From New York Times bestselling author and former top prosecutor Linda Fairstein comes an electrifying thriller rich with the riveting behind-the-scenes authenticity that only she can offer.
It’s going to be a tough trial. Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper’s case, involving an attack on investment banker Paige Vallis, would be difficult to prove even without the latest development—it seems that Paige has something to hide.
Most of her story is clear. She’d had dinner with New York consultant Andrew Tripping three times before the March evening when she accepted his invitation to accompany him to his apartment. But what occurred that night? Why didn’t she leave the apartment when he started to act strangely? What about Tripping’s little boy, Dulles? What happened to the child that fateful evening? And who is the strange man whose appearance in the courtroom seems to terrify Paige?
While Alex’s police detective friend Mercer Wallace helps her learn more of the sad details behind the increasingly puzzling rape case, colleague Mike Chapman is uptown in a decaying Harlem brownstone where eighty-two-year-old McQueen Ransome has been murdered, her apartment ransacked.
What could this impoverished, elderly woman have possessed that could have inspired such violence? Photographs on the wall suggest that “Queenie” was once a beautiful and voluptuous young woman who traveled to faraway places. Could there be a clue to her murder in her exotic background?
Her murder will be only the first. Others follow, as the tragic strands of the Paige Vallis and McQueen Ransome cases begin to converge in a poignant alliance of two women from very different worlds.
Faced with formidable personal and professional choices, Alex must learn the old lesson that appearances can deceive, even as she heads for a showdown in which her wits and her courage will be tested as never before.
About the Author
Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America’s foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.
Hometown:New York, New York and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:May 5, 1947
Place of Birth:Mount Vernon, New York
Education:B.A., Vassar College, 1969; J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1972
Read an Excerpt
"Murder. You should have charged the defendant with murder."
"He didn't kill anyone, Your Honor." Not yet. Not that I could prove.
"Juries like murder, Ms. Cooper. You should know that better than I do." Harlan Moffett read the indictment a second time as court officers herded sixty prospective jurors into the small courtroom. "Give these amateurs a dead body, a medical examiner who can tell them the knife wound in the back wasn't self-inflicted, a perp who was somewhere near the island of Manhattan when the crime occurred, and I guarantee you a conviction. This stuff you keep bringing me?"
Moffett underscored each of the charges with his red fountain pen. Next to the block letters of the defendant's name in the document's heading, People of the State of New York Against Andrew Tripping, he sketched the stick figure of a man hanging from the crosspiece of a gallows.
My adversary had been pleased when the case was sent out to Moffett for trial earlier in the afternoon. As tough as the old-timer was on homicide cases, he had been appointed to the bench thirty years ago, when the laws made it virtually impossible to take rape cases before a jury. No witness to the attack, no corroborating evidence, then there could be no prosecution. He clearly liked it better that way.
We both stood on the raised platform directly in front of Moffett, answering his questions about the matter for which we were about to select a panel. I was trying to divine my prospects as I watched the notations he was making on the face of the indictment I had handed up to him.
"You're right, Judge." Peter Robelon smiled as Moffett scribbled out the image of the doomed man on the gallows. "Alex has the classic 'he said-she said' situation here. She's got no physical evidence, no forensics."
"Would you mind keeping your voice down, Peter?" I couldn't direct the judge to lower his volume, but maybe he'd get my point. Robelon knew the acoustics in the room as well as I did, and was keenly aware that the twelve people being seated in the box could overhear him as the three of us talked about the facts and issues in the case.
"Speak up, Alexandra." Moffett cupped his hand to his ear.
"Would you mind if we had this conversation in your robing room?" My subtlety had escaped the judge.
"Alex is afraid the jurors are going to hear what she's about to tell them anyway as soon as she makes her opening statement. Smoke and mirrors, Your Honor. That's all she's got."
Moffett stood up and walked down the three steps, motioning both of us to follow him out the door, held open by the chief clerk, into the small office adjacent to the courtroom.
The room was bare, except for an old wooden desk and four chairs. The only decoration, next to the telephone mounted on the wall, were the names and numbers of every pizza, sandwich, and fast food joint in a five-block radius, scrawled on the peeling gray paint over the years by court officers who had ordered meals for deliberating jurors.
Moffett closed the window that looked down from the fifteenth floor above Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. Police sirens, from patrol cars streaking north out of headquarters, competed with our conversation.
