Night Watch

Night Watch by Linda FairsteinFull Title: Night Watch: A Novel
Linda Fairstein
Publisher: Dutton (2012)
Number of Pages: 402
How long it took me to read: 4 days
Where I got this book: local library
ISBN: 978-0-525-95263-3

Like a Moth to a Flame

I enjoy Fairstein’s mysteries from both a personal and professional view. They provide realistic looks into the legal machinations of sex crimes, examining the makeup of those who commit them and those who try to prosecute them. As the former chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan, Fairstein demonstrates unique insight. Her characters—Alex Cooper, Mike Chapman, and Mercer Wallace—ride herd over the criminals they face in their everyday work. The characters are well developed with rich personal and professional backgrounds. While Fairstein writes an ongoing series, her books can be read as stand–alone novels since she introduces enough background material in her stories for even new readers to follow along. I chose this book based on my experiences of her past writings.

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Favorite Five

I propose that the top 5 quotes from this book are:

5. “ ‘Actually, you don’t have any friggin’ rights at all on my watch. You wanna help us, you talk. You want the body count to climb and the Health Department to put a PLAGUE sign over your about-to-be-brand-new front door, stay mum,’ Mike said. ‘Mercer and me—we got a thing about Coop. Personally, most of the time she makes decisions with her head up her ass. Professionally, both of us would rather work our cases with than without her.’ ” (p.232)

4. “ ‘And, Pat, if you think leaving your wife for some stolen moments with the yellow rose of Texas here is a gift to the women’s movement, you’re not firing on all cylinders.’ ” (p.91)

3. “ ‘I nudged him a few times, but he wouldn’t change his mind. Most men don’t take me seriously until they see me shoot,’ Gina said.” (p.388)

2. “Mike was leaning against the wall, arms crossed, with Mercer coming along behind him, still fixated on the labels and plaques. ‘It all started at the front door. The agents looking to raid the place were stopped first by the huge iron gates. If they got past those, the doorman was a lookout, using the peephole to see who was outside.’

‘But they still had to let the agents in, didn’t they?’

‘Not before the doorman pressed a buzzer that went straight to the bartender, while three other alarms signaled clients on each floor. The waiters collected all the glasses, while the barkeep pulled a switch. Every liquor bottle behind the bar was on a collapsible shelf. One flip and all the whiskey in the whole place was flushed down into the basement, where it drained out below the building’s foundation. The place may have reeked of alcohol, but there wasn’t ever a trace of the stuff inside the restaurant that anybody could prove in court.’ ” (p.227)

…and my pick for the No.1 quote is…

1. “He had pushed his pasta aside and was working on the chicken parm, his appetite no more diminished for upsetting me than it would be if a corpse fell off the chair behind him.” (p.110)

Conversation with the Reader

While I read, I write, and as I write, I read. Here’s some of what I wrote while I read this book:

“I must admit, I really don’t enjoy the character of Alex Cooper’s significant other, Luc Rouget, a restaurateur from France who is rich, thin, and attractive (of course). He is also misogynistic, patronizing, and narcissistic. For example, Alex states, ‘Luc assured me that he hadn’t locked the door and that I was probably just skittish alone in the dark alleyway, fooled by the work of village pranksters.’ (p.6) When he’s talking to the police about bones and skulls that were left at his home and restaurant, he dismisses Alex by stating that she is the prosecutor in charge of sex crimes in Manhattan; ‘It explains why she always sees something sinister when there really isn’t cause for concern.’ (p.9) Then he has the audacity to try to help the police and not involve her, to which she replies, ‘I’m more useful with the dead than you are, Luc.’ (p.13) Please…why does this strong, intelligent, determined woman put up with this shit? It’s baffled me in previous books and continues to rankle me in this one. Obviously, because Luc rubs me the wrong way so much, Fairstein is doing an excellent job engaging her reader.”

“Drugs, sex, rock n’ roll. Ok, so there’s no rock n’ roll, but I’ve got everything else I could want in a mystery novel: drugs and sex, prostitution, counterfeiting, history lessons, skulls and bones, thieving, international intrigue, murder, politics, rape, and psychopathology. I’m engaged by the blending of all of the components of this book, from the facts to the fiction. And more than anything, I love irreverence and this book is full of it (irreverence, that is)—main characters who don’t take themselves or their culprits seriously, who banter with each other in fun, lightheartedness, and dark humor. However, I find that Mike Chapman can become rather abusive in his teasing; it’s interesting that Alex considers him a close friend. I’m pleased to see that she’s trying to set more boundaries with him. Her ongoing interactions with the men in her life, while working in a prominently male field, are something I enjoy analyzing; go Alex! But I think they all need to see a family therapist to sort out the dysfunction and co-dependence…”

“I’m taken by the author’s ongoing history lessons and Jeopardy trivia contests; this is thoroughly researched. Chapman is a wealth of information on all things historical; for example, his information on Prohibition and the restaurant/bar, the 21 Club (quoted above) is fascinating. Yet the trivia is also entertaining; I just learned that komodo dragons have two penises. And although I’m not winning any of the Jeopardy questions in the book, I’ll hopefully be able to apply what I’m currently learning to the questions on the show in the future. And I’m sure I’ll impress a few people with my new-found knowledge about komodo dragons (don’t lie, you were impressed).”

“The plot is a little too transparent. While I love being able to figure things out on my own, I think most readers will be able to guess what happens in the book before they read about it. Yet overall, the storyline has been thorough, engaging, and mysterious. As I near the end of Fairstein’s newest release, I’m finding the ending predictable—some bad guys are caught, some are maimed, and some are left in the wind so that our heroes have a reason to return to another day of crime fighting. But overall, a good read rich in facts about the sex crimes arena. I’ll definitely continue to read her work.”

“Reading the ‘Acknowledgments’ section is enlightening. Fairstein needs to be acknowledged for her contribution to the world through her work on sex crimes. As a psychotherapist who sees horrific trauma in this area (stranger rape, date rape, childhood sexual abuse, adult sexual abuse, pornography, and prostitution), I thank her for continuing to bring this horrific treatment of women and children (and some men) to light. Her writing is such a wonderful way to enlighten the general public about a horrible blight on our communities.”


  1. Janet says:

    Excellent review! It made me want to rush right out (even though it’s raining!)and buy the book. Keep up the good work, Carol. I’ll be looking for more of your reviews, especially since I love so many of the topics you cover.

    • Carol says:

      Thanks so much for your reply! I have a Matthew Fox review coming up Oct. 14 which I know you’ll be interested in. Happy reading and I’ll check out those Steve Hamilton books. c

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