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I WAS LATE.
It was because of my dark, naturally curly hair. The alarm at my bedside had gone off at six a.m. and I'd thrown on a pair of running shorts, a tie-dyed T-shirt, and done a three-mile jog, returning in plenty of time to get to work at the Westchester County Courthouse. But when I'd looked into the mirror while cooling down, I'd seen the face of Janis Joplin staring back at me after one of her whiskey-and-drug-fueled concerts. I'd been a sweaty disaster with an out-of-control mane. A shower and wash had only made it worse. I'd been forced to flop my head on my ironing board and iron my locks to get them under control.
I'd only run one red light—in my opinion it was set too long between changes anyway—before reaching the courthouse's parking lot at 8:10 a.m., where I slipped into a row of spaces reserved for courthouse workers.
My name is Dani Fox and I've been an assistant district attorney for about a year. At age twentyfive, I'm young for the job. But that is not unusual for me. I'd come into this world in a rush and had no intention of slowing down. I'm currently the only female assistant district attorney in Westchester County. One hundred ten male lawyers and me.
Westchester County was America's first real suburb. It's just north of New York City and the Long Island Sound. Many of our residents commute to work in Manhattan each day. They used to live in the city but they moved here to start families. What many of them didn't leave behind was their New York attitudes. Our county is the second richest in the state. Only Manhattan's got more money. And our wealthier and more sophisticated residents aren't shy about letting you know that if you're a public servant, you work for them. Because of our county's close ties to Manhattan, there are challenges here that are a bit different from those that a prosecutor in Topeka faces. I'm not saying the district attorney in Kansas doesn't feel the same pressures as Carlton Whitaker III, our district attorney, whenever he's prosecuting a headline-breaking case.
But to quote The Great Gatsby's Nick Carraway, "The rich are different from you and me."
Mostly, because they have more money.
And with their money, they can hire fleets of Manhattan's finest lawyers to make the forty-fiveminute drive along the Henry Hudson Parkway north to White Plains in a cavalcade of black limos to rescue them.
There's another side to Westchester County as well. The landscape is dotted with lower-income neighborhoods where blue-collar workers struggle to pay bills and kids grow up on mean streets. In these areas a drug called cocaine is exerting a deadly grip.
Justice in Westchester County is dispensed to the rich and the poor alike in our new nineteenstory courthouse, one of the tallest buildings in White Plains. It was the first project in a massive urban renewal program approved in the 1960s that has pretty much destroyed the original villagelike character of our community. It's fitting that the stark design of our courthouse is called Brutalist architecture. That refers to the building's concrete-and-stucco exterior and its strikingly repetitive angular design with rows of identical windows. But I also think that tag describes how some of the masses who flow through its doors are treated. We call it the Criminal Justice System, giving the creeps top billing. I think it should be the Victims' Justice System. If I sound a bit touchy about all of this, it's because I am. Only, I prefer to call it passion. I don't like it when the meek are preyed upon. The Bible may say the meek are going to inherit the earth, but until God reaches down and signs over the deed, it's my job as a prosecutor to protect them.
I've never wanted to be anything other than a prosecutor. Even as a kid when I was watching Perry Mason on television, I'd root for Mason's district attorney rival, Hamilton Burger, hoping that he would win at least one case. After a while, you had to wonder how Burger kept getting reelected, given that every time Mason defended a client, it turned out that the D.A.'s office had been bamboozled and was trying to convict the wrong guy. I especially enjoyed how the guilty leaped up in court and confessed. That doesn't happen in real courtrooms—particularly if there is a defense attorney within reach.
Even though I am an assistant D.A., I haven't officially been given a chance to try any bad guys in court. That's because I'm assigned to our office's equivalent of Siberia. All the male lawyers who were hired at the same time as I was were immediately sent to the criminal courts division to prosecute cases. But D.A. Carlton Whitaker III, in his infinite wisdom, assigned me to the appeals bureau. He doesn't believe a woman has the killer, go-for-the-jugular instinct that you need to win in court. One day I am going to prove him wrong.
