"Blood Oath" by Linda Fairstein; Dutton ($28, 368 pages)
The inner workings of the legal system and glimpses of New York City's hidden corners are hallmarks of Linda Fairstein's series about Manhattan assistant district attorney Alex Cooper, who specializes in sex crimes. While the solid plot of "Blood Oath" continues Fairstein's theme, this 20th entry in the series lacks a sense of urgency and energy that her previous novels excelled in.
In "Blood Oath," Alex wants to waste little time getting back to her hectic work routine after being on leave following her kidnapping and witnessing a high-profile assassination. She desperately needs to prove to her colleagues – and adversaries – that she is fully functioning.
Not one to shy away from controversy, Alex's latest case is proving to be problematic. Lucy Jenner is brought to Alex's office after being arrested in Brooklyn on an outstanding Manhattan warrant. Apparently, the 24-year-old went into a fury after seeing a photograph on the wall of the Brooklyn precinct. It takes a while, but Lucy finally tells Alex that 10 years ago she was raped by one of the men in the photograph. While Lucy had reported it to the police, no one followed up with the then-teenager. Although the manipulative Lucy has a reputation of lying, even about the smallest things, Alex believes her. And Alex is willing to pursue prosecuting the man, even though he is a well-respected, high-ranking member of the bar who could ruin Alex's career.
Although "Blood Oath" moves at brisk clip, the plot is not as involving as Fairstein's previous novels. Alex seems to be going through the motions rather than being deeply invested in the case. Her close rapport with NYPD detectives Michael Chapman and Mercer Wallace comes across as superficial as does her romantic relationship with Chapman. A subplot involving the attempted murder of a defense attorney detracts rather than enhances the story. But Fairstein excels at the attention to details that go into investigating sex crimes. A visit to a medical research center that few New Yorkers, or visitors, know about is fascinating.