The backstory: Silent Mercy is the thirteenth Alexandra Cooper mystery novel.
The basics: My library catalog sums it up well: "Prosecutor Alex Cooper dives deep into the Byantine, sinister world of New York City's powerful religious institutions to find out why the body of a young woman has been decapitated, set on fire, and left on the steps of a church."
My thoughts: I've thoroughly enjoyed this series since I discovered it in January 2003. (I remember the date because it was the first Sunday after I moved into my first post-college apartment, and I spent five hours reading my apartment-delivered copy of the Sunday New York Times. There was a full-page ad for the latest book in the series.) Each winter, I eagerly await the newest novel. I woke up at 6 a.m. to start Silent Mercy the day it was released (oh, how I adore Kindle pre-orders!)
Typically, I love series for the character development and cringe at the thought of reading them out of order. I've noticed a change in the last several Alex Cooper novels, however, and I think Silent Mercy would work as a stand-alone novel. I suppose when you're thirteen novels in, it's hard to expect new readers to play catch-up, but I also think it's smart to keep the focus on the mysteries and court cases themselves. The characters are still as wonderful, and they still have rapport. In real life, how much do the basics of our lives really change?
One of the things I love most about this series is it's complexity. Fairstein was an ADA in Manhattan's Special Victims Unit for years, and her authenticity is wonderful. Yes, the case of the naked, decapitated woman takes center stage here, but she's also in court for other cases and working on many things at once. I enjoy procedural crime dramas more than the average person, and I appreciate the tidiness of telling stories in 45-minute increments, but I also marvel at the closer-to-reality version of the Alex Cooper series.
Favorite passage: "Ursula questioned everything. When the word came from Rome that barring women from the priesthood wasn't a human-rights issue, it was Ursula who stood up to the Magisterium. 'Is it becasue we don't rights?' she asked. 'Or is it because we're not human?'"
The verdict: Silent Mercy is Linda Fairstein at her very best. She weaves in New York's history (as always), religion, and feminism. Highly recommended to fans of the series as well as those new to the series, particularly those interested in religion and New York history.
Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 400 pages
Publication date: March 8, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle
Treat yourself! Buy Silent Mercy from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository, or Amazon in hardback (or for the Kindle.)
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