Cold Hit (Alexandra Cooper Series #3)

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Overview

Renowned sex-crimes prosecutor and bestselling author Linda Fairstein sends her acclaimed heroine — the stylish and steely-nerved D.A. Alexandra Cooper — on a hunt for a killer inside New York City's glitzy art world.
Alexandra Cooper has seen many murder victims, but few more disturbing than the silk-clad body of a woman, her hands and feet tied to a ladder, pulled from the turbulent waters at Manhattan's northern tip. With her colleagues, including NYPD detectives Mike Chapman...

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Cold Hit (Alexandra Cooper Series #3)

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Overview

Renowned sex-crimes prosecutor and bestselling author Linda Fairstein sends her acclaimed heroine — the stylish and steely-nerved D.A. Alexandra Cooper — on a hunt for a killer inside New York City's glitzy art world.
Alexandra Cooper has seen many murder victims, but few more disturbing than the silk-clad body of a woman, her hands and feet tied to a ladder, pulled from the turbulent waters at Manhattan's northern tip. With her colleagues, including NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, Alex races against the clock and hopes for a "cold hit" — a DNA match that would reveal the identity of the murderer by linking the crime to someone already in the police database. But as the case pulls her into the exclusive world of East Side auction houses and cutting-edge Chelsea galleries, Alex discovers she may be marked as an expendable commodity in a chilling and deadly scheme....

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
People Stylish....A fast-paced thriller.

Library Journal Dazzling...fascinating and fast paced.

Glamour A masterwork of thrills.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The discovery at Manhattan's northern tip of the body of a woman tied to a ladder leads Assistant District Attorney Alexandra "Alex" Cooper, head of the borough's Sex Crimes Unit (as is her creator, Fairstein), and her associates, NYPD Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, on a circuitous trek through the rarefied but far from savory New York art world. Denise Caxton--collector, co-owner of a gallery and estranged wife of wealthy connoisseur Lowell Caxton--seemed to want for nothing, but as Alex and her team dig into the victim's background, they uncover contradictions and conflicts in her privileged existence. What part did gallery partner Bryan Daughtrey or antiques expert Frank Wrenley play in the dead woman's life? Her investigation into Denise's shady deals come to endanger Alex, and the lives of those close to her as well. Fairstein (Final Jeopardy; Likely to Die) once again uses her own experience and knowledge of the city to strong advantage in balancing the case at hand with the day-to-day workings of the system. Her thick layerings of the legal background at times slow the action, but they add immeasurably to the reader's understanding and appreciation of what is entailed in making a case. Fairstein's rough-and-tumble courthouse scenes ring true, as do her descriptions of the mundane police work of Mercer and Mike, whose easy wisecracking and addiction to the television show Jeopardy are a cover for their affection for each other and Alex. Alex herself remains a shining protagonist, comfortable in the upper echelons of New York society but eager to roll up her sleeves at work, her heart aching for her staff and the victims they defend. Fans of the assistant D.A.'s previous adventures will be mightily pleased with this one. Mystery Guild main selection; Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate selections; 7-city author tour. (Sept.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Assistant District Attorney Alexandra Cooper finds herself drawn into the case of a Jane Doe found floating dead tied to a ladder. Who is this woman with a perfect manicure and pedicure? Why was she murdered? As Alexandra and her police colleagues begin to piece together the case, they find links to the upper echelons of New York society and to the shady side of the art world. They also find connections to a previous case of murder where one of the persons involved turns out to be a co-owner of the victim's art gallery. Solving this crime will put them into greater danger than they have known before. Narrated by Allison Janney, this book has an exciting ending but seems quite formulaic at times. Listeners may find themselves reaching for the fourth tape just to find out "who done it." Libraries where Fairstein's (Final Jeopardy) work has been popular in the past may want to add this title for demand.--Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
Whoever raped and murdered gallery owner Denise Caxton tied her to a heavy ladder and tossed her into the Hudson to sink into oblivion. But Denise, a fighter all her life, has stubbornly risen to the surface, and now Alexandra Cooper, the ADA who heads Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit, is hot on the trail of her killer. The obvious suspects are Lowell Caxton III, the estranged husband and ex-partner who's still sharing Deni's apartment, and her current partner, Bryan Daugherty, who's known throughout the NYPD as a tax cheat who got caught and as a sadistic sex killer who didn't. But Deni made enemies as easily as she climbed the greasy pole of wealth and social standing, and it's a bitter blow to Alex when Omar Sheffield, the ex-con in whose abandoned car Deni's body was transported, turns up as dead as Deni. The killings continue, but Alex, who doesn't let grass grow under her feet, still has time for anecdotes about the Cruise to Nowhere rapist, the shredded penis, the sex offender whose cell might be decorated with cheesecake photos of Trigger and Mr. Ed, and the serial rapist who continues to elude identification. As usual in Fairstein, the sideshow acts are more interesting than the main event, which Alex links two real-life felonies—the Nazi looting of Russia's legendary Amber Room, and the fabulously successful heist at Boston's Isabella Gardner museum—that she has to drop for a dark-horse murderer when she gets too close to the fire. A workmanlike (though oddly seigneurial) job midway between Fairstein's tour de force debut, Final Jeopardy (1996), and its disappointing follow-up, Likely to Die (1997). (Literary Guild alternate selection; Mystery Guild main; author tour)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671019556
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 1/28/2003
  • Series: Alexandra Cooper Series , #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 7.02 (w) x 6.78 (h) x 1.02 (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.

