The Dead-House (Alexandra Cooper Series #4)

( 32 )

Overview

Assistant D.A. Alexandra Cooper is back — in this page-turning New York Times bestseller from legendary Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein.
On Roosevelt Island, a strip of land in New York City's East River, stands an abandoned 19th century smallpox asylum, "The Deadhouse," where the afflicted were shipped off to die. It's a gruesome bit of history perhaps best forgotten. But for Alexandra Cooper, it may be the key to a shocking murder that cuts deeper than the ...

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Overview

Assistant D.A. Alexandra Cooper is back — in this page-turning New York Times bestseller from legendary Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Linda Fairstein.
On Roosevelt Island, a strip of land in New York City's East River, stands an abandoned 19th century smallpox asylum, "The Deadhouse," where the afflicted were shipped off to die. It's a gruesome bit of history perhaps best forgotten. But for Alexandra Cooper, it may be the key to a shocking murder that cuts deeper than the arctic cold front gripping the city. A respected university professor is dead — strangled and dumped in an elevator shaft. And while the school does damage control for anxious parents, Cooper and her close detective friend Mike Chapman scramble for answers, fueled by the most daunting discovery: a piece of paper, found on the lifeless body of Professor Lola Dakota, that reads The Deadhouse....

Perhaps most puzzling of all are the words "The Deadhouse." What was Lola's connection to this desolate place where people once endured slow and agonizing deaths?

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
It's almost Christmas in New York City, but the season is far from jolly for Assistant D.A. Alexandra Cooper after Lola Dakota, an illustrious political science professor from King's College, is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft. All Alexandra has to go on are a few strands of hair and a piece of paper bearing the words "The Deadhouse." The only link to foul play is a photo Alexandra finds in Lola's office of a student who disappeared more than eight months ago. And what do they both have to do with the Deadhouse, the notorious Roosevelt Island site where smallpox patients went to die in the 19th century?
From the Publisher
Los Angeles Times One of the best of the year...a beguiling mix of murder, romance, and suspense....Fascinating.

USA Today A four-star tribute to good writing, strong characters, and the ability to translate expertise into a terrific story.

The Washington Post SuperbŠ.The Deadhouse allows Fairstein to display her firsthand knowledge of crime and investigation.

Washington Post Book World
The brooding quality of the setting, the storm-toss'd, struggle-to-the-death finale is superb.
Publishers Weekly
When archeologist Lola Dakota is found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft in her apartment building on Manhattan's Upper West Side, assistant D.A. Alexandra Cooper takes on one of her darkest cases yet in this compelling mystery from bestseller Fairstein (Final Jeopardy). Alexandra, aided by homicide detective Mike Chapman, must sift through the testimonies of Dakota's close-mouthed colleagues at small, experimental King's College. Despite bitter December weather, the professor was engaged in an archaeological dig on the city's Roosevelt Island for clues about the criminals and mental patients shipped there a hundred years ago and left to die. Cooper, who had been working with Dakota to apprehend her abusive husband, now reaches out to Lola's resistant family and legal counsel in New Jersey, where she has been hiding out. And what of Charlotte Voight, a young woman who disappeared several months ago? The city is ablaze with holiday lights and cheer, Mike is acting peculiarly, team member Mercer Wallace injured in Final Jeopardy rejoins them late in the game, and Alex and new love Jake, a news correspondent, might be breaking up. Fairstein weaves present and past woes to good effect, while her focus on Roosevelt Island will intrigue New Yorkers who know little about its shameful former uses. A somewhat abrupt resolution, as well as a few loose strands, will leave the reader eager for a later date with the D.A. (Oct. 2) Forecast: Several factors will recommend this book to a broad audience: Manhattan D.A. Fairstein bears the mark of authenticity; all three previous titles in the series were bestsellers; and Linda Fairstein's Final Jeopardy was an ABC-TV Movie of the Week in April. Asix-city author tour and two floor displays will further boost sales. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Brilliant political science professor Lola Dakota's abusive spouse Ivan Kralovic has threatened to kill her, so when she winds up murdered it's a fair assumption he's the perp. But then District Attorney Alexandra Cooper (Cold Hit), in charge of New York City's Sex Crimes Unit, hears of the note found in Lola's pocket and halts the rush to judgment. "The deadhouse" is all the note says, but Alex intuits a complication. Over the past two years, during which she helped keep Lola safe from Ivan's tender mercies, she's gained insights into a secretive, complex nature and, smart cookie that she is, decides to widen the net. The fact is, stormy petrel Lola had a variety of enemies (on the King's College faculty, for instance) no less dedicated than her oafish husband. Still, it's "the deadhouse" that really resonates. Soon enough, Alex learns of the dark history of New York's Roosevelt Island, which in the 19th century was a macabre terminus to which smallpox sufferers were regularly packed off to die in one of the out-buildings: the deadhouse. Lola's interest in the place was not unrivaled, since things more enticing than old skeletons (baubles costly and glittery, anyone?) might well have been buried there. When Assistant D.A Fairstein (head of Manhattan's Sex Crimes Unit) has Assistant D.A. Cooper going about her daily prosecutorial chores, the result is authoritative and interesting-unlike, say, when the whodunit is dragged out, and the gooey love affair dragged in.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671019549
  • Publisher: Pocket Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2003
  • Series: Alexandra Cooper Series , #4
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 190,779
  • Product dimensions: 6.78 (w) x 4.24 (h) x 1.19 (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 hard not to smile as I watched Lola Dakota die.