"You know why juries like homicides so much? It's easy for them." The wide sleeves of his black robes flapped about as the judge waved his arms in the air. "A corpse, a weapon, an unnatural death. They know that a terrible crime occurred. You've just got to put the perp in the ballpark and they send him up the river for you."
I opened my mouth to address him. He pointed a finger in my direction and kept going. "You spend most of every damn rape trial just trying to prove there was even a crime committed."
Moffett wasn't wrong. The hardest thing about these cases was convincing a jury that a felony had actually taken place. People usually kill one another for reasons. Not good reasons, but things that twelve of their peers can grab on to and accept as the precipitating cause. Greed. Rage. Jealousy. Infidelity. All the deadly sins and then some. Prosecutors don't have to supply a motive, but most of the time one makes itself visible and we offer it up for their consideration.
Sex crimes are different. Nobody can fathom why someone forces an act of intercourse on an unwilling partner. Psychologists ruminate about power and control and anger, but they haven't stood in front of a jury box dozens of times, as I have, trying to make ordinary citizens understand crimes that seem to have no motives at all.
Explain why the clean-cut nineteen-year-old sitting opposite them in the well of the courtroom broke into a stranger's apartment to steal property but became aroused at the sight of a fifty-eight-year-old housewife watching television, so he held a knife to her throat and committed a sexual act. Explain why the supervising janitor of a Midtown office building would corner a cleaning woman in a broom closet on the night shift, when the hallway was dark and deserted, pushing her to her knees and demanding oral sex.
"May I tell you what I've got, Judge?"
"In a minute." Moffett waved me off with the back of his hand, rays of the late-afternoon sunlight glancing off the garnet-colored stone in his pinky ring. "Peter, let me hear about your client."
"Andrew Tripping. Forty-two years old. No record "
"Well, that's not exactly true, Peter."
"Nothing you can use at trial, is there, Alex? Now how about letting me finish without interrupting?"
I placed my legal pad on the desk and started to list all the facts I knew that would flush out the picture Tripping's lawyer was about to paint.
"Graduated from Yale. Went into the Marine Corps. Did some work for the CIA for about ten years. Now he's a consultant."
"Your guy and everyone else who's not employed. Everybody who hasn't got a job's a consultant. What field?"
"Security. Governmental affairs. Terrorism. Spent a lot of time in the Middle East, Asia before that. Can't give you too many details."
"Can't or won't? You'll tell me, but then you'll have to kill me?" Moffett was the only one to laugh at his own jokes. He slid the yellow-backed felony complaint out of the court file and flipped it over. "Made two hundred fifty thousand bail? Must know something or somebody."
Peter smiled at me as he answered. "Our friend, Ms. Cooper, was a bit excessive in her request at the arraignment. I got it cut in half in criminal court. He spent a week on Rikers before I got him out."
"Sure doesn't look like a rapist."
"What is it, Judge? The blazer, rep tie, and wire-rimmed glasses? Or just that he's the first white guy you've had in the dock all year?" There was no point in losing my temper yet. The jury would be looking at Tripping the same way the judge was. People heard the word "rape" and expected to see a Neanderthal, club in hand, peering out from behind a tree in Central Park.
I had Moffett's attention now. "Who's the girl?"
"Thirty-six-year-old woman. Paige Vallis. She works at an investment banking firm."
"She knows the guy? This one of those date things?"
"Ms. Vallis had met Tripping twice before. Yes, he had invited her out to dinner the evening this happened."
Moffett looked at the complaint again, comparing the place of occurrence with the defendant's home address. Now his primitive doodles were a wine bottle and a couple of glasses. "Then she went back to his place, I guess."
It wouldn't have surprised me if he had said what he was undoubtedly thinking at that moment: What did she expect to happen if she went home with him at midnight, after a candlelit dinner and a bottle of wine? I had countered that logic in court more times than I could remember. Moffett didn't speak the words. He just scowled and shook his head back and forth slowly.
"She got injuries?"
"No, sir." The overwhelming percentage of sexual assault victims presented themselves to emergency rooms with no external signs of physical injury. Any rookie prosecutor could get a conviction when the victim was battered and bruised.
Peter Robelon spoke over me as I nodded my head. "So what, Judge? My client admits that he and Ms. Vallis made love. Alex doesn't even need to waste the court's time with her serology expert. I'll stipulate to the findings."
Nothing new about Tripping's defense. Consent. The two spent a rapturous night together, he would argue, and for some reason that Peter would raise at trial, Paige Vallis ran to the nearest cop on the beat the next morning to charge her lover with rape. Surely it couldn't be for the pleasure of the experience she was about to undergo in a public forum, when I called her to the witness stand.