Whitaker, my boss, can actually be a pretty decent guy. He's just part of an old boys' network that thinks a woman's place is in the kitchen or the bedroom but certainly not trying cases in the hallowed halls of justice. When he hired me, he said he really didn't have a choice. He had to meet a quota; or, as he put it, "I was forced to find a girl lawyer somewhere." So much for being magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and on Law Review at Albany Law.
I spend my days reading court transcripts of trials that some male attorney prosecuted. Once convicted, the guilty of course have the right to appeal, and it's up to me to review what happened during their trials and explain to an appellate court why the guilty got exactly what they had coming to them.
What I do is important, but I want to get into a courtroom to try a case so badly I can barely stand it.
As I hurried across the parking lot on this bright sunny morning, up the sidewalk toward the courthouse's door, I spotted Westchester County judge Michael Morano a few steps ahead of me. I actually didn't see his face. Rather it was the back of his head that gave him away. A tall, thin man, Judge Morano had bushy salt-and-pepper hair divided equally on either side of his head with a bald streak down the center that reminded me of a bowling alley. I'd encountered him many times in the courthouse hallways but we'd never been formally introduced. At age sixty-three, he was one of our county's most senior judges and was known for his crackerjack legal mind and disagreeable temperament. He wasn't a happy man. Behind his robe, everyone called him "Miserable Morano" or "Misery" for short. In addition to his distinctive hair, he had massive bushy eyebrows that moved when he spoke, making it appear as if he had two woolly caterpillars doing push-ups on his forehead.
I entered the courthouse behind him and by chance stepped into the same elevator. There we were, just the two of us, with him looking straight ahead. I decided I wasn't going to let his gruff reputation intimidate me.
"Good morning, Judge Morano," I said cheerfully.
He gave me a puzzled look. "Young lady, do I know you?"
"I'm Dani Fox, an assistant district attorney."
He replied with an ambiguous grunt.
As the door opened to his floor, I said, "I hope someday to prosecute a case in your courtroom."
He glanced at me with contempt and said, "It's unlikely, my dear. I handle serious matters."
As soon as the elevator door closed, I made a sour face and repeated in a snickering voice: "It's unlikely, my dear. I handle serious matters." What an arrogant jerk, I thought.
I don't deal regularly with police detectives, which is why I was surprised when I arrived at my cubicle and found White Plains police detective Tommy O'Brien sitting in my chair, talking on my phone with his feet propped up and his well-worn shoes resting on my desk.
Just as I hadn't been properly introduced to Judge Morano, I'd never been introduced to O'Brien. But I'd read transcripts of testimony in the appellate division that he'd given in dozens of high-profile criminal cases and seen him in the halls. He was a street-smart cop who—how should I put this—didn't have a high opinion of lawyers. Or to be blunt, the guy was an "old school" Irish cop.
He certainly looked the part. Although only in his early fifties, O'Brien looked older. Tired. Twice divorced, he had a watermelon belly that draped over the two-inch-wide brown belt that kept his J. C. Penney black slacks in place. He was wearing a shabby navy blazer, a white shirt with its frayed collar unbuttoned, and an ugly maroon tie that he'd undoubtedly gotten as a Christmas present in an office exchange. There was a bald spot inching its way forward from the back of his huge skull and his once-bright red hair was now specked with gray. He had a toothpick protruding from the corner of his lips. He was one of those men who could use the term "doll" or "honey" or "gal" and not realize how archaic it sounded.
When I'd first arrived at Albany Law School, the female students used the term "FEK" when they talked about men who were like Detective O'Brien. When I finally asked what the acronym meant, they said it was not a compliment. It referred to these men's Neanderthal outlook. Whenever they encountered something new, they tried to fuck it, eat it, or kill it.
