Judgment Calls Hardcover – Jul 1 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Burke's earnest, fast-paced debut introduces a sharp new crime series revolving around Deputy DA Samantha "Sam" Kincaid, a hip, 30ish lawyer working in Portland's Drug and Vice Division. As a former DA herself, and now a teacher of criminal law, Burke brings a hyper-reality-TV quality to the text, as well as a sometimes overzealous attention to technical minutiae. Kendra Martin, 13, has been prostituting herself to support a heroin addiction begun after her mom's boyfriend insisted that "popping wasn't really like shooting up." When Kendra is found left for dead, Kincaid is determined to bring to justice the violent sex offenders who brutally raped and beat her. Narrated in a crisp first person and injected with good-natured humor ("It's a fundamental truth that the number and density of cuss words increases exponentially as the number of cops and DAs in a room goes up"), the book is tightly plotted and detail laden. The secondary characters are less vivid than the assertive, likable Kincaid, but they serve their purpose. Kincaid's ex-boyfriend, Det. Chuck Forbes, is involved in the investigation of Kendra's case and another possibly related crime; Tim O'Donnell, a crude senior DDA on Portland's Major Crimes Team, is suspiciously eager to have Kendra's case tried under his jurisdiction. Cracking the case not only drags up an earlier death-penalty conviction but uncovers the roots of a prostitution ring that shakes up the entire Major Crimes Team and tests Kincaid's faith in her own judgment. This is a solid first effort from Burke, daughter of another "crime fighter writer," James Lee Burke.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
This first novel by a former Portland, Oregon, district attorney (and daughter of award-winning crime writer James Lee Burke) introduces D.A. Samantha Kincaid, a sympathetic protagonist and welcome newcomer to the legal-thriller landscape. When a teenage prostitute is raped and left for dead, Kincaid, determined to charge the perpetrator with attempted murder, finds herself investigating a prostitution ring of underage girls and a possible serial killer. Burke blends courtroom drama and criminal investigation with surprising aplomb, and she uses her Northwest setting to good advantage. Stronger subplots and more attention to the development of secondary characters would have helped, but the drama of the main plot should be enough to satisfy most legal-thriller fans. This promising debut augurs well for a successful series; the second Samantha Kincaid novel will appear in spring '04. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top Customer Reviews
A rape case is going to be kicked to the general felony unit for prosecution, a dumping ground for cases not deemed serious enough for real lawyer work. The lead detectives convince Samantha Kincaid to prosecute instead, telling her, "...The suspects are bad, bad guys, Sammie."
Well, aren't they all.
THE CHARACTER SETUP IS TRANSPARENT AND UNREALISTIC. After a phone conversation with a lecherous superior, it's no surprise who the bad guy turns out to be. Then there's the two page, unrelated description of a closed case. So unrelated to what's going on at the moment that you know it will be related later on.
DIALOG IS DRY AND UNINSPIRED. When speaking to a group of panhandling kids:
"Why don't you guys hightail it out of here before [the mounted patrol] give you a hard time." The one I was pretty sure was Haley piped up. "What do you care?" "Honestly? I don't care whether you go to juvie or not. But the officers doing the rounds today are coming up on reporting time, and I got a bet with a buddy at the precinct that their unit's not going to meet their enforcement quotas this month. Listen to me or not. It's up to you."
When speaking with a potential witness:
Hands still on her hips, she rolled her eyes and laughed to let us know that the notion of cooperating with the police amused her. She nodded in my direction. "Yeah, and what's she here for, fit me for my Girl Scout uniform?Read more ›
The book was just "OK" - I guess not bad for a first effort, but maybe her father should have helped her out a little more.
My pet peeve is plot holes - read "Angels and Demons" for a whopper of a hole. This book is not that bad, but there are several flaws in logic that just bug me.
A character has his car repainted and an all new interior put in the day after the rape/possible attempted murder. At the trial the defense produces a witness that states the arrangements were made for this BEFORE the incident - thus claiming the defendant was not covering up his party to the crime. And the DA just says nothing? Well gee - I am the bad guy and I know my car goes in the shop the next morning for a paint job (totally different color) and an all-new interior. Then I KNOW I can do whatever I want in the car since any evidence will be GONE the next morning.
Even worse, there is a 2nd unknown assailant - but the trial proceeds on the guy they arrested. Then when letters appear in the paper from someone claiming to be the REAL perp - with details known ONLY to someone who did it - they decide to let the guy go. Now wait a minute - they KNOW that there were TWO people that raped the girl, one they caught and one they can't ID. So MAYBE the guy writing the letters IS the 2nd guy, if so WHY would you let the other guy off? Nothing in the letters would exclude the guy on trial from still being the one.
It is also a stretch that the victim never runs into the 2nd guy, as it turns out.
I will probably pick up the 2nd book in this "series", but this is for sure in the "get it from the library" class of book - maybe a discounted paperback.
It was embarrassing to see the writers in Henry Holt's stable laud this book on the dust jacket. After reading the book myself my opinion of these writers has diminished, or I am leaning to dismissing them as shills. The mystery genre, and its daughter, the legal thriller, is suffering from an excess of these books that follow the same bland formulas found in Harlequin romances. It is time for a fresh voice and inspired ideas to take the genre forward, and Alafair Burke does not even come close to having this talent. It is a shame neptism has allowed her to take the place another, gifted writer might use.
Nothing works right in Jedgment Calls. Don't waste your time with this book.
Most recent customer reviews
A hard-to-put down legal thriller by a debut mystery writer with a great new voice. The protagonist, Portland ADA Samantha Kincaid, is witty, gritty, and wise, a likable fighter... Read morePublished on July 12 2004
JUDGMENT CALLS marks the debut of Alafair Burke, daughter of famous crime writer James Lee Burke. The plot involves Samantha Kincaid, an assistant DA in Portland, who's prosecuting... Read morePublished on May 22 2004 by Simon Crowe
Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid of Portland Oregon is faced with a particularly disturbing case. A thirteen year old girl is found raped, sodomized and left for dead in the woods... Read morePublished on Feb. 29 2004 by Larry
I was impressed by Ms Burke's first mystery. The characters that will probably become regulars in her future mysteries all have a "real" feel to them from the beginning. Read morePublished on Feb. 15 2004 by H. Row
In her debut novel, Alafair Burke introduces us to Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid in an excellent start to what promises to be a very enjoyable series. Read morePublished on Nov. 16 2003 by Untouchable
Ms. Burke should apologize to the souls of the trees that gave their lives for this pap. If 10% of what James Lee Burke has had rubbed off on this kid, it might have been... Read morePublished on Oct. 6 2003
Portland, Oregon, Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid, is trying the case of a man who raped and sodomized a young girl who supported her growing heroin addiction with bouts... Read morePublished on Oct. 1 2003 by SDRTX
This may be the first novel for Alafair (I love that name!) Burke, but she is no novice at writing a gritty,fast-paced, witty page-turner. It must be in the genes! Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2003 by Suspense & Thriller Lover
If you've spent any time inside a DA's office you know Alafair Burke delivers the goods. The story is believable and accurate in tone and detail. Read morePublished on Sept. 2 2003 by Gary Delsohn