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    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

It was after eight o'clock, and all I could see of the sun was its gleaming crown as it slipped behind the row of steep cliffs, giving off an iridescent pink haze that signaled the end of a long August day. Brackish gray water swirled and broke against the large rocks that edged the mound of dirt on which I stood, spitting up at my ankles as I stared out to the west at the Palisades. The pleats of my white linen skirt, which had seemed so cool and weightless as I moved about the air-conditioned courtroom all afternoon, were plastered against my thighs by the humidity, and I swatted off the mosquitoes as they searched for a place to land on my forearms.

I turned away from the striking vista across the Hudson River and glanced down at the body of the woman that had snagged on the boulders less than an hour earlier.

The detective from the Crime Scene Unit reloaded his camera and took another dozen shots. "Want a couple of Polaroids to work from till I get you a full set of blowups?" I nodded to him as he changed equipment, leaned in above the head of his partially clothed subject, and set off the flash attachment.

The old guy with the fishing rod who had made the grim discovery was twitching nervously while he answered questions hurled at him in Spanish by a young uniformed cop from the Thirty-fourth Precinct. The officer pointed at something bulging in the man's pocket, and the fisherman's free hand shook uncontrollably as he pulled out a small flask of red wine.

"Tell him to relax, Carrera," Detective Mike Chapman called over to the rookie. "Tell him this one's a keeper. Catch of the day. Haven't seen anything this clean pulled out of these waters since Rip Van Winkle used it as a bathtub."

Chapman and his good friend Mercer Wallace had been talking with each other from the time Mercer and I reached the site ten minutes earlier. They had walked away from me so that Lieutenant Peterson could fill Mercer in on what he and Mike had learned since being called to the scene, while I stood at the woman's feet, staring down at her from time to time, half hoping she would open her eyes and speak to us. We were all waiting for one of the medical examiners to arrive and take a look at the body so it could be bagged and removed from this desolate strip of earth on Manhattan's northernmost tip before onlookers began to gather.

Hal Sherman rested his camera on top of the evidence collection bag and wiped the rivulets of sweat off his neck. "How'd you get here so fast?" he asked me.

"Mike was reaching out for Mercer to help him on this one and got me in the deal. Mercer was down in court with me for pretrial hearings in an old case when Mike beeped him. Said he had a floater with a possible sexual assault, and he wanted Mercer to look at her."

"Tell the truth, kid. You couldn't resist a night on the town with the big guys, could you, blondie?" Chapman asked, after coming over to check whether Sherman had finished the photography. "Hey, Hal, who's the guy seems like he's about to lose his lunch over there?"

We all turned to look at the man, not more than twenty-five years old, who was leaning against a large boulder, taking in deep breaths of air and cupping one hand over his mouth. "Reporter for the Times, fresh out of journalism school. This is his third assignment, tailing me around to see how we process a crime scene. Two burglaries in the diamond district, one arson in a high school, and now — Ophelia."

Chapman went into a squat next to the right side of the woman's head, impatient with the presence of amateurs as he set to work on what was clearly the start of a homicide investigation. "Tell him he ought to look into getting the gig for restaurant reviews, Hal. Much easier on the gut."

I stepped closer to watch Chapman go over the corpse again, this time as he concentrated on details that he had observed before our arrival and explained them to Mercer Wallace. The two had been partners for several years in Manhattan North's Homicide Squad, where Chapman still worked, until Mercer had transferred over to Special Victims to handle rape cases. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and manner, they came together seamlessly to work at a crime scene or on a murder investigation.

Mercer, at forty, was five years older than Mike and I. He was one of a handful of African American detectives who had made first grade in the department, a detail man whom every senior prosecutor liked to count on, in the field and on the witness stand, to build a meticulous case. He was as solid as a linebacker but had passed up a football scholarship at Michigan to join the NYPD. Slower to smile than Mike Chapman, Mercer was intense and steady, with a sweetness of disposition that was, for those shattered victims who encountered him, their first lifeline back to a world of normalcy.

Mike Chapman was just over six feet tall, a bit shorter than Mercer. His jet black hair framed his lean face, momentarily somber as he reviewed the dead woman in front of him. A graduate of Fordham College, where he worked his way through school as a waiter and bartender, Mike had never wavered in his determination to follow the career path of his adored father, who had been a cop for more than a quarter of a century. He had a grin that could coax me out of almost any mood, and an encyclopedic knowledge of American history and military affairs, which had been his major concentration while in school.