I clicked the remote control button and listened to the commentary again on another network.

"New Jersey police officers have released a portion of these dramatic videotapes to the media this evening. We're going to play for you the actual recordings the three hit men hired by her husband to kill Ms. Dakota made to prove to him that they had accomplished their mission."

The local reporter was posed in front of a large mansion in the town of Summit, less than an hour's drive from where I was sitting, in the video technicians' office of the New York County District Attorney. Snowflakes drifted and swirled around her head as she pointed a gloved hand at the darkened facade of a house ringed with strands of tiny white Christmas lights that outlined the roof, the windows, and the enormous wreath on the front door.

"Earlier this afternoon, before the sun went down, Hugh," the woman addressed the news channel's anchorman, "those of us who gathered here for word of Ms. Dakota's condition could see pools of blood, left in the snow during the early morning shooting. It will be a grim holiday season for this forty-two-year-old university professor's family. Let's take you back over the story that led to this morning's tragic events."

Mike Chapman grabbed the clicker from my hand and pressed the mute button, then jabbed at my back with it. "How come the Jersey prosecutors got to do this caper? Too big for you to handle, blondie?"

As the bureau chief in charge of sex crimes for the New York County District Attorney's Office for more than a decade, sexual assault cases — as well as domestic violence and stalking crimes — fell under my jurisdiction. The district attorney, Paul Battaglia, ran an office with a legal staff of more than six hundred lawyers, but he had taken a particular interest in the investigation of the professor's perilous marital entanglement.

"Battaglia didn't like the whole idea — the risk, the melodrama, and...well, the emotional instability of Lola Dakota. He probably didn't know the story would look this good on the late news broadcast or he might have reconsidered."

Chapman lifted his foot to the edge of my chair and swiveled it around so that I faced him. "Had you worked with Lola for a long time?"

"I guess it's been almost two years since the first day I met her. Someone called Battaglia from the president's office at Columbia University. Said there was a matter that needed to be handled discreetly." I reached for a cup of coffee. "One of their professors had split from her husband, and he was stalking her. The usual domestic. She didn't want to have him arrested, didn't want any publicity that would embarrass the administration — just wanted him to leave her alone. The DA kicked it over to me to try to make it happen. That's how I met Lola Dakota. And became aware of her miserable husband."

"What'd you do for her?"

Chapman worked homicides, most of the time relying on sophisticated forensic technology and reliable medical evidence to solve his cases. He rarely dealt with breathing witnesses, and although he was the best detective in the Manhattan North Squad when he came face-to-face with a corpse, Chapman was always intrigued by how the rest of us in law enforcement managed to untangle and resolve the delicate problems of the living.

