Just in time to coordinate with the September fashion Bible that arrived in your mailbox, comes along the new thriller by Linda Fairstein. When Killer Look begins, we find ADA Alex Cooper where we left her after Devils Bridge; fragile, emotional, needy and in the arms of Mike Chapman, something Fairstein fans have wanted to happen for quite some time now. But all is not well with Alex, who doesn’t want to deal with her own vulnerabilities.
Meanwhile, the suicide of a major player on Fashion Avenue in New York City, has shaken the fashion industry. This self-made icon, who decided to think outside the box, and challenge the dictates of the industry’s elite, was taking a huge gamble to save his imploding empire. But instead of relishing his international company’s future, or basking in the artistic glory that was his legacy, he supposedly decided to kill himself.
This made no sense to his estranged daughter, who happened to be acquaintanced with Alex during high school. So she makes a call to her old school chum, and the real drama begins. Alex, undeterred by a directive from her boss, DA Paul Battaglia, decides to intervene at the morgue on behalf of her high school friend, who is demanding, against Jewish law and the wishes of the other family members, an autopsy on her father, whom she insists was murdered. And so begins the involvement of not only Chapman, but his partner Mercer, in this very dysfunctional family drama.
The reader enters the world of Orthodox Jewish laws, and the incessant need of an immigrant people to fit into popular American culture. Not surprisingly, an American culture, by the way, that this particular group of Russian Jewish immigrants seems to have helped along in its creation. Just ask the Lauren, or rather, the Lifshitz family if you have any questions. All of which, of course, coordinates quite neatly with the history of the garment industry.
In the end we meet some of the players in New York City politics, International banking and garment manufacturing. From a tidbit of history about the first uniforms ever produced on Seventh avenue, to the sweatshops of Asia, to the backroom financial machinations that is the reality of the rag business, Fairstein propels us into a world few ever enter, and even fewer survive intact.
With just this hint of reality, the reader experiences the production of a fashion show at the Metropolitan Museum’s Temple of Dendur exhibit. We are brought into the world of the over worked production crew, the underfed and probably cocaine addled models, and the ultimate prize, a nod from Anna Wintour. Fashion is many things. We love the iconic images it brings to mind, and how it allows us to be perceived and perceive ourselves. But in the end, it is no more than a business, with a very dark underbelly.
And Alex, as usual, finds that underbelly.
Finally, all is not well in the halls of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office either. Alex is at loggerheads with her boss and mentor. The DA has compromised himself in some unseemly ways and with some very bad people. Alex has no idea what to do or to whom to turn, other than Chapman, of course. Her future at the DA’s office appears insecure, with not just one, but several colleagues, letting her know she is “toxic” to be around. But just as a Battaglia outreach to Alex may be in the works, tragedy strikes in a way nobody could have foreseen.
What makes Linda Fairstein’s novels not only fun, but interesting, is the amount of time and effort she puts into the historical, and even modern day event, research of the worlds in which we enter. It helps us grasp the enormity of the situations discussed in the story, as well as perhaps, understand a part of our own past. Lastly, we are reminded, that when dealing with people, in the end, no matter how successful, or how beloved, or admired, human weaknesses and our own hubris, can be our undoing.
*I was given a copy of this book for review.