"Four-point restraint," Chapman began, focusing his pen like a pointer in a college classroom. The slender body was resting on a wooden ladder about eight feet long. The victim's ankles and wrists were bound to narrow rungs above her head and below her feet. The cord used to hold the woman in place was firmly knotted and secured. Longer pieces of a thicker rope dangled from parts of the frame, and two of them still had rocks attached to their tips.

Mercer was bending over now, looking at the extremities from every angle. "Somebody went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure this body didn't come to the surface anytime before Christmas, wouldn't you say?"

He tugged at one of the loose lengths of rope, holding up the ragged end, from which it appeared a weight — perhaps another rock — had torn free.

Over the top of his head I could see Craig Fleisher, the on-call medical examiner, walking toward us. He waved a greeting and added, "Better move quickly, the vultures are gathering." Next to his parked car the satellite dish sitting above a Fox 5 television truck was suddenly visible. The first field reporter had already picked up word of the unusual find from a police scanner, and it would take only minutes before other camera crews joined him to try to get the most salacious shot of the corpse.

"What have you got, Mike? A drowning?" Fleisher asked.

"No way, Doc. Throwing her overboard was just a means of disposing of the body." We all leaned in closer as Chapman placed his hand on the crown of the woman's head and moved it slightly to the side. He slipped his pen beneath her matted black hair, which was still wet and splayed against the wooden crosspieces of the ladder, then lifted it gently to expose the scalp. "Skull was bashed in back here, maybe with a gun butt or hammer. I'd bet you'll find a fracture or two when you get in there tomorrow."

Fleisher studied the gaping wound. He was stone-faced and calm, running his fingers over the rest of the rear of the head. "Well, she wasn't in the water very long. Only a day or two at best."

He repeated what Chapman had told us when Mercer and I arrived. There was no putrefaction or decomposition, and the bruises he noted on her body were probably antemortem. "Fish and crabs usually get to work on the soft tissue pretty quickly," he explained, "but the face is completely intact here. Seems like they didn't have much of a chance."

Fleisher had trained in San Diego, so although he was a recent hire in New York, he was quite familiar with marine deaths.

"Could be our lucky break, Doc," Chapman said. "The killer — or killers — couldn't have picked a worse place to dump a body if they expected to keep it from surfacing."

The doctor straightened up and scanned the area — a barren headland, just thirty feet long, that sat at the end of a city street, nestled between Columbia University's Baker Field and below the toll bridge leading north out of Manhattan, to the Bronx. "That water sure looks angry, doesn't it?"

"Spuyten Duyvil," said Chapman. "Welcome to the neighborhood. It's an old Dutch name for this tidal strait that connects the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, separates us from the mainland."

Mike knew the background as well as I did. Settlers in New Amsterdam had called it that in the early 1600s. In spite of the devil, they said, because the waters were so very rough, rocked by the tides in both directions. Passage through it had been impossible for centuries, until the government cut a canal almost one hundred years ago.

"Not that you'll see any Dutchmen around here now, Doc. Rice and beans replaced Heineken's a few years back, if you know what I mean. But they named it well."

The kid reporter had gotten to his feet and come up behind me, out of direct view of the body but close enough to listen to the conversation and jot down what we were saying.

"You mind not putting anything on paper for the time being?" Chapman asked, in a voice that was more of an order than a question. "You'd be required to give your scribbled musings to Miss Cooper here. It would become discovery material for the trial and she'd have to turn your notes over to the defense, once we catch the prick who did this."

"But, but I'm — uh — there's a privil — "

"You want to wait in the car while we do this, or you want to stand here quietly like a good scout and count on your memory to get this right? The local history you can find in a book, the current events are off the record. Start with the fact that she's got a crater the size of a teacup in the back of her head and that nobody planned on her doing any laps once she hit the water. Now keep out of my way. Understood?"

Chapman turned back to our small group, which was huddled around the body. Only the police divers, dressed in their scuba gear and holding for directions, stood off to the side as the rest of us waited for Fleisher to finish his inspection. Wallace had sent Officer Carrera up to his radio car to get a blanket, and he and another cop were holding it open as a shield between the dead woman and the curious busybodies who were gathering on 207th Street. He opened his cell phone and called the local precinct for crowd control backup as the news crew moved up within feet of our operation.

"Who's the blonde?" I heard the Fox 5 news reporter ask his cameraman.

"Alexandra Cooper. District Attorney's Office. Runs the Sex Crimes Unit for the D.A., Paul Battaglia. Probably means the cops think the deceased was raped. They always bring her in on those cases."

I wanted to hear what else the cameraman was going to say about our work, but Fleisher was talking again and I focused back on his remarks.

"You've got a female Caucasian who I'd guess to be in her late thirties." I had recently turned thirty-five, and I peered down at the frozen gaze of the woman, wondering what had brought her to this violent end, so prematurely. "I'm not going to turn her over or do any more work here, gentlemen. Too many eyes. But I'm certain the cause will be blunt force trauma — that blow to the head which Chapman located for us. I don't think we'll find any signs at autopsy that she was alive when she was submerged."

