By OLINE H. COGDILL
“Terminal City” (Dutton), by Linda Fairstein
An ongoing pleasure in Linda Fairstein’s novels about assistant district attorney Alexandra “Alex” Cooper is the author’s ability to weave in bits of little known history about New York City into her stories.
These tales of old New York aren’t window dressing but become part of the action, moving the plot along while providing glimpses of the Big Apple that many people never see. Grand Central Terminal — “the world’s loveliest station” — makes an exciting backdrop as “Terminal City” delivers plenty of suspense, intrigue and twists in the hunt for a killer. Fairstein’s latest novel also is a bit of a departure for this series. Since much of the action takes place in or around Grand Central, “Terminal City” works more as a tense police procedural than a legal thriller with Alex only in court for a few scenes.
Alex again teams with NYPD Detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace to investigate the murder of a young woman found in a suite at the Waldorf Astoria hotel. The detectives link the case to Grand Central when another murder happens within days. The clues lead to the bowels of the iconic landmark where hidden staircases, catwalks 20 stories above the ground and rooms that don’t show up on any blueprint make perfect hiding places. An underground community of homeless people, complete with makeshift apartments, also provides a convenient way for a criminal to disappear. A quick resolution of the case is even more important as the president of the United States is due to arrive in New York in a few days. Alex’s friendship with the detectives has always been the heart of this series, but a potential romance between her and Chapman adds a welcome complication to “Terminal City.”
Fairstein maintains the integrity of Grand Central’s history while keeping the solid plot on track. Even finding out why the aqua celestial ceiling was installed backward plays into the story. “Terminal City” — which also was Grand Central’s nickname in its early years — doesn’t slow down, with believable twists and a heart-stopping denouement. “Terminal City” is one of Fairstein’s strongest novels in her always reliable series.