Following on from her strong debut legal thriller, JUDGMENT CALLS, Alafair Burke has continued the Samantha Kincaid series with another intriguing story with MISSING JUSTICE. Samantha Kincaid is a Deputy District Attorney with the DA's office in Portland, Oregon and has just been promoted to the Major Crimes Division, the team that investigates and prosecutes homicide cases. She is thrown straight into the deep end with this case, her first after the trauma of the previous book.
The case starts out as a missing person case, made high profile because the missing person was Appeals Court judge Clarissa Easterbrook. Samantha is given the assignment of lending reassurance to Clarissa's husband. Townsend. It's not long before the missing person case turns into a murder case when Clarissa's body is found. The fact that it is a judge who has been murdered gives the case added importance and, for Samantha, added pressure. But this is the kind of case that Samantha thrives on and is eager to prove that she's up to the challenge that her new promotion has provided.
Although a suspect is charged and the legal proceedings get underway with Kincaid prosecuting, Samantha comes across evidence that casts doubt on her own case. Apart from the obvious problems involved with sabotaging her case, Samantha isn't quite sure exactly how it all ties together and so begins running her own investigation, by necessity without police help because by this stage it is officially a closed case. The progress she makes is slow and, at times confusing, and is also at the expense of a few high profile toes, arousing the interest of the DA, making for a few fiery confrontations.
This story boils down to one question: why would an Appeals Court judge be murdered? In trying to answer this question, Samantha will risk her career, her personal relationships and even her life in an effort to find out.
MISSING JUSTICE establishes the toughness and resourcefulness of Samantha Kincaid in numerous ways both large and small. From hustling down to someone's office after they've refused to take her phone calls to meet them face to face, to making plea bargain deals without consulting her boss, she's a rule-breaking breath of fresh air. Consequently, a lot of the drama is played out within the offices of the District Attorney as she settles into her new job. Her willingness to step outside the accepted boundaries normally obeyed by a Deputy District Attorney makes for a volatile workplace, but it's this characteristic that makes this book, and the ongoing series, enjoyable.
Insinuated between the time spent on the trial and the unofficial investigation is the further development of her romance with Major Crimes Unit detective Chuck Forbes, providing the romantic interlude that seems to be de rigueur for thrillers with female protagonists. It's a sub-story that serves to display Samantha's more vulnerable side. This, along with some touching moments with her father, helps to fill in her past a little more and I now feel as though I am tied to her more emotionally.
I found that as the case progressed it began to get very complex with the introduction of a lot of new names making it difficult to keep track of who was doing what to whom and how their inclusion fitted. At times I was scratching my head wondering why Samantha was getting so excited over a piece of information that seemed innocuous to me. What I'm trying to say is that it's essential to pay very close attention to the story and it's rather intricate plot.
MISSING JUSTICE is a solid sequel to JUDGMENT CALLS combining interesting and informative courtroom scenes, a strong point of Alafair Burke's, with an intricate plot and a thrilling ending. It's fast-paced thanks to the no-nonsense style of Samantha Kincaid and tempered with a sprinkling of subtle humour.