- Judgment Calls (2003)
- Missing Justice (2004)
- Close Case (2005)
A while back I read Burke’s The Ex, which was one of those books that, while I didn’t completely love it, still definitely inspired me to check out more of the author’s works. Next, I read the Under Suspicion series, which Burke co-wrote with Mary Higgins Clark. I thoroughly enjoyed that series, so I had some decently high hopes for this one.
What I didn’t realize until after I started these, is that they are Burke’s first three books that she had published. There were all solid 3.5* reads for me, and it was interesting to see Burke’s writing starting to develop. Samantha is overall a likable character, which always helps.
The main character, Samantha Kincaid, works as an assistant DA in Portland. It was cracking me up because another author I’ve been reading regularly, Phillip Margolin, also sets most of his books in Portland. However, Margolin’s characters are almost always defense attorneys, so it was fun to read the other side of the coin – and I also kept halfway expecting some of Margolin’s characters to appear as well!
At any rate, these were pretty typical crime/law procedurals. They didn’t do anything that blew my mind, but each story was engaging and well-written. It was nice to have a main character who isn’t “haunted by the past” or busy drinking themselves to death. Instead, Samantha is a pretty regular career woman in her 30’s. She does go a bit rouge from time to time, but nothing so crazy that I had to suspend belief. I also liked the way that other characters in and around the department were regular players throughout the three books.
I had two issues with these books. The first issue is that Samantha starts dating one of the detectives. By the second book, everyone knows about it so it wasn’t quite as weird, but in the first book they’re basically keeping it a secret, and since he’s also involved in the crime she’s prosecuting, it felt super shady to me, and I never was comfortable with the fact that they were in a relationship on their private time, and also had a complicated working relationship, especially in one of the books where a cop has been accused of killing a civilian – it really seemed like Samantha’s objectivity was severely compromised.
Speaking of which, Samantha’s boyfriend seemed completely unreasonable during that book. He was literally mad at Samantha all the time because she was trying to be objective and do her job. I liked the guy for the most part, but he was basically a jerk during that entire book.
My second issue with the series was Samantha’s regular snide comments about men, and how it’s a man’s world, and how hard it is to be a woman, yadda yadda yadda. I find this SO boring and also a big cop-out. It especially annoyed me when she was complaining about extremely stupid stuff – like if you want me to take you seriously that men have the upper hand, maybe choose something real to complain about instead of – literally – the way that he has positioned his hands while talking –
“That one’s trickier,” Duncan said, pressing the pads of his fingertips together to make something resembling a fileted crab, an annoying male gesture that seemed popular in the power corridor.
Say what?! You’re offended because he has his fingers pressed together?! It’s not like Duncan makes this gesture only when talking with Samantha, or that the gesture is combined with speaking to her condescendingly or dismissing her ideas. It’s literally just Samantha being completely weird about the way Duncan is holding his hands during a meeting, and she complained about random crap like this regularly throughout the books. This kind of sensitivity to something that’s literally completely and totally inoffensive makes it impossible for me to take a character seriously when she complains about something legitimate. Like yes, I would like to believe you that this guy is degrading you just because you’re female, except you complained about the way that Duncan was sitting in a chair like five minutes ago so. It’s kind of the boy crying wolf.
But still, all in all I really enjoyed these books and am looking forward to more of Burke’s works in the future. I was a little sad that she apparently didn’t continue the Samantha Kincaid books, especially since some of Samantha’s personal life threads are left rather open at the end of Close Case.
And, as a side note, Judgment Calls was my seventh read for #20BooksofSummer!
NB: All links in this review go to other reviews on my blog.