The only male figure in my life of that generation was my father, Leo, and he wasn't anything like that. Dad was kind, humble, and he loved to laugh. But the older women warned me that I would be encountering a lot of FEKs once I became a lawyer, regardless of whether I went to work in a high-priced law firm or chose the public route.
O'Brien showed no sign of removing his ample posterior from my office chair, but he did lift his feet from my desk and leaned forward, jabbing a manila envelope at me as if it were a knife—all the while continuing the conversation that he was having on my phone.
Placing my leather briefcase, a gift from my mother, on the industrial-grade white tile floor, I accepted his packet and shot him a glare that was meant to say: "Okay, Detective, I'll look inside your envelope, but get your butt the hell out of my chair."
O'Brien either didn't get my social cue or didn't care. From his comments into the phone, it sounded as if he was speaking to a woman.
Still waiting in front of my own desk, I slipped open the envelope and removed a handful of eightby-ten glossy, color photographs. The pictures showed a woman's face. Her eyes were swollen shut, her nose seemed broken, her lips were puffed out, her jaw was askew, and her cheeks were varying shades of black and blue. From the photographs, I estimated she was in her twenties, although her appearance had been so brutalized that I couldn't be certain. Several more photographs showed there were no visible marks on the rest of her body, which meant her attacker had focused exclusively on her face. Whoever did this wanted to make her ugly and remind her every day when she looked into her mirror that he'd done it. This was a crime of emotion. Why would a stranger beat her so savagely? This attack must have been personal. Someone she knew had done this to her.
Having finally finished his conversation, O'Brien put down the phone receiver and nodded toward the packet of photos. "He worked her over good this time," he announced, without identifying who "he" was, but implying that "he" had delivered this sort of beating before.
Nor did O'Brien vacate my chair.
I asked: "Who's 'he'?"
"Her husband, Rudy Hitchins," O'Brien replied. "She's Mary Margaret Hitchins, age twenty-four. Tends bar, or did until yesterday, at O'Toole's, down on Mamaroneck Avenue."
O'Toole's was a favorite watering hole for cops but I'd never been there. I'd never been invited.
O'Brien said, "Rudy's a raging asshole—a jealous prick and he don't like cops. Mary Margaret, well, she is—or was—a real looker before he decided to rearrange her face."
I slipped the photographs back into the envelope and pointed out the obvious: "Detective, you're sitting in my chair."
O'Brien gave me a look-over, running his eyes from my knees to my face, all the while twirling the toothpick in his mouth with his right thumb and forefinger. He didn't say anything and I thought this practiced scrutiny was probably an intimidation tool that he used whenever he was interviewing a suspect or a witness. Reluctantly, he rose from my chair.
I edged by him and sat down. I noticed that in addition to using my phone, chair, and desk, he'd eaten all the candy in a bowl near the phone. Sweets are one of my vices. Thankfully, I have a metabolism that lets me satisfy my taste for chocolate yet weigh in at 105 pounds at five feet four inches.
Now he was the one standing at the side of my desk. "A few of the regulars at O'Toole's wanted to deal with Rudy on our own. But the prick would only take it out on her later if he got what he deserved and he's the sort of asshole who'd hire a lawyer and go after our badges if we taught him a lesson. Besides, he's not really the type who can be educated." He paused and then added, "There's a few other complications, too."
"Mary Margaret is knocked up and rumor is it's not his kid. That's what pissed him off."
"So who's the real father?"
O'Brien shrugged, indicating that it wasn't really important. But I was quiet for a moment and that awkward silence apparently loosened his tongue. "I guess the father could be a cop. Mary Margaret, well, she's a flirt at the bar, makes lots of tips that way."
"A cop got her pregnant?"
"I'm not saying that. The kid's probably Hitchins's, okay? But, like I said, she's a popular girl at the bar—if you catch my drift. And if the kid is a cop's and the cop is married . . ." His voice trailed off.
"Why are you showing me these photographs?"