"Met with her several times, trying to convince her that we could make a prosecution stick and gain her trust to let me bring charges. I explained that filing a criminal complaint was the only way I could get a judge to put some muscle behind our actions." Lola was like most of our victims. She wanted the violence to stop, but she did not want to face her spouse in a court of law.

"It worked?"

"No better than usual. When reasoning with her failed, we relocated her to a temporary apartment, arranged for counseling, and sent a couple of our detectives to talk to her husband informally and explain that Lola was giving him a break."

"Happy to see the local constables, was he?"

"Elated. They told him that she didn't want us to lock him up, but if he kept harassing her, that wasn't a choice I would allow her to make the next time he darkened her doorway. So he behaved...for a while."

"Until she moved back in with him?"

"Right. Just in time for Valentine's Day."

"Hearts and flowers, happily ever after?"

"Eight months." I turned back to glance at the screen, motioning to Mike to give us sound again. Flakes were caking up on the reporter's eyelids as she continued to tell her story, reminding me that undoubtedly snow was piling up on my Jeep as well, which was parked in front of the building. A picture of Ivan Kralovic, Lola's husband, appeared as an insert on the bottom right corner of the screen.

"We've got to take a short break," the reporter said, repeating the euphemistic phrase that signaled a commercial interruption, "then we'll show you the dramatic footage that led to Mr. Kralovic's arrest today."

Mike got rid of the noise. "And at the end of those eight months, what happened? Did you lock him up the second time?"

"No. She wouldn't even give me a clue about what he had done. Called me that October to ask how to get an order of protection. After I greased the wheels to expedite it for her in family court, she told me she had rented an apartment on Riverside Drive, moved to a new office away from the campus, and settled her problems with Ivan the Terrible."

"Don't disappoint me, Coop. Tell me he lived up to his name."

"Predictably. It was in January of this year that he cut her with a corkscrew, while they were enjoying a quiet dinner for two. Must have mistaken her for a good Burgundy. Sliced open her forearm. He raced her to St. Luke's and it took twenty-seven stitches to close her up."

"They were together for just that one evening?"

"No, he had coaxed her back for the holidays a month earlier. A seasonal reconciliation."

Chapman shook his head. "Yeah, I guess most accidents happen close to home. You nail his ass for that one?"

"Once again, Lola refused to prosecute. Told the doctors in the ER — while Ivan was standing at her bedside — that she'd done it herself. By the time I heard about it through the university and got her down to my office, she was completely uncooperative. Said that if I had Ivan locked up, she would never tell the true story in a courtroom. She had learned her lesson by trying to reunite with him, she assured me, and wasn't going to have anything further to do with him."

"Guess he didn't get the picture."

"He stalked Lola on and off. That's what led her to hide out in New Jersey, at her sister's house, sometime in the spring. She called me every now and then, after Ivan threatened her or when she thought she was being followed. But her sister got spooked — worried about her own safety — and brought Lola to the local prosecutors over there."

"Let's go to the videotape," Mike said, spinning my chair back to the television screen and hitting the sound button on the clicker. The film was rolling and the reporter's voice-over was providing the narrative. The scene appeared to be the same large suburban house, earlier in the day.

"...and you can see the white delivery van parked at the side of the road. The two men walked up the steps in front of the home, which is owned by Ms. Dakota's sister, carrying the cases of wine. When the professor opened the door and came outside to accept the gift bottles, both men put their packages on the ground. The one on the left presented a receipt that Dakota leaned over to sign, while the man on the right — there he goes now — pulled a revolver from beneath his jacket and fired five times, at point-blank range."

I leaned forward and watched again as Lola clutched at her chest, her body pushed backward by the force of the impact. Her eyes opened wide for an instant, seeming to stare directly at the lens of the camera, before they closed, as she fell to the ground, blood oozing from her clothing onto the clean white cover provided by the preceding day's dusting of snow.

