How could a book-lover resist a mystery that revolves around the New York Public Library? This is a novel about collecting great books and antique maps, about family secrets and public images. I was caught up in the fabulous descriptions of the collections and their eccentric collectors. In fact, I found the books more interesting than the mystery.
This is my first Linda Fairstein novel. I was unfamiliar with Alex Cooper and her entourage, but it was easy enough to get up to speed. I am fascinated by old books and maps; I have a 1655 map of Ireland on my living room wall (only a reproduction, I’m sad to say). The stories surrounding these books were my favorite part of the novel — the stories of the books and the collectors, the conservators and the great research collections of the New York Public Library were really intriguing. I kept reading more to find out what happened to the books and maps, rather than what happened to the people.
Alex Cooper starts out this book looking for a rapist. Tina Barr has been the victim of a home invasion and has barricaded herself in her apartment, refusing to come out. Alex talks her way in, but the woman refuses medical attention and insists that she does not want to press charges; later, she disappears. Cooper’s boss downtown is very interested in the missing girl, and when another woman is found murdered in her apartment, things really start to heat up. The search for the murderer is combined with the search for pieces to a missing map — perhaps the most valuable map in history.
While I loved the stories about the books and maps, I wasn’t as enthralled by the mystery. I found the dialogue very clumsy in places. There is also a subplot about a DNA search that seemed to serve no more purpose than to show that Cooper occasionally has to make an appearance in a courtroom.
I found that the book reminded me of the movie, National Treasure, with its search for a map that may be no more than a legend. It was entertaining enough, but it won’t find a place in my permanent collection.