The basics: Judgment Calls is the first in Burke's Samantha Kincaid series. Kincaid is a prosecutor in Portland, Oregon, as Burke was when she wrote this novel.
My thoughts: This novel begins as a legal procedural. As someone fascinated by the law and its differences, hearing about the legal system in Portland, Oregon was intriguing. Burke shared details to enhance the reader's understanding of the law, and these details added depth and nuance to the mysteries at the center of this novel:
"The law requires mandatory minimum sentences for the most violent felonies. Not surprisingly, once Measure 11 defendants figured out they were facing long minimum sentences upon conviction, whether they pled out or not, they stopped pleading guilty and started rolling the dice at trial. As a result, the DA's office stopped filing charged that fell under Measure 11 unless the bureau's investigation was flawless."I loved those insights and details about unintended consequences to well meaning laws and policies.
As the novel and the legal case move forward, the action shifts from legal procedural to a thrilling mystery. Samantha's personal life was threaded throughout the novel, and as a character I completely fell in love with her. Not only do I want her to prosecute sex crimes cases in the real world, but I also want her to be my friend and discuss the world over a bottle (or two) of wine. It's rare to find a character in a mystery who is as compelling as the mystery itself. Samantha Kincaid is remarkably well developed in this novel, and I'm eager to continue following her adventures in the next two novels.
The verdict: Judgment Calls is a nearly perfect legal procedural and mystery. Burke combines a character you can root for with a case that's compelling, intriguing, and so much more twisted than it initially appears.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 364 pages
Publication date: July 1, 2003
Source: purchased for my Kindle
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