"Because you're the only gal who works here. We figure this is a female thing."
"No," I said firmly. "It's not a female thing, Detective. It's an assault thing. Rudy Hitchins should be put in jail for what he did to her. But he hasn't broken any laws here because it's not against the law in New York for a man to beat his wife—we both know that. Especially if he accuses her of cheating on him and getting pregnant by another man."
O'Brien said, "Hold on, Counselor. No one is talking about filing criminal charges here. Me and the boys, we just thought maybe you could go talk to her in the hospital and tell her to leave town, maybe start over someplace new. Just get away from Rudy because of her situation with the baby and all."
"What?" I said incredulously. "You want her to leave town because he beat her?"
"Hey, let's get real here. It's not like she's got a lot of options. You're from the D.A.'s office so she might listen to you, especially if you told her it'd just be better for everyone if she left White Plains and had her baby."
I hesitated, not certain I should ask the next question, but since he wanted my help, I needed to know what I was getting into. "Detective, why do you know so much about Rudy and Mary Margaret Hitchins? This baby, it isn't yours, is it?"
A look of anger washed over O'Brien's face. I'd clearly hit a nerve.
"No," he snapped. "I didn't fuck this broad. I know Rudy because I've busted his ass a half-dozen times. And I've talked to her at the bar. She's a sweet kid. That's it."
"Okay, so tell me about Hitchins."
During the next several minutes, O'Brien described how Hitchins had grown up poor in a White Plains neighborhood and moved quickly through juvenile correctional facilities into adult ones. At age thirty, Hitchins's most recent arrest was for an afternoon robbery at a White Plains jewelry store on Mamaroneck Avenue. Along with three thugs, Hitchins had burst into the store in broad daylight. Three of the robbers had smashed the glass display cases with hammers, scooping up diamond rings, precious jewels, and watches. The fourth had held the owner and clerks at gunpoint. For some bizarre macho reason, three of the robbers had not been wearing masks. But the fourth had concealed his face. Detectives had identified and arrested the three without masks. But the masked gunman—who they were certain was Hitchins—had slipped through their hands.
"Hitchins is a murderer waiting to strike—if he hasn't already done one," O'Brien said casually.
"The punk can't stay out of trouble. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret needs to get out of town. She might not be so lucky next time."
Lucky? I thought. He nearly beat her to death and she's lucky?
O'Brien said, "She's over at White Plains Hospital in Intensive Care if you want to pay her a visit. Me and the guys, well, we'd appreciate it."
He started to leave.
"Wait," I said, holding up the envelope with the grisly photos.
Removing his toothpick, O'Brien glanced over his shoulder at me and said, "Keep 'em. Tell Mary Margaret when you see her—the guys down at the bar are thinking of her."
Excerpted from SLY FOX by JEANINE PIRRO Copyright © 2012 by Judge Jeanine Pirro, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Posted July 18, 2012
Being a female Assistant District Attorney in New York in 1976 is not easy. Especially if you're like Dani Fox - a young, pretty A.D.A. that just so happens to think that abusing and/or killing your wife is wrong and aims to do something about it!
Sly Fox, a semi-autobiographical novel from Judge Jeanine Pirro has a very appealing lead in Dani Fox. Ambitious, feisty and a little naive. O'Brien, the semi-reluctant old-dog homicide detective that helps Dani is also a great character, with shades of Harry Bosch.
Occasionally Sly Fox feels a little too autobiographical and the bad guys are sort of one-note. And I wish the setting had been described more vibrantly. I never really felt immersed in the seventies.
Apparently, Pirro is a judge and TV personality of some celebrity, but I had been unaware of her until asked to review the novel. Pirro, aided by author Pete Earley, has written a compelling and surprisingly enjoyable legal thriller. I wish the era had been utilized for more than its attitudes towards domestic violence, but there were enough twists and well-written courtroom showdowns that I look forward to Pirra's next Dani Fox novel.