Fleisher went on. "Possible sexual assault. We'll be checking the vaginal vault for abrasions. I would doubt there'll be seminal fluid of value, once the seawater invaded. Hard to tell whether the missing clothes suggest rape or the rough current ripping them out of place."

The well-toned body of the young woman still had a beige silk shell covering her bra, and a skirt of the same material. Both had tears and rips in the fine fabric. But there were no underpants, and I noticed what appeared to be finger marks embedded in the skin of her inner thighs.

"Doesn't look like a local girl, does she, Mercer?" Chapman remarked. The Thirty-fourth Precinct still housed some elegant old apartment buildings, but it was not one of the tonier neighborhoods of the city. "Check out the fingernails and pedicure. From the shape she's in, I'd bet she spent a lot of time on the StairMaster."

The vermilion polish on her toes and nails had been slightly chipped by her struggle with her assailant or by the tides. It was clear that she had taken good care of herself, until this week.

The Eyewitness News truck had joined the posse. "Hey, Mike," I heard a voice call out from the far side of the blanket Carrera was holding, "got anything for us?"

"Gimme a break, Pablo. Have a little respect for the dead. C'mon, Doc. Can we get her out of here now?"

Fleisher told him to cover the body, move the waiting ambulance in, and load up the ladder as it was, its cargo still lashed to the wood. "Need anything else from me?"

Chapman shook his head and said he'd be at the morgue for the autopsy proceeding the next day. He bent over and noted the name of the manufacturer on the underside of the ladder before an attendant loaded it onto the van.

"Summer backlog," Fleisher said. "I won't get to this one until two P.M., and that's with jumping her over a few unclaimed souls I've got in the cooler."

Four new arrivals from the precinct formed a human chain to separate the growing crowd from the diminishing group of us who were standing where the lady on the ladder had been.

Chapman walked over to talk with the lieutenant, who was watching the scuba team members tether themselves to huge pieces of equipment that Emergency Services had ferried to the scene. They were going to attempt to crawl around the border of the whirling passage in the unlikely possibility that they could feel for any evidence or weapon. It was obvious that there would be nothing to see along the silt-lined sides and bottom of the treacherous waterway gap.

"Don't waste their time or energy, Loo," Chapman urged Peterson, using the informal nickname that rank evoked from all detectives. "She didn't go into the drink anywhere near here. Could have been Yonkers, could have been the Bronx. It's just my good fortune that she stubbed her toe and washed up on a little piece of Manhattan North. I haven't picked up anything except drug shoot-outs in weeks."

Only Mike Chapman would consider this discovery to be his good fortune. I looked around the neglected plot that had become this woman's temporary graveyard, its surface littered with broken beer bottles, empty crack vials, scores of spots of pigeon droppings, and a few dozen used condoms.

Mercer Wallace came up beside me, grasping my elbow in his enormous black hand and guiding me out to the street, running interference for me through the rows of news teams and the neighborhood cronies who were looking for excitement now that darkness had fallen. He unlocked the passenger door of his car and I ducked into the seat.

People moved back to the sidewalk as Mercer made a U-turn on the narrow road, and we drove off. He turned in and out of a maze of one-way streets, accelerating when he reached Broadway, taking me downtown and across Central Park to my apartment, on the Upper East Side. I was silent for blocks.

"Where are you, Alex? Talk to me. I can't let you go upstairs alone just thinking about that body. She'll be with you all night. You'll never close your eyes."

I knew that without being told. But I was deeply distressed and much too wired to sleep after what we had just seen, despite my exhaustion from a couple of weeks of hard-fought courtroom battle in front of a demanding judge. "Thanks, Mercer. Just wondering about the obvious, knowing that there aren't any logical answers. I'll be fine."

"We'll get him, Alex. It doesn't seem very likely tonight. But Chapman and me, we'll get him. In spite of the devil, Miss Cooper. In spite of the devil."

Copyright © 1999 by Linda Fairstein

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Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter One

It was after eight o'clock, and all I could see of the sun was its gleaming crown as it slipped behind the row of steep cliffs, giving off an iridescent pink haze that signaled the end of a long August day. Brackish gray water swirled and broke against the large rocks that edged the mound of dirt on which I stood, spitting up at my ankles as I stared out to the west at the Palisades. The pleats of my white linen skirt, which had seemed so cool and weightless as I moved about the air-conditioned courtroom all afternoon, were plastered against my thighs by the humidity, and I swatted off the mosquitoes as they searched for a place to land on my forearms.

I turned away from the striking vista across the Hudson River and glanced down at the body of the woman that had snagged on the boulders less than an hour earlier.

The detective from the Crime Scene Unit reloaded his camera and took another dozen shots. "Want a couple of Polaroids to work from till I get you a full set of blowups?" I nodded to him as he changed equipment, leaned in above the head of his partially clothed subject, and set off the flash attachment.