Then, the camera, held by a third accomplice in the van, zoomed in for a close-up, and the man seemed to lose control of the equipment as it apparently dropped from his fingers.

"When the killers played their tape for Ivan Kralovic in his office at noon today, after the Summit Police Department released the news of Ms. Dakota's death to the wire services, they were rewarded with a payment of one hundred thousand dollars in cash."

Back to a live shot of the chilled reporter, wrapping up her story for the night. "Unfortunately for Kralovic, the gunmen he had hired to kill his estranged wife were actually undercover detectives from the county sheriff's office here in New Jersey, who staged the shooting with the enthusiastic participation of the intended victim."

The tape rolled again and showed the supposedly deceased Dakota now sitting upright against the front door of the house and smiling for the camera as she removed the outer jacket that had concealed the packets of "blood" that had spurted and flowed so convincingly moments before.

"We've been waiting here, Hugh, hoping this brave woman would tell us how she feels now that she has taken such dramatic steps to end years of spousal abuse and bring to justice the man who wanted to kill her. But sources tell us that she left the house here this afternoon, after Kralovic's arrest, and has not yet returned." The reporter glanced down at her notes to read a comment from the local prosecutor. "The district attorney, however, wants us to express his gratitude to the county sheriff for this 'innovative plan that put an end to Ivan's reign of terror, something that prosecutors from Paul Battaglia's office and the New York Police Department across the Hudson River have been unable to do for two years.' Back to the studio — "

I pulled the remote away from Chapman and slammed it onto the desktop after shutting off the set. "Let's go back to my office and close up for the night."

"Temper, temper, Ms. Cooper. Dakota's not likely to win the Oscar for her performance. You peeved 'cause you didn't get a chance to do the film direction?"

I turned off the light and closed the door behind us. "I don't begrudge her anything. But why did the Jersey DA have to take a shot at us? He knows it hasn't been our choice to let this thing drag on as long as it did." There wasn't a seasoned prosecutor anywhere who didn't know that the most frustrating dynamic in an abusive marriage was the love-hate relationship that persisted between victim and offender, even after the violence escalated.

My heels clicked on the tiles of the quiet corridor as we snaked our way down the long, dark hallway from Video to my eighth-floor office. It was almost eleven-thirty at night, and the tapping of an occasional computer keyboard was the only noise I heard to suggest that any of my colleagues were still at their desks.

Only a handful of cases went to trial this time of year, in the middle of December, with lawyers, judges, and jurors all anticipating the two-week court hiatus for the holiday season. I had been working late — reviewing indictments for the end-of-the-term filing deadline, and preparing to conduct a sex offender registration hearing after the weekend — when Detective Michael Chapman came over to tell me the eleven o'clock news was leading with the Dakota story. He had been down the street at headquarters to drop off some evidence at the Property Clerk's Office and called to see if I wanted a drink before knocking off for the night.

"C'mon, I'll buy you dinner," he now said. "Can't expect me to last the midnight shift on an empty stomach. Not with all the dead bodies I'm likely to encounter."

"It's too late to eat."

"That means you got a better offer. Jake must be home, cooking up some exotic — "

"Wrong. He's in Washington. Got the assignment on that story of the ambassador who was assassinated in Uganda, at the economic conference." I'd been dating an NBC News correspondent since early summer, and the rare nights he was free in time for dinner took me away from my usual haunts and habits.

"How come they keep giving him all that Third World stuff to cover when he seems like such a First World guy?"

The phone was ringing as I opened the door to my office.

"Alex?" Jake's voice sounded brusque and businesslike. "I'm at the NBC studio in D.C."

"How's your story coming?"

"Lola Dakota is dead."

"I know," I said, sitting down in my chair and turning away from Chapman for some privacy. "Mike and I just watched the whole bit on the local news. I think she's got a real future on the stage. Hard to believe she went for all that phony ketchup and — "

"Listen to me, Alex. She was killed tonight."