Reviews Of Unusual Size!
14 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2013
Im not happy about the reviews being left that are nasty and inappropriate content. I purchased this book just to post this and have no intention of reading it. Please send an email to bn service about this. Over load the service dept. They will get this under control. This is a big problem with alot of reviews. Im tired of it.
12 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 12, 2012
It's 1976, and Dani Fox is an Assistant DA. As the only female Assistant in the DA's office, she is a token for now, and is relegated to cases that are appealed. She hungers to prove herself in the courtroom. Will this desire get her into the spotlight, or will it endanger her life?
Dani knows she has to prove herself. When a spousal abuse case is brought to her, Dani decides to pitch it to her boss. But this is 1976, and it is still legal for men to beat their wives in NY. The angle that gets her a chance, however, is one involving a reporter and a story that will showcase the DA's office as progressive in its hiring of women. Dani's life and the lives of her witnesses are put on the line. As women die, Dani must use all of her wits to stay safe and present her case. Will she prove abuse? murder? Will Detective O'Brien be able to keep Dani safe? This story will place you in the courtroom encouraging the jury to reach the right verdict.
I really enjoyed this book and found it hard to put down. I love to watch Judge Pirro on television as she delves into the legality of cases. This story is well written and addictive. I can't wait for more!
10 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 31, 2012
Yuck! This is the worst nook book I have ever unfortunately bought. The characters are so poorly developed. Dani Fox is perfect in every way All the male characters are bigoted sexist pigs. They are willing to cut corners to get things done. Before you get the wrong idea, I am a 60+ woman. There is nothing here to hold my interest. Obviously Dani is Ms Piro's idealized version of herself. I honestly don't know if I will be able to force myself through this to the end.
9 out of 17 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 28, 2012
Judge Jeanine Pirro has written Sly Fox as though she wrote from her experiences on the bench.
I enjoyed reading the story because in addition to the mystery having a good plot, it had a bit of humor inserted into it.
The story flows and is well written.
8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 23, 2012
Posted October 5, 2012
I enjoyed this story very much...Dani starts when few or no females dominate
the District Attorney's world. She grows by leaps and bounds, I love it and eagerly await her next story!
6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted September 7, 2012
Once I started to read this novel, could not put it down! finished this in 2 days, read it day and night! Can not wait until her next novel it out!
6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted November 19, 2012
Posted January 22, 2013
Don't waste your money, even if it's 99cents. A college freshman could do better. Just awful. If I could give this no stars I would. Did I say it's awful?
4 out of 13 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 17, 2012
This book is trying to justify the current strict laws concerning domestic violence. However, just the same as in the case of restricting selling alcohol after midnight because of too many accidentss happening at night by drunk drivers, this laws go to far. We are going from one extreme to another. Just because zsome fuked up dudes end up killing their wives that does not mean that every man that grabs his wife arms in a moment of desperation because she just wont stop yelling should have a criminal record for life
4 out of 20 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 14, 2013
Posted April 27, 2013
I am in the 60+ range and found this to be a very good story. I believe it was well written and although I do not like reading profanity, I understood why it was used. Thankfully, it was used sparingly. Although it is a work of fiction, I believe because the writer has been in the legal profession and became a jurist, she gives a reliable account of how things work "behind the scenes."
3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 1, 2013
The author did a very good job of presenting this story and it kept your interest 100% of the time. Very good writer and I look forward to reading many more books by her!!!!
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 23, 2013
Why do authors insist on bad language and blasphemy! There are people like myself who just want to enjoy a good book without feeling violated. Another potentially great story removed from my nook. Sigh...........
2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 18, 2013
Posted January 12, 2013
Posted July 26, 2013
I admire Judge Pirro; however, in this book she casts all her male protagonists as being mysogynistic. Surely her career hasn't found that to be so. Otherwise, the story was light and ok.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 9, 2013
Posted May 16, 2014