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An Ellie Hatcher Mystery by Alafair Burke

212 by Alafair Burke

Review: Alafair Burke crafts an intricate story with intersecting plotlines as her third murder investigation for NYPD homicide detective Ellie Hatcher in 212.

When a security officer is found murdered in a penthouse apartment, and the owner, real estate developer Sam Sparks, the man's employer, is less than helpful in finding the killer, Ellie wants to knock the guy down a notch or two. Instead, after four months of a fruitless investigation, Ellie's the one to spend a night in jail after a judge finds her case against Sparks prejudiced. But on getting out, she's quickly drawn into another murder investigation, this time of a college co-ed, who was murdered in her apartment, her roommate seriously wounded. The student had been the target of a virtual watcher, someone who posted threatening information about her anonymously online. But then Ellie and her partner J. J. Rogan learn from phone records that a tenuous link exists between the young women and another murder victim, a real estate agent moonlighting as an escort. Nothing about this case makes any sense and this is particularly true when the phone number for the judge in the Spark's trial shows up on one of the women's call list.

212 is certainly a compelling thriller, with a credible whodunit-style mystery integrated into it. Probably like most real-life murder investigations, there are a lot of false steps and wrong assumptions made by Ellie and her partner during the case, but they're smart enough to recognize them before too much time passes and make mid-stream corrections as needed. Still, the sheer number of interweaved plot threads in the book make keeping everything straight a bit of challenge. And not only for the reader. Several times during the investigation, Ellie points out how difficult their case is. About mid-way through, while talking to their lieutenant, "Ellie and Rogan exchanged a glance. They knew their theory rested on multiple assumptions, but now that they were hearing it out loud, they were seeing all of the holes." Later, "[their] whiteboard had spiraled into a spiderweb of tangled lines in blue, black and purple marker. Photographs, phone records, and printouts covered nearly every inch of the table and floor of the interrogation room."

The title ostensibly refers to the address of the building in the opening chapter in which the security officer is found dead, but more likely is intended to reflect the city as a whole, 212 being Manhattan's area code. 212 is very much a New York City-centric story; readers familiar with the city are likely to appreciate (and understand the underlying significance of) some of the descriptive settings more than others, who may be baffled by references to uptown, midtown, downtown, upper and lower east and west sides, and so on.

Despite the nearly non-stop action, 212 isn't exactly a fast-reading book, but the carefully crafted plot and well-developed characters will certainly have readers hooked early on.

Acknowledgment: HarperCollins provided an ARC of 212 for this review.

Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved

Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author

Mystery Book Review: Dead Connection by Alafair BurkeDead Connection
Henry Holt (Hardcover), July 2007
ISBN-13: 9780805077858; ISBN-10: 0805077855

Location(s) referenced in 212: New York City

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212 by Alafair Burke

212 by An Ellie Hatcher Mystery

Publisher: Harper
Format: Hardcover
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-156122-1
Publication Date:
List Price: $24.99

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