I turned back to look at Mike, rolling my eyes to suggest that Jake clearly had not seen the entire story yet and didn't understand that the shooting was a setup. "We know all that, and we also know that Paul Battaglia is not going to be thrilled when the tabloids point the finger at me for not putting this mess to bed a couple of — "

"This isn't about you, Alex. I've heard the whole story with the Jersey prosecutors and their sting operation. But there's a later headline that just came over the newsroom wires a few minutes ago, probably while you and Mike were watching the story run on the air. Some kids found Lola Dakota's body tonight — her dead body — in the basement of an apartment building in Manhattan, crushed to death at the bottom of an elevator shaft."

My eyes shut tight and I rested my head on the back of my chair as Jake lowered his voice to make his point. "Trust me, darling. Lola Dakota is dead."

Copyright © 2001 by Linda Fairstein

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Table of Contents

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Introduction

1. Lola Dakota, the murder victim in THE DEADHOUSE, is a smart, ambitious woman — even self-serving, her detractors say. Why does a woman like this keep going back to an abusive husband? How do you make sense of this kind of love-hate relationship, as Alexandra Cooper describes it?

2. Although Alex is primarily a sex crimes prosecutor, she is intimately involved in Lola Dakota's murder case. How does her position make her different from other investigators? What unique insights and techniques does she bring to the table?

3. How would you describe Alex's developing relationship with Jake Tyler? Why is she reluctant to move in with him?

4. After having refused repeated entreaties to prosecute her abusive husband, Lola agreed instead to stage her own murder in order to set him up. Why do you think that this particular plan appealed to her?

5. Early in the story, Mike Chapman reproaches Alex for not having a more traditional life. They've been close friends for many years — why is he so insistent now that Alex settle down, start a family?

6. How does the subplot of Shirley Denzig, a young woman stalking Alex, fit into the larger story? Do you think that it will be resolved in a later novel?

7. When Jake tells Alex that she doesn't let people in easily, she responds that she is often too trusting of people and has been disappointed in the past. Do you agree with Jake's assessment? If you've read other Alex Cooper novels, can you think of instances in which she's been disappointed by people she trusted?

8. Do you think Mercer Wallace's renewed relationship with his ex-wife Vickee will change his partnership and friendship with Alex and Chapman? How hasbeing shot has affected him?

9. Describe the world of academia that emerges in this novel. How accurate do you think this portrayal is? What motivates each of Lola's colleagues: Lavery, Shreve, Lockhart, Foote, Grenier?

10. After her argument with Jake, Alex wonders why she wasn't content to just stay and talk things through with him. Why do you think that she didn't? Similarly, why does she run first to Chapman, and why does she assume that he'll always be available to her?

11. Why do you think Chapman kept his new relationship a secret from Alex? What does this relationship tell us about him?

12. How does learning about the history of a place like Roosevelt Island add to your understanding of New York, and what does it add to the novel as a whole?

13. Chapman tells Alex that she's "the luckiest girl" he knows (p. 400), a phrase that pops back into her head later when she is in grave danger. What do you think that he means? Do you agree with him?

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.

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Interviews & Essays

Exclusive Author Essay
Nearly three decades ago, when I graduated from law school and applied to join the legal staff of the greatest prosecutor's office in the country, the legendary Manhattan district attorney Frank Hogan told me that the job was no place for a woman like me. The prosecution of murder cases was too tawdry, and not appropriate work for lady lawyers. The seven others who had been lucky enough to land positions on his legal staff with more than 200 men -- before Hogan reluctantly extended an offer to me -- had assignments that did not take them into the courtroom to argue before juries.

All that changed shortly after I spent my rookie year learning the ropes, evaluating criminal cases that were brought in to us 24 hours a day by the cops and detectives of the NYPD. Hogan's successor, Bob Morgenthau, revolutionized the office in many ways. When he asked me to take over the newly created division that would investigate sexual assault cases in 1976, I discovered the most fascinating and challenging world, in which crime victims could at last triumph in matters that for so long had been difficult to prosecute.

