s role on sidebars such as ancient funeral rites, the subplot provides well-written interesting information, but also slows down the prime theme. Still Coop is a great character starring in a strong investigative tale that sub-genre fans will welcome as long as the audience avoids betting on Jeopardy. Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2014

    The vault part 6

    The ponies rushed at me which gave me exactly 30 seconds to think*perfect grab him cake him then*"ooh forget thinking CHAAAARGE"i ran at one of the earth ponies and jumped on top of him and then used him as a baseball bat"HAHAHA"my fun didnt last long because i felt myself lifted off the ground i looked "MAGIC UNFAIR"i shouted "whats fair is fair" the unicorn said promptly*jerk* i thought. I pulled out the cake gun and shot them all in the face the unicorn lost his focus and i hit the ground i then roundhouse kicked them with the steel cast knocking them unconcious"sorry"i whispered THE END yah haha

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 2, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    History Lesson Included

    I still like the regular characters in this series but I was bored with the telling of the history of New York City. Hoping for more mystery, less lecture next time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 15, 2013

    Ginger

    "Kicks the Worker Drone over and takes out one of my seords and takes it offline and then it explos" hmm doing it sooner is the best way to take care of it....."walks off"

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    Kai to artmis

    U need help

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2013

    Artemis

    Well well. Someone likes Drones. *he fires a Blast of Darkness at the very bottom of the Drone, hoping to take out its levitation source.*

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I'm now reading the 10th book that Linda Fairstein wrote and I intend to continue the series. I will admit that it took me awhile to get into her first book "Final Jeopardy" and I was about to put it down but I'm glad I didn't. I like the relationships between Alex, Mike and Mercer. I also like to hear about the historical places in New York and all of the little factoids Mike comes up with. Sometimes it's a little unbelievable when Alex is being pursued by the bad guys since she's a DA and not a police officer but the guys always rescue her!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2005

    Excellent!!

    Everytime I read one of Fairstein's novels, I can't wait to turn the page and find out what's happening next. Great plot and good characters make the Bone Vault another marvel. I particularly enjoy the teamwork between Cooper, Chapman and Wallace.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2003

    Fairtein out of shadow

    A gripping, believable tale. Sometimes a too like Cornwell, Fairstein takes some chances with her characters, and wins. Alex & Chapman are the best female, male team today.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    riveting read

    I completely enjoyed this book....the descriptions made me feel as if i were at the museums themselves...excellent author!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 3, 2003

    Murder at a Museum

    This is a fresh story line. I have always loved museums and this book is rich in visualization.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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