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Judgment Calls    by Alafair Burke order for
Judgment Calls
by Alafair Burke
Order:  USA  Can
Henry Holt, 2003 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The first thing that intrigued me about this novel is that its author, a former deputy DA in Portland, is the daughter of James Lee Burke, whose work I have long enjoyed. Alafair Burke's legal experience shows in the insider's point of view of the DA experience that she conveys to the reader, and, like her dad, she pulls together an exciting and credible plot.

The heroine is Samantha (Sammie) Kincaid, a deputy DA for Multnomah County in Portland, Oregon. She arrives at work one morning to find Police Sergeant Tommy Garcia waiting for her. He wants her to take on a case, otherwise likely to be sidelined by a more senior colleague, Tim O'Donnell. Kendra Martin, a young prostitute and heroin user, was viciously raped, beaten and left for dead in a forest.

Complicating the case is Sam's past (high school and college) with her old friend and lover Chuck (Lucky Chucky) Forbes; they still strike sparks off each other in a love-hate relationship. As the court case and ongoing investigation proceed, Sam is threatened, followed and attacked. And a connection develops to a previous rape/murder, whose perpetrators are being considered for the death penalty - a case in which Chuck was closely involved.

The relationship between Chuck and Sammie gathers momentum as does the case, until messages from the 'Long Hauler' hit the papers and all hell breaks loose, along with a few twists and turns of plot. It's an excellent debut, with a lively, engaging protagonist, who shows us all the gritty shades of gray involved in working with the criminal justice system. I'm looking forward to more of Sammie Kincaid.

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