The old guy with the fishing rod who had made the grim discovery was twitching nervously while he answered questions hurled at him in Spanish by a young uniformed cop from the Thirty-fourth Precinct. The officer pointed at something bulging in the man's pocket, and the fisherman's free hand shook uncontrollably as he pulled out a small flask of red wine.

"Tell him to relax, Carrera," Detective Mike Chapman called over to the rookie. "Tell him this one's a keeper. Catch of the day.Haven't seen anything this clean pulled out of these waters since Rip Van Winkle used it as a bathtub."

Chapman and his good friend Mercer Wallace had been talking with each other from the time Mercer and I reached the site ten minutes earlier. They had walked away from me so that Lieutenant Peterson could fill Mercer in on what he and Mike had learned since being called to the scene, while I stood at the woman's feet, staring down at her from time to time, half hoping she would open her eyes and speak to us. We were all waiting for one of the medical examiners to arrive and take a look at the body so it could be bagged and removed from this desolate strip of earth on Manhattan's northernmost tip before onlookers began to gather.

Hal Sherman rested his camera on top of the evidence collection bag and wiped the rivulets of sweat off his neck. "How'd you get here so fast?" he asked me.

"Mike was reaching out for Mercer to help him on this one and got me in the deal. Mercer was down in court with me for pretrial hearings in an old case when Mike beeped him. Said he had a floater with a possible sexual assault, and he wanted Mercer to look at her."

"Tell the truth, kid. You couldn't resist a night on the town with the big guys, could you, blondie?" Chapman asked, after coming over to check whether Sherman had finished the photography. "Hey, Hal, who's the guy seems like he's about to lose his lunch over there?"

We all turned to look at the man, not more than twenty-five years old, who was leaning against a large boulder, taking in deep breaths of air and cupping one hand over his mouth. "Reporter for the Times, fresh out of journalism school. This is his third assignment, tailing me around to see how we process a crime scene. Two burglaries in the diamond district, one arson in a high school, and now -- Ophelia."

Chapman went into a squat next to the right side of the woman's head, impatient with the presence of amateurs as he set to work on what was clearly the start of a homicide investigation. "Tell him he ought to look into getting the gig for restaurant reviews, Hal. Much easier on the gut."

I stepped closer to watch Chapman go over the corpse again, this time as he concentrated on details that he had observed before our arrival and explained them to Mercer Wallace. The two had been partners for several years in Manhattan North's Homicide Squad, where Chapman still worked, until Mercer had transferred over to Special Victims to handle rape cases. Despite the differences in their backgrounds and manner, they came together seamlessly to work at a crime scene or on a murder investigation.

Mercer, at forty, was five years older than Mike and I. He was one of a handful of African American detectives who had made first grade in the department, a detail man whom every senior prosecutor liked to count on, in the field and on the witness stand, to build a meticulous case. He was as solid as a linebacker but had passed up a football scholarship at Michigan to join the NYPD. Slower to smile than Mike Chapman, Mercer was intense and steady, with a sweetness of disposition that was, for those shattered victims who encountered him, their first lifeline back to a world of normalcy.

Mike Chapman was just over six feet tall, a bit shorter than Mercer. His jet black hair framed his lean face, momentarily somber as he reviewed the dead woman in front of him. A graduate of Fordham College, where he worked his way through school as a waiter and bartender, Mike had never wavered in his determination to follow the career path of his adored father, who had been a cop for more than a quarter of a century. He had a grin that could coax me out of almost any mood, and an encyclopedic knowledge of American history and military affairs, which had been his major concentration while in school.

"Four-point restraint," Chapman began, focusing his pen like a pointer in a college classroom. The slender body was resting on a wooden ladder about eight feet long. The victim's ankles and wrists were bound to narrow rungs above her head and below her feet. The cord used to hold the woman in place was firmly knotted and secured. Longer pieces of a thicker rope dangled from parts of the frame, and two of them still had rocks attached to their tips.

Mercer was bending over now, looking at the extremities from every angle. "Somebody went to an awful lot of trouble to make sure this body didn't come to the surface anytime before Christmas, wouldn't you say?"

He tugged at one of the loose lengths of rope, holding up the ragged end, from which it appeared a weight -- perhaps another rock -- had torn free.

Over the top of his head I could see Craig Fleisher, the on-call medical examiner, walking toward us. He waved a greeting and added, "Better move quickly, the vultures are gathering." Next to his parked car the satellite dish sitting above a Fox 5 television truck was suddenly visible. The first field reporter had already picked up word of the unusual find from a police scanner, and it would take only minutes before other camera crews joined him to try to get the most salacious shot of the corpse.

"What have you got, Mike? A drowning?" Fleisher asked.

"No way, Doc. Throwing her overboard was just a means of disposing of the body." We all leaned in closer as Chapman placed his hand on the crown of the woman's head and moved it slightly to the side. He slipped his pen beneath her matted black hair, which was still wet and splayed against the wooden crosspieces of the ladder, then lifted it gently to expose the scalp. "Skull was bashed in back here, maybe with a gun butt or hammer. I'd bet you'll find a fracture or two when you get in there tomorrow."

