A Month of Mystery Goes to Manhattan
Book: Terminal City by Linda Fairstein (NEW THIS WEEK: June 2014)
Linda Fairstein does for New York City what Cara Black does for Paris. She sets her mysteries in every corner of the city–giving us an exciting mystery and a bonus for travelers. Each of these author’s books provides a guide to places you may not have explored in NYC or in Paris.
In Terminal City, you’re going to learn about the vast interconnected area surrounding Grand Central… I keep want to say Grand Central Station, even though the expert’s in the novel explain that it is not officially a Station, it is a Terminal. That’s because lines terminate there rather than passing through. After all I grew up listening to the dramas on the radio show, “Grand Central Station” every Saturday morning.
Excuse the aside, but I can’t help thinking of comedian Bob Newhart’s routine about airports and how depressing it was to go to a place called a “terminal.” As in “the end.” And indeed, in Terminal City, the murderer is making Grand Central the true terminal for his victims.
Fairstein’s novels feature Alex andra Cooper, the assistant DA of New York assigned to work with the cops on solving some gruesome murders. Her specialty is sex crimes. Fairstein brings real life experience to her stories since she was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the District Attorney’s office in Manhattan for two decades. The two other repeating characters in her series of 16 novels are non-conformist Detective Mike Chapman, with whom Alex has a will-she-won’t-she possible romance, and by-the-book Detective Mercer Wallace.
The story starts with the discovery of a body in the The Towers at Waldorf Astoria, which gives us an opportunity for a behind-the-scenes tour of the grand dame of Manhattan hotels. Along the way, we’ll learn the history of the hotel and how it morphed from the Astoria and the Waldorf to the Waldorf Astoria and how it connects to Grand Central.
Even if you have wandered through the vast waiting room of Grand Central and perhaps crisscrossed its passageways catching a train, don’t assume that you KNOW Grand Central. Oh my, no. Fairstein has done enough research to fill a separate book about the history, the dimensions of the building , the tunnels, the hidden spaces, the art work, the homeless who live underground, the pattern of transportation in and out–moving people on foot and by rail.
In fact, if I have the slightest, tiny criticism of the book it is that Fairstein just couldn’t resist throwing in so much information that it sometimes bogs down the story. But only momentarily. Many of the obscure facts become relevant to solving the murders and much of the information imparted by old timers at the terminal to the cops and the Assistant District Attorney are carefully planted false clues. So listen up class!
I am itching to get back to New York City to take a closer look at this amazing work of engineering and art, now that I know some of the secrets. And by the way, Fairstein claims not to make up the background stuff she imparts. Below, you can see a video where she talks about an earlier book, Hell’s Gate, set at 18th century Gracie Mansion–unoccupied official residence meant for the Mayor–along the East River. In the video she talks about the way that she combines information about the legal system with information about her favorite city.
Of course our team solves the mystery. But we are left with the mystery of where the relationship between Alex and Mike is going. Just have to read book 17, I guess.
Linda Fairstein talks about her writing and an earlier book, Hell’s Gate.
Tour Information for Gracie Mansion (As of early 2015, tours are temporarily not available. See this link for information.)
Book a room at the Waldorf Astoria Towers
Notes and Disclaimers
Photos here are used with Creative Commons license. You can click on the photo to learn more about the photographer.
The book, Terminal City, was provided by the publisher for review. They know, as I hope you do, that I write what I think.
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