Sunday, March 29, 2009

Book Review: Books at center of murder tale (Linda Fairstein)

From Oklahoma's NewsOK --

Book Review: Books at center of murder tale --

March 29, 2009 --

In Linda Fairstein’s "Lethal Legacy” (Doubleday, $26), Alexandra Cooper, head of the district attorney’s sex crimes unit in Manhattan, finds Tina Barr chloroformed and gagged in her Upper East Side apartment.

A neighbor tells Alex and police that he thinks she might have been sexually assaulted by a man wearing a fireman’s mask. The victim, a conservator of rare books and ancient maps, refuses to cooperate with police, leaves the hospital and disappears.

A day later, another woman is found in the same apartment, bludgeoned to death with a rare book beneath her body. The second victim’s employer, Minerva Hunt, says the book was stolen from her family.

Minerva and her brother are sibling rivals trying to persuade their ailing father, a major benefactor of the New York Public Library, to change his will so they can benefit from his estate. Barr, who had been working for a private collector, once was employed by the library and worked on the Hunt collection.

Alex and her two investigators, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, note the dead woman, wearing some of Minerva’s old clothing, might have been set up for the attack. They wonder whether the daughter of a wealthy New York family would kill for the family treasures.

The three turn their investigation to the library, where they search the great collections and make their way into the underground vaults, through the stacks of ancient volumes to a door opening to a park that once was the graveyard of New York’s early settlers. There they find Tina Barr’s body.

Numerous clues and a host of weird suspects lead readers on a sometimes confusing search, but trips through the library make it worthwhile for those who love books and maps.

— Kay Dyer

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