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Judgment Calls Hardcover – Jul 1 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (July 1 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805073868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805073867
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 2.9 x 24.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 717 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #111,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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.

From Booklist

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

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on June 14 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a law teacher and former deputy district attorney, Alafair Burke certainly knows her legal stuff - there's just too much of it. Yes, this is a legal thriller. But, it's all legal and no thrill. Every legal term, document, division, and procedure is explained in dry, tedious detail, all the way down to the nine-digit case number.
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?
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Format: Hardcover
There are two reasons why this book was published. Alafair Burke's daddy is the first one, and a near total lack of imagination from Henry Holt is the second. This book is yet another story penned by a lawyer wanting to be the next Grisham or Margolin, and the result is pretty bad. The characters are two-dimensional, the plot predictable, and the storyline listless. There is nothing scary, thrilling, insightful or remotely interesting in this book. What Alafair does manage to do is hit all the important bullet-points to catch a bored and overworked editor. She has the secretly bad cop, the fiesty best friend, the dedicated lawyer with the fragile heart, and of course, the serial killer. Her lack of talent reduces even the most potentially exciting scenes into something from the Batman TV show from the 1960's. She was even smart enough to add sexual molestation of a girl, which as all readers know is the "plot du jour" for substandard writing.
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.
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By A Customer on Feb. 24 2004
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because I have read all the works of her father - and of course "Alafair" is the name of his character's daughter too.
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.
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