Fleisher studied the gaping wound. He was stone-faced and calm, running his fingers over the rest of the rear of the head. "Well, she wasn't in the water very long. Only a day or two at best."

He repeated what Chapman had told us when Mercer and I arrived. There was no putrefaction or decomposition, and the bruises he noted on her body were probably antemortem. "Fish and crabs usually get to work on the soft tissue pretty quickly," he explained, "but the face is completely intact here. Seems like they didn't have much of a chance."

Fleisher had trained in San Diego, so although he was a recent hire in New York, he was quite familiar with marine deaths.

"Could be our lucky break, Doc," Chapman said. "The killer -- or killers -- couldn't have picked a worse place to dump a body if they expected to keep it from surfacing."

The doctor straightened up and scanned the area -- a barren headland, just thirty feet long, that sat at the end of a city street, nestled between Columbia University's Baker Field and below the toll bridge leading north out of Manhattan, to the Bronx. "That water sure looks angry, doesn't it?"

"Spuyten Duyvil," said Chapman. "Welcome to the neighborhood. It's an old Dutch name for this tidal strait that connects the Harlem and Hudson Rivers, separates us from the mainland."

Mike knew the background as well as I did. Settlers in New Amsterdam had called it that in the early 1600s. In spite of the devil, they said, because the waters were so very rough, rocked by the tides in both directions. Passage through it had been impossible for centuries, until the government cut a canal almost one hundred years ago.

"Not that you'll see any Dutchmen around here now, Doc. Rice and beans replaced Heineken's a few years back, if you know what I mean. But they named it well."

The kid reporter had gotten to his feet and come up behind me, out of direct view of the body but close enough to listen to the conversation and jot down what we were saying.

"You mind not putting anything on paper for the time being?" Chapman asked, in a voice that was more of an order than a question. "You'd be required to give your scribbled musings to Miss Cooper here. It would become discovery material for the trial and she'd have to turn your notes over to the defense, once we catch the prick who did this."

"But, but I'm -- uh -- there's a privil -- "

"You want to wait in the car while we do this, or you want to stand here quietly like a good scout and count on your memory to get this right? The local history you can find in a book, the current events are off the record. Start with the fact that she's got a crater the size of a teacup in the back of her head and that nobody planned on her doing any laps once she hit the water. Now keep out of my way. Understood?"

Chapman turned back to our small group, which was huddled around the body. Only the police divers, dressed in their scuba gear and holding for directions, stood off to the side as the rest of us waited for Fleisher to finish his inspection. Wallace had sent Officer Carrera up to his radio car to get a blanket, and he and another cop were holding it open as a shield between the dead woman and the curious busybodies who were gathering on 207th Street. He opened his cell phone and called the local precinct for crowd control backup as the news crew moved up within feet of our operation.

"Who's the blonde?" I heard the Fox 5 news reporter ask his cameraman.

"Alexandra Cooper. District Attorney's Office. Runs the Sex Crimes Unit for the D.A., Paul Battaglia. Probably means the cops think the deceased was raped. They always bring her in on those cases."

I wanted to hear what else the cameraman was going to say about our work, but Fleisher was talking again and I focused back on his remarks.

"You've got a female Caucasian who I'd guess to be in her late thirties." I had recently turned thirty-five, and I peered down at the frozen gaze of the woman, wondering what had brought her to this violent end, so prematurely. "I'm not going to turn her over or do any more work here, gentlemen. Too many eyes. But I'm certain the cause will be blunt force trauma -- that blow to the head which Chapman located for us. I don't think we'll find any signs at autopsy that she was alive when she was submerged."

Fleisher went on. "Possible sexual assault. We'll be checking the vaginal vault for abrasions. I would doubt there'll be seminal fluid of value, once the seawater invaded. Hard to tell whether the missing clothes suggest rape or the rough current ripping them out of place."

The well-toned body of the young woman still had a beige silk shell covering her bra, and a skirt of the same material. Both had tears and rips in the fine fabric. But there were no underpants, and I noticed what appeared to be finger marks embedded in the skin of her inner thighs.

"Doesn't look like a local girl, does she, Mercer?" Chapman remarked. The Thirty-fourth Precinct still housed some elegant old apartment buildings, but it was not one of the tonier neighborhoods of the city. "Check out the fingernails and pedicure. From the shape she's in, I'd bet she spent a lot of time on the StairMaster."

The vermilion polish on her toes and nails had been slightly chipped by her struggle with her assailant or by the tides. It was clear that she had taken good care of herself, until this week.

The Eyewitness News truck had joined the posse. "Hey, Mike," I heard a voice call out from the far side of the blanket Carrera was holding, "got anything for us?"

"Gimme a break, Pablo. Have a little respect for the dead. C'mon, Doc. Can we get her out of here now?"