"Did Judge Hayes talk plea with you two?"
The case had been pending since the indictment was filed back in March. "I haven't made any offer to the defense."
"You got rocks in your head, Alexandra? Nothing better to do with your time?" Moffett cocked one eye and stared over his reading glasses at me.
"I'd like to explain the circumstances, Your Honor. There's a child involved."
"She's got a kid? What does that have to do with anything?"
"He's the one with a kid. A son. That's what the endangering count refers to."
"The father did something sexual to his own kid? Now that's "
"No, no, Judge. There's been some physical abuse and strange behavior "
"Stop characterizing this to prejudice the court, Alex. She's on thin ice, Your Honor."
"The boy was a witness to much of what happened leading up to the crime itself. In a sense, he was the weapon the defendant used to compel Ms. Vallis to submit to him. If Peter will stop interrupting me, I can lay it out for you."
Moffett scanned the indictment again, reading the language about endangering the welfare of a child. He looked up at Robelon. "How about it, Peter? Your guy willing to take the misdemeanor and save us all a lot of aggravation?"
"No way. The prosecution doesn't have the kid. She's never even talked to him. He's not going to testify against his father."
"Is that true, Alexandra?" Moffett was up and pacing now, anxious to get back in the courtroom before the prospective jurors got too restless.
"Can we just slow this down a bit, Peter?" I asked. "That's one of the things I'd like to discuss with you before we charge ahead, Judge."
"What's to discuss?"
"I'd like you to sign an order directing production of the child, so that I can interview him before I open to the jury."
"Why? Where is he?"
"I don't know, Your Honor. ACW took him away from Mr. Tripping at the time of the arrest. They've never allowed me to meet with him." The Agency for Child Welfare had relocated Tripping's ten-year-old son to a foster home outside the city when I filed the indictment.
"Judge," Peter said, picking up on Moffett's obvious annoyance with my case, "see what I mean? She hasn't even laid eyes on the boy."
"Why isn't the kid with his mother?"
Peter and I spoke at the same time. "She's dead."
Peter jumped in defensively. "Killed herself a few months after he was born. Typical postpartum depression, taken to the worst extreme."
"Tripping was in the military at the time, Judge. She was killed with one of his guns. I've spoken to investigators who think he's the one who pulled the trigger."
Moffet aimed his pinky ring in my direction, jabbing it in the air while he grinned and looked over at Peter Robelon. "She should have charged him with murder, just like I said. Pretty good self-restraint for Alexandra Cooper. So why'd Judge Hayes leave me with all these loose ends to tie up when he sent this over to me? What else are you asking for?"
Peter answered before I could open my mouth. "Alex, you know I'm going to oppose any request you make for an adjournment. You answered ready for trial, Hayes sent us out, and my client is ready to get this over with."
"It sounds like we got some housekeeping matters to clear up here before we start picking," Moffett said. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do. Let's go back inside, so I can greet the jurors and give them a timetable. I'll introduce each of you and the defendant, tell them we need the morning to complete some business that doesn't involve them, and have them back here at two P.M. Either of you have a list of witnesses you want to give me?"
I handed both men a very short list of names. This case rested squarely on Paige Vallis's shoulders. "I may have one more to add to this tomorrow."
Peter Robelon smiled again. "I don't want to lose sleep worrying about who that might be, Alex. Want to give me a hint?"
"I assume you'd be able to do your usual devastating cross-examination, even if I conjured up Mother Teresa as an eyewitness. Let me keep you guessing."
Mercer Wallace, the case detective from the Special Victims Unit, had been contacted by one of the guys in Homicide at the end of last week. He had a confidential informant a reliable CI, he claimed who had been Tripping's cellmate at Rikers and had some incriminating information that he'd overheard in the pens in the hours after the two were first incarcerated together. They were producing this informant Kevin Bessemer in my office tonight, for me to evaluate the statements he was trying to trade for some years shaved off the time he was looking at in his own pending case.
Moffett waved his hand toward the door and the court officer opened it for us. He took my arm and steered me toward the hallway. "Nice of you to bring me a case that doesn't have the first three rows of my courtroom filled with reporters for a change."
"Believe me, Judge, it's the way I prefer to work, too."
"Do yourself a favor, Alex." Moffett turned back to look at Robelon, no doubt winking to assure him the whispering was to benefit his client. "Think about whether we can make this case go away by this time tomorrow. I'm amazed it survived the motion to inspect and dismiss the grand jury minutes. I'm not sure you're going to see a lot of rulings going your way under my watch, from this point on."
