It's 5:38 on a March morning when Alex's phone jars her awake. Homicide detective Mike Chapman is at the scene of a sexual assault and murder. It's a perfect case for Alex and her special skills.
Dr. Gemma Dogen was a neurosurgeon at Mid-Manhattan Medical Center, the oldest and largest hospital in New York City. She was found barely breathing, on the floor of her blood-soaked office. It was too late to save her. In cop parlance, she was a "likely to die."
Alex's team faces immense problems. The more than fifteen-hundred-bed complex and its medical college are connected to the Stuyvesant Psychiatric Center, and all three buildings sit on top of a maze of underground tunnels which are populated by scores of transients. Anybody could have been near Gemma Dogen's office the night of the murder. Although she tries to juggle many cases, Alex is haunted by this one. But when the killer beginning to focus on Alex, she, herself, may soon bear the tragic label "likely to die."
An example of riviting storytelling and a powerful behind-the-scenes view of the exciting, challenging life of a Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, Likely to Die strengthens Linda Fairstein's position as an international crime-writing star.
1. In what ways are Alex and the murdered doctor, Gemma Dogen, alike or dislike? Given their outward similarities, do you think that Gemma’s death has any special resonance for Alex?
2. Although this story is fictional, it reveals some pretty unsettling things about the security of big-city hospitals. Did the novel change how you think about this world?
3. What connections does Alex have to the world of medicine? Do these connections influence the way that she pursues this case?
4. How would you describe Alex and Mike Chapman’s relationship? What makes them such a great duo? This story places them in especially close proximity while they are in England. Why do you think their relationship remains platonic? Do you find yourself rooting for them to get together?
5. There’s a lot we learn in this novel—from the changes in rape laws over the last twenty-five years to the kinds of women that make the best jurors in date rape trials. How does learning about the law and the way that crimes are prosecuted affect your reading of the story?
6. On the surface, Alex seems like the kind of person who would enjoy letting off steam with a sport like kick boxing, but instead she is drawn to the world of ballet. What makes ballet so appealing to her? Is it a good fit for her character?
7. At one point in the story, Chapman comments on the murders and remarks, “We’re all likely to die” (p. 282). What point is he trying to make? Where else does this phrase appear and how is it important to the story?
8. While inviting Alex to a dinner, her friend Joan chides her, “don’t be a sex crimes prosecutor tonight…be a girl” (p. 200). Do you agree with Joan that sometimes Alex forgets to be a girl?
9. The media is an important presence in Alex’s world, despite the fact that she is often at odds with it. How do the reporters that constantly dog her heels add to the flavor of the book—and help move the story along?
10. On their flight to England, Alex and Chapman talk about famous people whom they admire and whose shoes they’d like to stand in. What people did each of them choose, and what do their picks say about them?
11. In the acknowledgments, Linda Fairstein tells us that “every crime in this book is based on an actual event.” Does learning this change your perception of the novel?
12. At a pretty crucial point in the investigation, Alex and Chapman are sent off to England for a conference. How does this interlude serve the novel? Did it break up the story or enhance it?
13. Why does Alex come so uncharacteristically unglued when she learns about the connection between Drew Renaud and Gemma Dogen?
Linda Fairstein was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America’s foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.