Fleisher told him to cover the body, move the waiting ambulance in, and load up the ladder as it was, its cargo still lashed to the wood. "Need anything else from me?"

Chapman shook his head and said he'd be at the morgue for the autopsy proceeding the next day. He bent over and noted the name of the manufacturer on the underside of the ladder before an attendant loaded it onto the van.

"Summer backlog," Fleisher said. "I won't get to this one until two P.M., and that's with jumping her over a few unclaimed souls I've got in the cooler."

Four new arrivals from the precinct formed a human chain to separate the growing crowd from the diminishing group of us who were standing where the lady on the ladder had been.

Chapman walked over to talk with the lieutenant, who was watching the scuba team members tether themselves to huge pieces of equipment that Emergency Services had ferried to the scene. They were going to attempt to crawl around the border of the whirling passage in the unlikely possibility that they could feel for any evidence or weapon. It was obvious that there would be nothing to see along the silt-lined sides and bottom of the treacherous waterway gap.

"Don't waste their time or energy, Loo," Chapman urged Peterson, using the informal nickname that rank evoked from all detectives. "She didn't go into the drink anywhere near here. Could have been Yonkers, could have been the Bronx. It's just my good fortune that she stubbed her toe and washed up on a little piece of Manhattan North. I haven't picked up anything except drug shoot-outs in weeks."

Only Mike Chapman would consider this discovery to be his good fortune. I looked around the neglected plot that had become this woman's temporary graveyard, its surface littered with broken beer bottles, empty crack vials, scores of spots of pigeon droppings, and a few dozen used condoms.

Mercer Wallace came up beside me, grasping my elbow in his enormous black hand and guiding me out to the street, running interference for me through the rows of news teams and the neighborhood cronies who were looking for excitement now that darkness had fallen. He unlocked the passenger door of his car and I ducked into the seat.

People moved back to the sidewalk as Mercer made a U-turn on the narrow road, and we drove off. He turned in and out of a maze of one-way streets, accelerating when he reached Broadway, taking me downtown and across Central Park to my apartment, on the Upper East Side. I was silent for blocks.

"Where are you, Alex? Talk to me. I can't let you go upstairs alone just thinking about that body. She'll be with you all night. You'll never close your eyes."

I knew that without being told. But I was deeply distressed and much too wired to sleep after what we had just seen, despite my exhaustion from a couple of weeks of hard-fought courtroom battle in front of a demanding judge. "Thanks, Mercer. Just wondering about the obvious, knowing that there aren't any logical answers. I'll be fine."

"We'll get him, Alex. It doesn't seem very likely tonight. But Chapman and me, we'll get him. In spite of the devil, Miss Cooper. In spite of the devil."


Copyright © 1999 by Linda Fairstein

Read More Show Less

Introduction

Reading Group Guide

COLD HIT

1. In Linda Fairstein's third Alexandra Cooper novel, she tackles the world of fine art dealing — even weaving in real unsolved art crimes. How would you describe her portrayal of the New York art world? Did it surprise you? Had you ever heard of the Amber Room or the Gardner Museum heist?

2. Mercer Wallace tells Alex that they'll find Denise Caxton's murderer, "in spite of the devil" (p. 11). What do you think he means?

3. COLD HIT pays particular attention to the landscape of Manhattan — thanks especially to Mike Chapman's love of local history. How does Manhattan itself become a key player in this story? Can you imagine Alex living anywhere else?

4. The night that Denise Caxton's body is found, Alex spends a tough night awake, thinking "about the monsters who walk among us" (p. 16). Which elements of this case do you think have especially disturbed her? Where else do we see glimpses of the more sensitive, vulnerable Alex?

5. Although we get to know Denise Caxton only through the testimony of others, how would you describe her? Did you, like Alex, sometimes have trouble finding her sympathetic?

6. Chapman is able to find opportunities for wit and humor in the face of even the most horrifying crimes. What does this ability tell us about him, and what makes him such an important part of the story?

7. In what ways does being a woman make it both easier and tougher for Alex to do her job?

8. How do characters like Ruth Harwind, the surly fifteen-year-old who falsely accuses someone of rape, and Mrs. Braverman, the woman who believes aliens live upstairs from her, add to the flavor of the story?

9. In COLDHIT, the friendship between Mercer, Chapman, and Alex is tested in the most dramatic way. Describe the bond between the three of them. Are Alex and Chapman justified in feeling responsible for what happened to Mercer?

10. Do you think that Alex successfully balances her personal life with the demands and stresses of her job? What outlets does she have to help keep herself sane?

11. Linda Fairstein's novels do not limit themselves to a single story line, but paint a much broader portrait of Alex Cooper's world. How does her brand of storytelling compare to other, similar works? Is there another writer she reminds you of?

12. Alex jokes with Chapman and Mercer about their "jealousy" of her new boyfriend. Though her relationship with them is platonic, do you think that this joke hits close to home? Could any boyfriend possibly be as close to Alex as the two of them are?

