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Judgment Calls: A Mystery Hardcover – July 1, 2003

3.8 out of 5 stars 72 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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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Product Details

  • Series: Samantha Kincaid Mysteries (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.; 1st edition (July 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805073868
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805073867
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #789,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Having been a James Lee Burke fan for quite some time, I fully expected to find an intriguing tale, but with JLB overtones. Not at all. Judgement Calls is fast-paced, immediately engaging and definitely the author's own. The dialog is realistic, sharp and often very funny. Burke's Samantha Kincaid is well drawn, an imperfect, thoroughly likable, bright Assistant District Attorney with minor emotional baggage (no angst) and an attitude to which any woman can relate. The other characters are better than adequate; not as detailed as one might like, but their motivations are clearly understood. The story is a gut-wrencher for anyone with teens (and Burke gets the teen attitude down to the rolling-eye sighs!). The story is a little convoluted, perhaps because of the legal details, but it pulls you in and by the end you've got it. I'm glad I started this book on Friday evening, because I was up all night finishing it!
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Format: Hardcover
As a loyal James Lee Burke fan, I couldn't pass on the temptation to read his daughter's debut. I knew it would be different from her father's, but I found myself comparing for the first twenty pages or so.
While the prose is lean and gritty--a family writing trait--the inner turmoils are less pronounced and the settings less colorful. Soon, though, I found myself intrigued by this story of an underage prostitute discovered almost dead in the woods outside of Portland, Oregon. I began to care for the female deputy DA as she unraveled the case, as she struggled with her own relational hangups. I turned the pages...and forgot about comparisons.
"Judgment Calls" starts a little rough, reading more like a manual on legal procedures at times, but Alafair Burke knows her stuff and begins to smooth out the ride as the novel progresses. She tells a good mystery, and I look forward to the sequel. Why live in her father's shadow when she can stand admirably on her own! And I'm sure Mr. Burke would agree.
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Format: Hardcover
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. The characters seem real and the plot is not some far-fetched Grisham-like fantasy that could never happen in a million years. I enjoyed this book a great deal and have recommended it to several friends. Just because her dad is a legendary writer himself doesn't mean A. Burke doesn't earn her kudos. I am eagerly awaiting her next one.
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Format: Hardcover
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! Protaganist, Samantha Kincaid(a Portland DDA) is entirely likeable & this book leaves you wanting more of her, not to mention her old-flame & current Portland detective, Chuck Forbes. I am pleased to know that this is the first in a "Sam Kincaid" series & I eagerly look forward to the next installment!
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Format: Hardcover
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 of prostitution. As she is preparing for her straightforward attempted murder trial , it takes some bizarre twists involving child pornography rings, a possible serial killer, and corruption in the DA's office. There is a secondary story involving her on again/off again relationship with her first love Chuck Forbes. Chuck, the son of a former governor, is now detective on the Major Crime Team.
Alafair Burke is former deputy district attorney and is now a law professor at Hofstra School of Law, so she is knowledgeable about her subject matter. The characters were multi-dimensional and well developed. The plot of this story was pretty good, but tended to be slow at times due to the lengthy explanations of the legal process. One annoyance in the book was the liberal use of acronyms. There were too many and it slowed down parts of the story even more. This is a good start to a promising series, but it could have been better if it were better paced.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This legal process mystery introduces Samantha Kincaid, a deputy DA in Portland’s Drug and Vice Division. When presented with a case involving an underage prostitute who has been left for dead in a ravine after being viciously assaulted, Sam is puzzled when other officials in the DA’s office are reluctant to throw the book at the perpetrators. However, eventually she mounts the evidence and has a slam-dunk case, or so she thinks.

The court room procedures can get a bit tedious, but the nonetheless it is interesting to watch a sharp defense attorney find holes in a case that seemed to be a certainty. In addition, someone is sending letters to the newspapers with details about this case and similar crimes that only an insider or another perpetrator could know about.

Sam is a spunky, tenacious character, who keeps the ball rolling on this case. The other characters are pretty much wallpaper, even her high school boyfriend, now a Portland detective. But the author’s look into the world of teenage prostitution is eye opening. Eventually, Sam is vindicated, but not without a rather startling ending.
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