by Alafair Burke

Harper, 2010. ISBN 978-0-061-56122-1.
Reviewed by Penny Leisch
Posted on 04/11/2010

Fiction: Mystery; Fiction: Thriller

Alafair Burke's latest novel, 212, blends a series of crimes into a brain-twisting puzzle for the reader and for NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher. A fiery, bold cover design hints at the intensity to come, and Burke definitely knows how to start in the middle of the action. The first chapter produces a shooting, sex, and an anonymous police report. From there, the story speeds up. Bodies fall so fast, in so many different scenarios, it seems impossible they are all connected.

Even in a city like New York, few crimes involve victims as diverse as hookers, college students, a bodyguard, an artist, and a real estate agent. Burke's characters live in today's high tech world, where students and criminals know how to post on websites, and use forums, without being traced. Add in phony names and a stolen identity, and the list of suspects seems endless. The challenges in this case keep Ellie awake all night, and that's before she discovers her boss's romantic relationship with a suspect.

By chapter seven, Detective Ellie Hatcher already aggravated a judge and infuriated a rich and influential businessman, which earned her a night in jail for contempt. Ellie didn't earn the Police Combat Cross by being afraid to take action though. She's stubborn and independent, but her instincts are sharp. When backup doesn't arrive and another victim's life is at stake, will her tenacity solve the crime or get her killed? How will her boss react to the news that the criminal might be her boyfriend?

Burke's descriptions of New York City provide a true feel for the culture, diversity, and violence packed into that huge metropolis, along with colorful details that portray everything from the street life to the architecture well. The authenticity of the descriptions is easy to recognize for those who've been to the great city. However, a few of the author's movie and television character references may lose people who aren't familiar with the shows, and this may be primarily a generational issue. On the other hand, explaining each of them would be awkward and interrupt the flow of the story.

The amount of information packed into each chapter is unbelievable. Some chapters are only two pages long, but there's no choppiness or gaps. Burke has a talent for keeping the pace moving and providing exciting plots and sub-plots, as well as choosing smooth breaking points. This is the third book in the Ellie Hatcher series, and Burke's inspiration for this series comes from a childhood home and a case that took over thirty years to solve. Don't miss reading the entire story on her website.

Samantha Kincaid stars in another mystery series written by Burke, which is set in Portland, Oregon, where Burke attended college. Coincidentally, I've spent time in Portland and in NYC, and the recognition of the settings adds a familiar feel to this story. Burke's research and story-telling skill takes me to new places within those cities, as well as adding a bit of history from time-to-time. What surprised me is that the story in 212 is intense without being so graphic as to be unpalatable to my personal "gruesomeness" threshold when describing horrific crimes. You can be sure that all of Burke's books are now on my reading list.

As a former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon, Alafair Burke gained firsthand knowledge of the world she portrays. She now lives in New York City, with her husband, Sean, and teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School. Therefore, it's no surprise that Burke gleans ideas for her protagonist's adventures from real cases. This talented author receives compliments from Sue Grafton, Harlen Coben, and other famous authors who share this genre. As the daughter of James Burke, a science historian and author, Burke comes from a family with intelligence and writing talent. She grew up reading Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew and never outgrew her love of mysteries. Wine, cooking, and golf, as well as music and her dog, Duffer, help fill her leisure hours. Visit her website and watch the 212 video trailer.

Authors/Publicists: For promotion purposes, you may quote excerpts of up to 200 words from our reviews, with a link to the page on which the review is posted. ©Copyright to the review is held by the writer (review posting date appears on the review page). If you wish to reprint the full review, you may do so ONLY with her written permission, and with a link to http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org. Contact our Book Review Editor (bookreviews at storycirclebookreviews.org) with your request and she will forward it to the appropriate person.

StoryCircleBookReviews.org has received a copy of this book for review from the author, publisher, or publicist. We have received no other compensation.

StoryCircleBookReviews provides a review venue for women self-published authors and for women's books published by independent and university presses.

Email me with news about your book reviews

Sarton Women's Book Award

Your ad could be here.
Advertise with us!


Visit us on Facebook and Twitter and goodreads.

Buy books online through amazon.com by simply clicking on the book cover or title. Your purchase will support our work of encouraging all women to tell their stories.
This title is currently available ONLY as an e-book