13. Denise Caxton's life — with her multiple lovers, shady art acquisitions, and questionable partnerships — was complicated, but the reason she was murdered was ultimately very simple. Were you surprised when you learned what really happened?

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

Reading Group Guide

COLD HIT

1. In Linda Fairstein's third Alexandra Cooper novel, she tackles the world of fine art dealing — even weaving in real unsolved art crimes. How would you describe her portrayal of the New York art world? Did it surprise you? Had you ever heard of the Amber Room or the Gardner Museum heist?

2. Mercer Wallace tells Alex that they'll find Denise Caxton's murderer, "in spite of the devil" (p. 11). What do you think he means?

3. COLD HIT pays particular attention to the landscape of Manhattan — thanks especially to Mike Chapman's love of local history. How does Manhattan itself become a key player in this story? Can you imagine Alex living anywhere else?

4. The night that Denise Caxton's body is found, Alex spends a tough night awake, thinking "about the monsters who walk among us" (p. 16). Which elements of this case do you think have especially disturbed her? Where else do we see glimpses of the more sensitive, vulnerable Alex?

5. Although we get to know Denise Caxton only through the testimony of others, how would you describe her? Did you, like Alex, sometimes have trouble finding her sympathetic?

6. Chapman is able to find opportunities for wit and humor in the face of even the most horrifying crimes. What does this ability tell us about him, and what makes him such an important part of the story?

7. In what ways does being a woman make it both easier and tougher for Alex to do her job?

8. How do characters like Ruth Harwind, the surly fifteen-year-old who falsely accuses someone of rape, and Mrs. Braverman, the woman who believes aliens live upstairs from her, add to the flavor of the story?

9. In COLD HIT, the friendship between Mercer, Chapman, and Alex is tested in the most dramatic way. Describe the bond between the three of them. Are Alex and Chapman justified in feeling responsible for what happened to Mercer?

10. Do you think that Alex successfully balances her personal life with the demands and stresses of her job? What outlets does she have to help keep herself sane?

11. Linda Fairstein's novels do not limit themselves to a single story line, but paint a much broader portrait of Alex Cooper's world. How does her brand of storytelling compare to other, similar works? Is there another writer she reminds you of?

12. Alex jokes with Chapman and Mercer about their "jealousy" of her new boyfriend. Though her relationship with them is platonic, do you think that this joke hits close to home? Could any boyfriend possibly be as close to Alex as the two of them are?

13. Denise Caxton's life — with her multiple lovers, shady art acquisitions, and questionable partnerships — was complicated, but the reason she was murdered was ultimately very simple. Were you surprised when you learned what really happened?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 28 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2007

    So-so

    It's better than Likely to Die and slightly less well-written as Final Jeopardy. The plot here is pretty good and fairly believable. As usual, she spices it up with humorous or dramatic anecdotes unrelated to the central plot but based on real-life, on-the-job situations that really add credibility and flavor to the book. Her writing style is solid. My knocks on Feinstein are these (and the same is true with her other books, of the three I've read): 1) Her plots are needlessly convoluted. She tries to spin a seamless yarn in which no one can guess the perpetrator, as a good mystery should do. But she confuses issues when she doesn't have to and has characters seemingly deliberately miss certain points as if she's trying to steer the reader away from something. It gets irritating. I can usually tell precisely what she's trying to avoid me seeing by virtue of her trying to avoid it so obviously. 2) Her books suffer from the usual chick-lit malady - too much description of what each character is wearing, what restaurants they're going to, what they're ordering, whom they're dating, what their relationship with their mother is, etc. Whenever Feinstein gets into anything more than brief interactions between the main character, Alex Cooper, and whatever flavor of the month she's dating, I skip the entire part and move on. I don't appear to miss anything when I do. 3) Her dialogue can be very stilted. She's trying to nail 'cop-speak,' which you'd think she'd know well. But it comes off as hackneyed and actually kind of lame. At one point Detective Mike Chapman refers to a woman's mouth as her 'puss.' I laughed out loud and thought Fairstein was suddenly writing a period piece with detectives from the 1950's. I know cops. They don't talk like they just fell off the set of the original Dragnet TV show. In all, she's worth a look. I just wouldn't invest a huge amount of anticipation in what you're going to read. There are much better cops/crime/detective mystery writers out there.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 7, 2011

    check it out.

    Linda Fairstein writes wonderful stories. However, the editing was terrible. There are misspelled words, no spaces between some of the words and the font changed occassionally. It took me more time to read this book beacause of all the errors.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2014

    Alec has a weakness

    I enjoy the Alec Cooper novels but for a very smart lady she gets herself into DUMB situations to find thr PERP Im not going to read any more of her books

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2012

    GREAT READ!!!!

    I have read Linda Fairstein before and really enjoy her books. This one is typical of her, a real page turner and suspenseful to the end!! I highly recommend this book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2011

    typos, typos, typos

    This is an enjoyable book in a good series, but the typos in the NOOK Book edition are extremely annoying.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2013

    Always a fun read

    Love all her books

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