Wednesday, June 20, 2012

book review: Judgment Calls by Alafair Burke

The backstory: After reading and loving Alafair Burke's stand alone novel, Long Gone (my review), I knew I wanted to read all of her novels.

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

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Judgment Calls from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle version.)

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  1. So glad to know that Burke doesn't disappoint with her earlier work! I've been thinking about starting one of her series, but there was always a fear that it wouldn't live up to her stand alone work. From your review, this is one mystery series that I definitely plan to follow.

    1. Jenna, I'm almost done with the second in this series and am also enjoying it. The Samathana Kincaid series are more legal mysteries than Long Gone was, but the structure and scope of the cases are still amazing.

  2. I love legal procedurals! I just added this author to my list. I need to read both this one and the other book you read by her!!

    1. If you love legal procedurals, then you will enjoy this series:-)

  3. While I do not typically go for legal mysteries, I am trying to expand my reading a bit and this sounds like a promising read. Thank you for your review.

    1. FABR, it's hard to know if you'd like this if you don't enjoy the genre, but I think it's pretty fabulous. I am quite fascinated by the law, though. If you do read it, I'll be curious how you like it!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!