"It's actually a very compelling story and a frightening one. I think you'll see that more clearly when I make my application in the morning."
He let go and stepped out ahead of me, into the courtroom, taking his place back up on the bench as Robelon and I walked to our respective tables.
Mercer Wallace was standing at the rail, as though he had been waiting for me to emerge from the robing room. Moffett recognized him from a previous trial. "Miss Cooper, you want a minute to speak with Detective Wallace before I get started with our introductions here?"
"I'd appreciate that, Your Honor."
Mercer reached for my shoulder and turned me away from the jurors in the box, toward him. "Keep your game face on, Alex. Just got news that you should know before you spill anything to the judge about how strong your case is. Hope I'm not too late to be useful."
He leaned over and spoke as softly as he could. "Heads are gonna roll as soon as the commissioner gets word about this one. Two guys were bringing Kevin Bessemer over from Rikers for your interview. The car got jammed up behind an accident on the FDR Drive, and the prisoner bolted from the backseat, right down the footpath on One Hundred Nineteenth Street and into the projects. They lost him."
"Poker face, girl. You promised."
"But wasn't he cuffed?"
"Rear-cuffed and locked in tight, the guys say. Stay cool, Alex, the judge is checking to see what the fidgeting is and why your blood pressure's going up. Your cheeks are on fire."
"I can't start picking this jury tomorrow. How the hell am I going to buy myself some time?"
"Tell the man what happened, kid. Tell him your snitch is gone."
Copyright © 2004 by Linda Fairstein
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
Linda Fairstein is quite simply one of the best crime fiction writers in America today. Ms. Fairstein has that rare gift of writing extremely well about what she knows best. The Kills is a richly composed novel of suspense, with intricate plotting and hold-your-breath courtroom drama. Fairstein should be required reading for law schools and police academies all over the country. Fairstein is fantastic!
Fairstein has the expertise and the experience, and it shows. The Kills is a white-knuckle ride through the back roads of history, the sidestreets of New York, and the chilling world of unbounded greed.
Linda Fairstein's knowledge of the criminal justice system explodes on these pages--seamlessly plotted, spiked by razor-sharp dialogue and the knowledge of a lifelong insider.
New York Times bestselling author of Naked Prey
What separates Linda Fairstein's The Kills from the pack is her keen eye for authenticity. She smoothly blends her vast courtroom and police procedural knowledge with flat-out great storytelling and poignant insights into the history of the city she so clearly loves. Can't wait for another visit with Alex Cooper.
New York Times bestselling author of No Second Chance
Knowledge is power, and nothing proves that better than The Kills, which showcases Linda Fairstein's insider view of New York, in and out of the courtroom. Add her consummate storytelling skills and you have an unbeatable combination--a propulsive, can't-put-down read, a fine addition to a top-notch series.
author of Every Secret Thing
Reading Group Guide
Questions and Topics For Discussion
1. In THE KILLS, Alexandra Cooper’s date rape case takes a dark turn, and she once again teams up with Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace to investigate a murder. What makes the three of them such an effective team? What unique talents does each bring to the table?
2. The demands of Alex’s profession are starting to wreck havoc on her relationship with Jake Tyler. What other issues are coming between them? Do you think that Jake will return in the next book?
3. During the trail, Peter Robelon dismisses a number of female jurors, assuming that they’d be prejudiced in favor of the alleged rape victim. Instead, Alex tells us that this is a classic mistake: women are often more critical of the victim. Why is this the case? Did this information come as a surprise to you?
4. Why does Chapman prefer to handle murders rather than sexual abuse cases?
5. As Alex reviews the photographs of McQueen Ransome’s murdered body, she mentally catalogs the number of people who would also be looking through them. How is the murder investigation itself in some ways another act of violation against the victim, however unintentional?
6. What other cases—and hazards—does Alex have to contend with while dealing with Paige Vallis’s trial? What do these subplots add to the story, and what do they tell us about Alex?
7. In her ballet class, Alex wonders what it would be like to be as unburdened by daily tragedy as the other people in her class were. Do you think Alex’s life would be much different if she were in another line of work? What else could you imagine her doing?
8. Why do you think that we never actually see Dulles Tripping in this novel, despite how integral he is to the story? Do you think it was an oversight or a deliberate choice on the author’s part?
