Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review: Judgment Calls

Judgment Calls is a pretty good first effort from the daughter of legendary mystery writer James Lee Burke. Like her heroine, Samantha Kincaid, Alafair Burke was a Deputy District Attorney in Portland, Oregon. Her book is packed with colorful details of life in a DA's office, although their inclusion sometimes interrupts the flow of the story. The book has a decent plot with enough complications to keep it moving along at a good pace. The conclusion is a little far fetched, but Burke builds up to it reasonably well so it did not come completely out of the blue.

Proving that someone can be smart, well educated, and loaded with material but still not produce great mystery novel, Burke's writing is second rate. The narrative is clunky, the dialog is stilted, and the jokes are flat. The writing seemed better in the second half, but that impression may be the result of reader tolerance rather than actual improvement.

As a lawyer who would like nothing better than to write mystery books, I admire any fellow member of the bar who has achieved such an accomplishment. As a Portlander, I like to find a series set in my city. So I will probably give Burke a second chance. She now has two other books in the series: Missing Justice and Close Case. But now that Burke has moved to New York and started a new series, I will probably call it quits with those two.

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