Manhattan prosecutor Alexandra Cooper sees both the seamy and the sophisticated sides of the city. Sometimes, though, the worlds collide. While attending a posh gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alex ends up investigating the death of a woman found in one of the museum's ancient Egyptian coffins.

Although the victim, a Met employee working on an exhibition with the Natural History museum, was slain months earlier, the corpse has been perfectly preserved. But finding out when and where she was killed means tracing the whereabouts of the coffin over many months and looking into everyone with access to it. At two such cavernous museums, with acres of subterranean storage tunnels, this is no meager feat.

Once again detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace are on hand to help with the murder investigation. Getting reacquainted with Alex's police pals (and surrogate family) is as much a reason to pick up Fairstein's fifth Alex Cooper novel as the intricate mystery itself. The snappy, flirtatious banter between Alex and Mike continues to be mischievously fun, and Mike's past is revealed in greater depth.

As the former head of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Manhattan D.A.'s office, Fairstein writes with an insider's view that gives her characters and cases authenticity. Although she's used the art world backdrop before (1999's Cold Hit), this isn't a reread. Her behind-the-scenes tours of actual museums are filled with fascinating detail, and the pacing is brisk throughout. (Jan., 384 pp., $25.00)

Reviewed by: 
Diane Snyder