All Day and a Night
by Alafair Burke
Published by Harper
Genre: mystery; suspense
4 / 5
Summary from Goodreads:
A new murder case with ties to a convicted serial killer leads Detective Ellie Hatcher into a twisting investigation with explosive and deadly results in this superb mystery from the “terrific web spinner” (Entertainment Weekly) Alafair Burke.
When psychotherapist Helen Brunswick is murdered in her Park Slope office, the entire city suspects her estranged husband—until the District Attorney’s office receives an anonymous letter. The letter’s author knows a chilling detail that police have kept secret: the victim’s bones were broken after she was killed. Her injuries were eerily similar to the signature used twenty years earlier by Anthony Amaro, a serial killer serving a life sentence for his crimes. Now, Amaro is asking to be released from prison, arguing that he was wrongly convicted, and that the true killer is still on the loose.
NYPD Detectives Ellie Hatcher and JJ Rogan are tapped as the “fresh look” team to reassess the original investigation that led to Amaro’s conviction. The case pits them against both their fellow officers and a hard-charging celebrity defense lawyer with a young associate named Carrie Blank, whose older sister was one of Amaro’s victims.
As the NYPD and Amaro’s lawyers search for certainty among conflicting evidence, their investigations take them back to Carrie’s hometown, where secrets buried long ago lead to a brutal attack—one that makes it terrifyingly clear that someone has gotten too close to the truth.
This is the first book written by Alafair Burke that I’ve read, and I’ve got to say that I am hooked.
On the way Burke writes, on heroine Ellie Hatcher, on her boyfriend (and Assistant District Attorney) Max, on her partner Rogan, and on Carrie Blank.
Burke cracks several eggs into this omelet, skillfully blending them to create a feast for us readers. (How about that metaphor, faithful readers!) The central focus is on Amaro, a man jailed for murdering five women. Is he a serial killer, or was he wrongfully accused? The recent murder of Helen Brunswick would make the latter appear to be the case, so much so that the District Attorney sides with Amaro’s flamboyant, bombastic attorney Linda (shades of Nancy Grace). Linda’s typical MO is to blame the cops. She actively seeks out ammunition, regardless of its relevance, to use against the police as a means of exculpating her clients.
Linda is an interesting character herself. She reminds me of some of the defense attorneys I saw back in the OJ Simpson days, the sort of people who blamed victims or police in hopes of incurring reasonable doubt. In Linda’s case, it’s also in hopes of incurring a settlement. She doesn’t charge her clients up front, preferring to take a percentage of any monies awarded. Linda is, quite simply, a vulture.
She also preys on Carrie’s emotions, promising the young attorney that by helping Linda help Amaro, Carrie will finally find out who murdered her sister. Carrie isn’t so much naive as she is hopeful. She’s toiling in a high-powered law firm, one of the nameless, faceless associates pulling all nighters for fat cat clients they never meet. It isn’t that Carrie doesn’t like her job – she does – but given the chance to get some closure on her sister’s death, Carrie accepts Linda’s job offer.
You get the sense that Carrie is Adam, taking a bite out of Eve’s apple. Nothing good will come from this association with Linda Moreland.
When Ellie’s live-in boyfriend Max directs her and Rogan to serve as “fresh eyes” on Amaro’s case, we get to the meat of the mystery: if Amaro didn’t kill those women, who did?
Burke leads us down several dead-end alleys, although one of the solutions is fairly obvious. Even then, though, while your suspicions may be founded, the reasons behind this character’s actions are something else entirely.
What impressed me most about Burke’s writing wasn’t so much her pacing (which is excellent) or her ability to be detailed without being tedious as it was the way she writes her characters. I really cared about Ellie, Max, and Carrie, and I came to wish I worked with a guy like Rogan. Burke respects her characters – even Linda Moreland – and she crafts them in a way that emotionally invests us in them. Not only do we turn the pages to find out answers to the mysteries, we also turn the pages to find out what happens to Ellie, Max and Carrie.
This is an excellent, compelling, dynamic mystery that you will enjoy. It’s part of a series, but you do not need to have read the previous books to enjoy this one. (I didn’t.) You might, though, find yourself wanting to know more about Ellie Hatcher, and if you do, make sure to check out the other novels in her series.