Alafair Burke and Duffer,
who is not really a ladybug

I liked Ellie Hatcher from the moment I met her in Alafair Burke’s ANGEL’S TIP, the second in the Ellie series (I read them out of order). Ellie is a New Yorker, but not by birth. She’s from Wichita, just like my mom’s family, and that endeared her to me. She takes pride in excelling at her work, and she strives to be the best cop she can. She also has a complicated relationship with her family, living and dead.

Ellie is savvy and tough. She’s strong enough to admit her mistakes and smart enough (most of the time) to know when to ask questions. I measure most fictional New York cops with a Steve Carella yardstick, and Ellie measures up just fine.

Ellie is a perfect series lead because she’s far from one-dimensional. With each book, we learn more about her. Like the denizens of the 87th Precinct, she evolves.

212, the third in Ellie’s series (preceded by DEAD CONNECTION and the aforementioned ANGEL’S TIP), has been released in paperback just in time for summer (in case you’re not inclined to tote around a hardcover as the mercury rises). Like any series, ideally you’ll read Ellie’s tales in order, but you won’t be lost if you don’t.

Alafair was good enough to have Ellie answer some questions for me, and I’m grateful, because it was a little like chatting with a good friend. Enjoy!

1. If you were not a cop, what would you do for a living?

Ugh, I shudder to think.  Before I was a cop, I was a waiting tables, and before that, I earned part-time college money in really crappy Wichita beauty pageants.  I love bars, so owning a bar would be nice.  It also sounds like a lot of work, a potential money pit, and a whole lot of trouble once I inevitably knock some drunk asshole on his butt with a roundhouse kick.  So, yeah, I’ll stick with the cop thing.

2. Who is your favorite fictional detective?

I don’t have much time to read, but I always like Harry Bosch.  He says there’s no such thing as coincidence, and that’s usually right.

3. You encounter situations that would scare most of us regularly. What frightens you most?

A person whose motives (if you can call them that) are completely sociopathic.  My father (who was a detective in Kansas) used to tell me that motive was the key to finding your man.  Find the motive, find your man.  It’s usually money or jealousy — something we can all understand, but wouldn’t act on ourselves.  Then there’s that occasional person who will maim, torture, and kill for what they see as rational reasons, but the chain of thought from a to b to c is so twisted, you realize these people aren’t even human.

4. Despite encountering some of the worst aspects of human nature, you seem to maintain an optimism in the human spirit. How do you manage to not lose all faith in humanity?

I have to believe that most people are fundamentally good.  The minute I stop believing that, I lose the game.  I’ll check out.