Missing Justice
Alafair Burke
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Buy *Missing Justice* online

Missing Justice: A Samantha Kincaid Mystery
Alafair Burke
St. Martin's
352 pages
May 2005
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid's first day on the job at the Major Crimes Unit turns out to be filled with excitement. Prepared to review case files, Samantha is instead called to a well-to-do neighborhood where a city judge, Clarissa Easterbrook, has been reported missing. Her physician husband is noticeably distraught, but the police cannot find any evidence that she met with foul play. It appears Clarissa went to take the dog for a walk and never returned.

While the police are gingerly poking around and asking questions, the family dog is found, dragging his leash. Then Clarissa's shoe is found in a gutter. Things are not looking good for the judge. Samantha must rely on her instinct and powers of deduction when the situation takes a deadly turn. How does this all tie to events from the past? Can Samantha figure out what's happening before the wrong person is sent to jail?

Missing Justice is the second legal thriller by Alafair Burke (daughter of author James Lee Burke) featuring Samantha Kincaid, set in the city of Portland, Oregon, where the author used to live and work as a DA herself. Burke employs a great deal of local flavor, which makes the setting appealing to the reader. Samantha is intelligent yet lets her human side show. She's not afraid to investigate on her own, but knows how to keep within the law.

The prose is well-polished, and the storyline is interesting through the first half. Yet when Samantha starts researching the property holdings and business ventures from the past, I got lost. The legalities of urban growth makes for very dry reading. It is difficult to sift through the myriads of background detail to understand the crux of the mystery. The ending redeems the story because it's full of action and helps to put closure and tie everything together.

The addition of Samantha's father and her "is-he-or-isn't-he" boyfriend balances the legal issues and helps to give more emotional impact. The inclusion of Samantha's ex-husband as opposing counsel adds a bit of humor and another side to the conflict. Burke does show promise as an author in the legal thriller category; I will be looking for another book from her in the future.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. Melissa Parcel, 2004

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