9. When Chapman turns Alex down for a friendly
nightcap, she worries that the dynamic of their friendship is changing. What accounts for this shift? What do you think the ideal form of their friendship would be?
10. Did you think that Queenie’s affair with King Farouk entitled her to make off with some of his treasures? What did you think of Queenie’s character?
11. How has Chapman’s relationship with Val affected him? What does his willingness to shoulder the burden of her illness tell us about him—and about his feelings for her?
12. Jake’s plan to drive out to Martha’s Vineyard during the storm sets off all of Alex’s alarm bells. How does Adam Nyman’s death so many years earlier continue to affect her? Why is Jake so reluctant to believe her reason for asking him not to come?
13. What does Alex’s last act of the novel—erasing the messages on her answering machine without listening to them—suggest?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I am a David Baldacci/James Patterson fan and was looking for a female character of great depth. I found that character in Alexandra Cooper. I have not been disappointed in her. Linda Fairstein had such a great grasp of the local color which adds incredibly to the story line. Blair Brown is a wonderful narrator.
Manhattan sex-crimes prosecutor Alexandra Cooper knows her new case, one involving an attack on investment banker Paige Vallis, will be hard to prove as is, but things take a sharp turn when Alex learns her client has something to hide. What really happened the night of the attack? Why didn¿t Paige leave the apartment after the date turned ugly? What happened to her attackers son? And who is the mysterious man whose appearance in the courtroom scares Paige? As Alex receives help from her detective friends on the rape case another puzzling crime is committed this time an elderly woman is found murdered and her apartment turned upside down. Who would want this woman dead and why? While both case take strange turns more murders occur and Alex is forced to question what connection these two seemingly different women had. `The Kills¿ is another great read from Linda Fairstein. The two story lines move fast combining shocking twists with courtroom thrills until a powerful climax ties together all the loose ends. Fans of Fairstein¿s previous novels will lap this up in one sitting for this may be her best page-turner yet. Expect to see `The Kills¿ on the top of all the bestseller lists. Nick Gonnella
Under the blanket of sexual crimes envestigation. I dont watch the law and order spin off because of contents despite excellent cast and writing as i consider it x rated for the time period This book is x rated. Unfair? Borrow from library and scan first middle and last chapter and save money buska
I don't care for the writing of someone who single handedly condemned the lives of five black and latino children back in 1989, and who, to this day doesn't acknowledge her wrongdoings. Its actually insane that these men have now been exonerated since 2002 and she has had a successful career as a novelist since. As this information is just now coming to light to a new generation, we seek to correct what our justice system has failed to do. I, a latino college student and budding writer will be boycotting my favorite store's services until all works of Linda Fairstein are pulled from the shelves, and online stores, an action, I hope and know many of my peers will take part in. I ask you Barnes & Noble and its customers from the bottom of an aching a and tired heart to disconnect your store from this author and to not purchase this book. Thank you.
Paige Vallis, a powerful businesswoman, has charged a man she dated with attacking her. But during the trial, as Alex represents Paige, she soon suspects her client is hiding something vital to the prosecution. By the time the gutsy prosecutor discovers what it is, Paige is dead, and Alex has been pulled into a case that now involves pornography, priceless coins and international politics.
Fairstein is a good suspense writer. However, I like some others more.
Part of the Alexandra Cooper (a Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor just like the author) series, the plot was too complicated for me, involving coin collecting, rich people, and not-so-rich people. For a New Yorker, Alex drove an awful lot (perhaps as a DA, she didn't feel safe on public transportation).
In every Linda Fairstein book, there is a well-written suspense story that keeps you sitting on the edge of your seat.And as always, along the way, you learn something new. This time, I learned more about the French Resistance, African-American history, and Egyptian history. My only problem with this book, as with her others, is "where are the Victim Advocates?" Not that Alexandra Cooper isn't herself an advocate! But as busy as ADAs are, I would hope that as in Georgia, there are also paid and volunteer advocates in New York. As someone who has served as one, I know the advocates' vital role in cases, serving both as support for the victim, as well as a liasion with the ADAs. Still, I highly recommend "The Kills."
A conglomeration of characters - kept me guessing and i couldn't figure out "who done it"
I love Linda Fairstein's books and have read several but missed this one somehow when it was first published. I enjoyed this book, it is an easy read and moves along . All the characters in this series are likable and the plots are good. I definitely enjoyed this book and would recommend it and also all her other books.
I love Linda Fairstein and thought I had read everything she wrote, but I missed this one and glad I caught it.
very good. Kept me interested and involved until the end.