Drawn to the brilliant procedural fiction of writers like Patricia Cornwell, who featured a strong heroine in a nontraditional role, I dreamed of writing a series of novels that would explore the criminal justice system through the eyes of someone who actually had lived these events. In my new book, The Deadhouse, my fictional counterpart, Alexandra Cooper, mirrors my professional experience almost identically: the excitement of working closely with her police partners, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace from the moment Lola Dakota's murder is reported; the triage of violent crimes that occur "twenty-four seven" in New York City; the preparation for trials and courtroom proceedings; and the constant process of learning new scientific techniques -- like DNA cold hits and databanking -- that have radically changed the nature of my work.

It is my day job from which I draw so much of the background against which Coop works her cases. The authenticity of how the homicide investigations are handled, the humor and camaraderie with which she and her colleagues face their difficult tasks, and the passion she has for seeing that justice is done are all qualities that come directly out of my time as a bureau chief in the most interesting job in law enforcement.

And if this is art imitating life, it has been a riveting and rewarding life, and one that I hope new readers will continue to discover and enjoy in The Deadhouse. (Linda Fairstein)

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Reading Group Guide

1. Lola Dakota, the murder victim in THE DEADHOUSE, is a smart, ambitious woman — even self-serving, her detractors say. Why does a woman like this keep going back to an abusive husband? How do you make sense of this kind of love-hate relationship, as Alexandra Cooper describes it?

2. Although Alex is primarily a sex crimes prosecutor, she is intimately involved in Lola Dakota's murder case. How does her position make her different from other investigators? What unique insights and techniques does she bring to the table?

3. How would you describe Alex's developing relationship with Jake Tyler? Why is she reluctant to move in with him?

4. After having refused repeated entreaties to prosecute her abusive husband, Lola agreed instead to stage her own murder in order to set him up. Why do you think that this particular plan appealed to her?

5. Early in the story, Mike Chapman reproaches Alex for not having a more traditional life. They've been close friends for many years — why is he so insistent now that Alex settle down, start a family?

6. How does the subplot of Shirley Denzig, a young woman stalking Alex, fit into the larger story? Do you think that it will be resolved in a later novel?

7. When Jake tells Alex that she doesn't let people in easily, she responds that she is often too trusting of people and has been disappointed in the past. Do you agree with Jake's assessment? If you've read other Alex Cooper novels, can you think of instances in which she's been disappointed by people she trusted?

8. Do you think Mercer Wallace's renewed relationship with his ex-wife Vickee will change his partnership and friendship with Alex and Chapman? How has being shot has affected him?

9. Describe the world of academia that emerges in this novel. How accurate do you think this portrayal is? What motivates each of Lola's colleagues: Lavery, Shreve, Lockhart, Foote, Grenier?

10. After her argument with Jake, Alex wonders why she wasn't content to just stay and talk things through with him. Why do you think that she didn't? Similarly, why does she run first to Chapman, and why does she assume that he'll always be available to her?

11. Why do you think Chapman kept his new relationship a secret from Alex? What does this relationship tell us about him?

12. How does learning about the history of a place like Roosevelt Island add to your understanding of New York, and what does it add to the novel as a whole?

13. Chapman tells Alex that she's "the luckiest girl" he knows (p. 400), a phrase that pops back into her head later when she is in grave danger. What do you think that he means? Do you agree with him?

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    If Miss Fairstein could just stick to a story her books would be alot better. She constantly throws in little stories within her novels that have nothing to do with the plot. I feel like instead of trying to entertain us with a book she's trying to teach us about sex crimes. She also introduces lots of characters that make one appearance and then never show up again.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Superb look at DA-police link

    When Professor Lola Dakota finally had enough of her husband¿s abuse she agreed to work with the New Jersey District Attorney¿s office to put him behind bars. They set up a sting operation using undercover police officers masquerading as hitman. When they show Lola¿s husband Ivan on a videotape of them ¿killing¿ her, he pays them their fee. The police arrest him. <P>Unfortunately, later that day Lola¿s body is found in the elevator shaft of her Manhattan apartment building. The police declare it a homicide. Alex Cooper, New York¿s assistant district attorney is handling this homicide in conjunction with the police. With so many suspects and so little hard evidence, Alex has to work doubly hard to solve the case while avoid getting killed by some people who want to see her dead. <P> THE DEADHOUSE shows how the district attorney¿s office and the police department work closely together while trying to find the perpetrator of a homicide. Familiar characters from previous books in this series give the audience a feeling of being reunited with dear and cherished friends. Linda Fairstein is a talented writer who sets up a story line with so many twists and red herrings that the reader won¿t be able to rest until they find out who the culprit is. <P>Harriet Klausner

