After sitting out for 2018, Assistant DA Alexandra “Coop” Cooper of the Manhattan Sex Crimes Unit is finally back in the latest thriller from New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein.
Blood Oath, the 20th novel in Fairstein’s series, is a serious page-turner, as the author throws all kinds of trouble at Coop, who, as always, finds a way to juggle all her tasks with laser-like focus. Last time we saw Coop, she was standing next to her boss as he was murdered. Now, she’s still dealing with that fallout while considering her own run for DA and managing two cases that hit home for her personally. One of the cases involves Lucy, a woman who, citing the #MeToo movement, comes forward and claims that years ago when she testified in a major “landmark federal trial,” that she was sexually abused by one of the federal agents working the case.
While trying to figure out if Lucy is telling the truth, rumors begin to swirl about one of Coop’s colleagues, who, it turns out, has some serious skeletons in their closet. Alex’s pursuit of the truth leads her to Manhattan’s Rockefeller University—an organization with a number of dark secrets they’d like to keep hidden. . . and each step towards justice puts bigger crosshairs on Coop’s back, making this one of her most dangerous cases to date.
Just before taking off on her book tour, Fairstein agreed to go back on the record for her second round of Five Questions (see my interview with her from 2017 here), and I asked her about everything from how she came up with the plot idea for this book to who some of her favorite authors are. Read the full Q&A below, then pick up your copy of Blood Oath, the latest Alexandra Cooper thriller from Linda Fairstein, in stores everywhere on Tuesday, March 26th.
TRBS: Blood Oath is just fantastic! How did you come up with the plot details for this book?
Fairstein: Thanks for the praise. Blood Oath is my 20th book in the Alex Cooper series and I worked hard to make it a standout. I have never used a real criminal case as the plot of one of my novels, but I like to draw from elements like motives or forensic techniques that I have encountered in my legal work. The seed for this one came from a tragic story involving a powerful man I knew well, who had done something terrible in his young professional life. I was haunted by the story, and by his downfall . . . and of course, imagining the profound impact of his actions on his victim. I couldn’t shake the whole idea of it, so I got to work creating my fictional version of a similar case.
TRBS: What kind of research did you have to do before actually sitting down to write this one?
Fairstein: I’m a pretty fanatic researcher, as most of my readers know. I’m actually still a lawyer and stay current with techniques and forensics, which requires a serious amount of time and study. But the most fun I have is using actual New York City landmarks — some famous, some hardly known — as settings in my stories. I had the serendipity of meeting a brilliant scientist from Rockefeller University, America’s premier medical research institute, which is hidden in plain sight behind elegant wrought iron gates on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Once inside, the century-old buildings revealed fascinating secrets, and the crumbling underground tunnels — dark and creepy — were all I needed to confirm that I had the perfect venue for a thriller.
TRBS: What’s a typical writing day for you? Do you outline your books, have a target word count for each day—and how has your writing process changed over the years?
Fairstein: My writing process has undergone enormous changes since my first efforts. When Final Jeopardy and the next four books in the series were written in the late ’90s, I was still a full-time prosecutor, in charge of Manhattan’s Special Victims Unit. I had to write for a couple of hours before dawn because once I got to the DA’s Office, my focus had to be on the cases that landed on my desk. Now I have the luxury of setting my own schedule, and for me, there is no such thing as a typical writing day. I try to start early after a lot of black coffee and get “into the zone”, which means I am comfortably into the story-telling and know where I am going. But, real life has a way of intruding, so no two days ever seem to be the same.
TRBS: What’s the last great book that you read, and who are some of your favorite authors?
Fairstein: I can’t read crime novels — and I do love all the competition! — while I am writing my own. So my last great reads were Andrew Robert’s biography, Churchill, which led me to go back and pick up Winnie’s multi-volume A History of the English Speaking Peoples, which kept me enthralled for a few weeks. My favorite authors are crime writers like Harlan Coben, Andy Gross, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Lisa Scottoline, Louise Penny, Jane Stanton Hitchcock, and Michael Connelly. I’m looking forward to a new novel from Lisa Grunwald, and waiting for your recommendations, always.
TRBS: Lastly, now that Blood Oath is set to hit bookstores, what’s next for you and Coop?
Fairstein: I’m one of those authors who loves to tour. It’s great fun the day the boxes open and Blood Oath hits the shelves. The tour allows me to be in bookstores and libraries, which is always a joy for me, and to talk to readers — find out what they like about my novels and what they don’t like. I’m well into Coop’s next caper, and the working title is The Graveyard. Murder takes her to some really remote parts of the city — a first visit to some desolate places, for Coop and for me.
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.