Sidekicks: The Bone Vault

February 13, 2007 at 4:54 am | Posted in Bone Vault, crime fiction, sidekicks | Leave a comment

Fairstein, L. (2003). The Bone Vault. NY: Scribner.

fairstein.jpgAlex Cooper is a savvy, quick-witted Manhattan DA cum detective and protagonist in Linda Fairstein’s crime fiction series (1996-2007). Alex delivers an energetic, no-nonsense first person narration that relishes the forensic details and detective banter. To soften Alex’s intensity and reveal her endearing  quirks, Fairstein features the same two sidekicks in every Cooper novel.

The sidekicks are NY detectives Mercer Wallace and Mike Chapman. Mercer is a forty-something, married, African-American detective in NY’s Special Victims Squad. The power of his great height and physical stature are countered by his quiet intelligence and compassionate manner. Mercer as sidekick serves the role of protector, sounding board, and voice of reason for Alex. In this novel, Mercer has jitters over impending first-time fatherhood, which allows Alex to gently tease her normally calm sidekick while revealing a rarely seen nuturing maternal instinct.   

Alex describes homicide detective, Mike Chapman, as her longest and closest friend. He is the stereotypical macho, wise-cracking, street-smart, working class cop made good. His tough exterior conceals a mensch inside. Fairstein describes in slightly overwrought prose Mike’s unsung heroism on 9/11. Mike gently asserts his peer status with Alex by calling her “Blondie” and being first to discover the real clues and connections in the case. Throughout the book, Chapman surprises the reader (and sometimes Alex) with his razor intelligence and expertise on arcane subjects from Egyptian burial rights to poisons.  It’s obvious to the reader that Alex and Chapman are romantically meant for each other.  Alex demurs commenting “I had never imagined him as a lover or husband”-(Let’s see what develops in the sequels!)

 It was not surprising that heroic sidekick Mike is the one to rescue Alex when the killer traps her in a museum vault. However, I was somewhat taken aback when Fairstein allows Mike to identify the killer and later attempt to tie up the messy loose ends of the murder case. Rather than calling the shots, Alex seems to be going along for the ride with the reader. Mike Chapman, though he lacks Alex’s credentials and official power is really functioning as an intellectual equal–her  de-facto partner and colleague,


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