July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

>Linda Fairstein


LINDA FAIRSTEIN HAS GOTTEN HER share of threats during two decades as head of the Manhattan D.A.’s sex crimes prosecution unit but nothing quite like the one sparked by her latest case—the murder at the core of her first mystery novel, Final Jeopardy (Scribner). Fairstein, 49, was dining in the Manhattan apartment she shares with her husband of nine years, litigator Justin Feldman, when the wife of a friend upon whom one of the book’s characters is based phoned while reading it. “If you made my husband the killer,” the woman said, “I’ll never talk to you again!”

Fairstein faces no such reproach from the person on whom her sleuth Alexandra Cooper is modeled. Although there are some differences between the fictional and the factual sex crimes chiefs—”I made her younger and thinner,” Fairstein says with one of her throaty laughs—in most respects the wisecracking, Jeopardy!-addicted, designer-duds devotee is the author’s clone. So much so that readers are as likely to be hooked by the book’s behind-the-scenes look into the D.A.’s office as by its page-turner plot.

Which is fine with Fairstein, who wrote the mystery last summer in her 170-year-old vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard partly to show “the real business of prosecuting,” though in a more “sugarcoated, entertaining way” than in her 1993 memoir, Sexual Violence. “I think I have the most interesting job in the world,” says Fairstein, who was selected in 1986 to prosecute “preppy murderer” Robert Chambers, “and I hope readers find Alex’s work”—which includes tracking down the murderer of a glamorous movie star—”as interesting as I find this job.”

Beyond that, Fairstein, who grew up in Mount Vernon, N.Y., as the daughter of an anesthesiologist and majored in English at Vassar, confesses to being a lifelong mystery buff challenged by the detective-story form. “Probably one of the things that made me comfortable as a prosecutor,” says Fairstein, who is already 60 pages into plotting Alex’s next adventure, “is that I like its puzzle-solving aspect.”

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