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2004

    awesome

    The Dead House is the first book I have read by Linda Fairstein and I thought it was awesome.I could hardly put the book down!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2012

    one of her best

    One of her best

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    Blake to alexa

    Lets go back to that other book

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    Girl lover(lez)

    Ok unties her and trough the chains

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012

    Alexa

    Which one??

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2011

    Recommend

    The Dead House was a good read. If you like murder mysteries this is a good choice I've read other Linda Fairstein novels and found them to be gripping. This is a good story but not as good as her others. I

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2011

    Recommended

    An interesting story with a lot of history about Roosevelt Island in New York City. It always kept me absorbed.

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  • Posted December 22, 2009

    Bored me to tears!

    I have liked all her books until I got to this one and I actually got 3/4 of the way through it and said enough is enough. I will continue on through the series because I have liked her first 3.

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

    Posted January 29, 2003

    Disappointed

    This was my first Fairstein book. Like someone else who reviewed the book mentioned, I could have put it down and not cared a hoot about who killed Lola Dakota. I finished it because I wanted to see if the Alex/Mike romance was going to go anywhere. I also didn't care for the fact that it was written in the first person. The story dragged and there were too many "sub stories" going on around the main story. If this truly is Fairstein's best effort, I won't buy another one.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 12, 2002

    Great concept, but a let down.

    This was my first Linda Fairstein book, but I am not compelled to pick up another. It was almost as though she was writing a book to write a book, not because she had something to say. The concept itself was very interesting and a lot could have happened with it, but in the end I found the book rather boring and uninteresting. I finished it because I wanted to know "who dun it" but I could have left it unfinished and it wouldn't have bothered me a bit. The plot was kind of flaky, the subplots could have been left out entirely, and there was just far too much politics and backbiting. Perhaps things really are that was for a female in the legal environment, but books are where we go to *escape* reality. Finally, the ending even seemed rushed, as though there was a page allotment and too much had been used up already. Bottom line, I would not recommend this particular book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2001

    Best Fairstein book

    I have read all of Fairstein's Alex Cooper books, I think this is the best one so far!! I can't wait until the next book!!! The characters of Alex and Mike are becoming closer with each book, I am really rooting for them to get together in future books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 11, 2001

    A disappointment

    This is the first Linda Fairstein book I have read. Maybe if I had gotten to know the protagonist from the earlier books, I could have worked up some sympathy for Alex Cooper. Frankly, I didn't care what happened to her, and didn't for a minute think she wouldn't survive to be back in the next book. Her relationship with Detective Mike Chapman was the best part. The background on Roosevelt Island and the history of the deadhouse could have been so much better. There were a lot of unnecessary characters and loose ends that didn't get tied. I felt like I wasted my time reading this.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2001

    Fabulous setting and a well-plotted mystery!

    What a great setting for a murder mystery! The old Smallpox Hospital, on a small island off Manhattan, provides a chilling backdrop for Ms. Fairstein's new thriller. Not only does this book grab you from its very first line, we learn fascinating details of old New York. Who knew that the same architect who designed St. Patrick's cathedral also designed the Smallpox Hospital? In addition to all the twists and turns of the plot, the increasing heat between Det. Chapman and ADA Cooper is palpable throughout the book. The best in this series!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2001

    Fairstein at Her Best!

    I have read and loved all of Linda Fairstein's books and find The Deadhouse to be her best yet. Her excellent balancing of history, setting, suspense, and good plot, mixed with the lives of marvelous characters makes for a must-read book. Even if you have never read one of her books, you'll be captivated by this one.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 32 Customer Reviews

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