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212    by Alafair Burke order for
by Alafair Burke
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Harper, 2010 (2010)
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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Alafair Burke's 212 is the third (following Dead Connection and Angel's Tip) in a series starring NYPD detective Ellie Hatcher. Ellie is partnered with the more experienced J. J. Rogan. Ellie's musician brother Jess frequents the seedier side of NY City and camps out at her apartment except when she's entertaining ADA Max Donovan, with whom she is developing a strong relationship.

As 212 opens, a woman named Tanya Abbott makes an anonymous 911 call to report a murder in a luxury penthouse apartment. Her identity remains a mystery to readers until late in the story. Ellie and J. J. take the call and find that the dead man is a protection specialist in the employ of celebrity mogul Samuel Sparks. When Sparks shows up and throws his weight around, Ellie cuffs him.

Four months later, the case in limbo, Judge Paul Bandon rules Ellie in contempt during a hearing to gain access to Sparks' records and she spends the night in a holding cell. Ellie wonders why Sparks is so concerned about the case and starts to investigate him. She's shocked to discover that her new Lieutenant, Robin Tucker, is in a relationship with Sparks Industries' head of corporate security, Nick Dillon.

In parallel with all this, someone (who has obviously been watching her closely) threatens New York University sophomore Megan Gunther on Campus Juice, a website whose content is campus gossip and that guarantees anonymity. She and her parents contact the police who can do nothing. When Megan is murdered and her roommate Heather badly injured, Ellie and her partner investigate. Then Heather goes missing.

Soon there's another body. Katie Battle, a real estate agent who moonlights as a high end hooker to support her mother, is brutally murdered, and her call logs show a connection with Megan Gunther - and with somone in authority. It's a convoluted and surprising puzzle but of course Ellie eventually disentangles it, in a race against time to save a final victim. 212 is a great new entry in an engaging mystery series - don't miss either this one or Burke's equally appealing series starring Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid in Portland, Oregon.

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