Sunday, April 11, 2010


Alafair Burke's acclaimed series featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher includes Dead Connection and Angel’s Tip.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, 212, and reported the following:
If I’d been sufficiently prescient to foresee my participation in the Page 69 Test, I would have figured out a way to paginate 212 differently. As it stands, Page 69 of 212 contains only five lines that end Chapter 12. To quote even that small excerpt, I have to cheat, reaching over to page 68 for the beginning of a sentence:
Ellie was about to log onto her computer when she caught sight of Max Donovan through the open slates of the blinds that covered Lieutenant Robin Tucker’s office. Tucker stood, walked to her office door, and poked her head into the squad room.

“Good timing, you two. A quick word?”

Rogan shot Ellie a look that made her wish she’d checked Max’s message in the car. “This can’t be good.”
Not much happening there, but the exchange does capture the work-a-day precinct atmosphere that serves as the backdrop for 212 as NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner, JJ Rogan, investigate the murder of an NYU college student who was being stalked on the internet and the seemingly unrelated murder of a real estate agent who was living a dangerous double life.

Before I became a criminal law professor, I was a prosecutor, where I worked directly out of a precinct for two years. I like to think that law enforcement culture is a living, breathing character in my books. One aspect of that culture is the contentiousness of relationships between line investigators like Hatcher and Rogan and supervisors like Lt. Robin Tucker and prosecutors like Max Donovan.

The challenge of fictionalizing those relationships is to avoid the gruff-toned barks of bad-TV lieutenants and the unctuousness of TV prosecutors. In 212, Hatcher and Tucker are at odds not because of the usual cop/supervisor conflicts, but because they’re both women used to being the smartest person in the room. And part of the reason Tucker’s amused by ADA Max Donovan’s precinct pop-in is her suspicion that Ellie has Donovan have a little something on the side.

What’s less than representative about page 69 is that it shows only law enforcement characters. Although precinct culture serves as the backdrop for 212, it does so by providing the canvas upon which more colorful scenes play out. In 212, Hatcher gets a glimpse into the lives of New York City’s uberwealthy and is pulled into a sex industry that has been mainstreamed by technology. To soak in those components of 212, the reader would need to turn the page to 70.
Watch the 212 video trailer, and learn more about the book and author at Alafair Burke's website and blog.

The Page 69 Test: Dead Connection.

The Page 69 Test: Angel’s Tip.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue