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by Linda Fairstein
Gale Group, 1996
Review by Su Terry on Jun 8th 2004

Final Jeopardy

            Final Jeopardy by Linda Fairstein is the first in the "Alex Cooper mystery series." Alex Cooper is an assistant DA and bureau chief for the Manhattan's Sex Crimes Prosecutions Unit.  Final Jeopardy focuses on the vicious murder of Alex's friend, a sexy movie star, at Alex summer home. Did some one have it out for the selfish star or was it a case of mistaken identity?

Final Jeopardy is set during the mid-1990s in upscale Manhattan and quiet Martha's Vineyard. The novel opens with Alexandra Cooper being notified of her own death. Obviously the news is in error. She is not the faceless body found in the driveway of her Martha's Vineyard home. It was instead the body of Isabella Lascar, a movie star acquaintance, who borrowed her summer house for a little undisturbed R&R in order to study a new script. Unfortunately she was disturbed and in a most vicious way. The major question for Alex, however, is was Lascar the intended victim or herself? The beautiful Lascar had her troubles with stalkers as well as a long string of jilted lovers. Then again, Alex, as the lead prosecutor of the New York City Sex Crimes Unit is not without her own malicious fans. The NYPD is not taking any chances and Mike Chapman, Manhattan detective and Alex's longtime buddy, is assigned to guard her. Together they tackle the question of who was the intended victim - Lascar or Cooper. Meanwhile, Alex struggles to maintain some semblance of professional normalcy as the Bureau Chief of a major prosecution unit for the city of New York. Alex is also pinning for her latest lover, Jed Segal, an investment banker current working on a deal in Paris. As the novel and investigation proceed the reader is invited into the busy world of the Defender's Office. Alex juggles a number of crimes, including the Con Ed rapist, goes head to head with office politics, and fends off Ellen Goldman, a dogged reporter for USA Lawyer Digest. Along the way we are introduced to a rogues' gallery of characters including, Nina Baum, Alex's best friend who seems to live in her car on the California freeway system, Luther Waldron, an unsophisticated FBI agent who delights in sharing the latest in locker room sexual humor with Alex, Johnny "Gorilla" Garelli, a stuntman and former Lascar lover, who has better accuracy with his guns then with his brain, and finally the mysterious Cordelia Jeffers,  a supposed Fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine who according to the medical profession does not exist but writes overly insightful letters about Lascar and Cooper's private lives. (Who is she?)

I must admit the "Alex Cooper Mystery series" is my latest addiction. I can not seem to get enough of Fairstein's novels. While I have never been a fan of Grisham, Trurow, or the legal fiction genre, this series reads more like a literary version of the television show "Law and Order". (There is definitely enough of the "men in blue", crime scene analysis, and investigative snooping to keep this gal happy!) I must admit it is a real eye open to have a lawyer who must multitask juggling numerous cases, rather than exclusively focusing on only one case as most legal fiction does. As a character, Alex is slightly unbelievable in her ability to handle quite so many things without mussing up her lipstick or running her panty hose. And, like so many modern female heroines, although she is one step removed from Superwoman in her ability to survive certain disaster, she crumbles into tears over quite ordinary relational issues. Still, I trust that Fairstein knows of what she writes and is realistic in regard to her portrayals after all she is the role-model for her character and her life is the fodder for her plots. I also must admit to liking Chapman as the smart mouth detective. He strikes me as very realistic.

Linda Fairstein, like her character Alex Cooper, has been a District Attorney and Bureau Chief for the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit for over twenty years. Also like Alex Cooper, Fairstein lives in Manhattan and has a home on Martha Vineyard. Unlike Cooper, however, she is married. Her first book was the non-fiction, Sexual Violence: Our War against Rape (1993). Final Jeopardy is her first novel. Her website is: http://www.lindafairstein.com

            Final Jeopardy by Linda Fairstein is the first, but not the last, in the "Alex Cooper mystery series." It has enough legalese, police procedure, and fast paced action to thrill most readers. Fairstein is one DA to watch! Highly recommended.

© 2004 Su Terry

 Su Terry: Education: B.A. in History from Sacred Heart University, M.L.S. in Library Science from Southern Connecticut State College, M.R.S. in Religious Studies/Pastoral Counseling from Fairfield University, a M.Div. in Professional Ministry from New Brunswick Theological Seminary, a Certificate in Spirituality/Spiritual Direction from Sacred Heart University. She is a Licensed Minister of the United Church of Christ and an Assistant Professor in Library Science at Dowling College, Long Island, NY.