In her second novel, the extremely talented Alafair Burke brings
her heroine, Samantha (Sam) Kincaid, back as a newly promoted
Deputy District Attorney. She transferred to the major crimes unit
out of "the Drug and Vice Division" after she survived an attack on
her life (JUDGMENT CALLS). "It took most attorneys five to seven
years of good work and shameless [sucking up] to get into MCU, and
[she'd] done it in less than three with [her] pride largely intact.
Given [her] Stanford law degree and three years in the Southern
District of New York at the nation's most prestigious U.S.
Attorney's Office", she had worked hard to attain her dream job. So
when Judge Clarissa Easterbrook is reported missing by her very
influential husband, Dr. Townsend Easterbrook, Samantha's boss,
Duncan Griffith, sends her out to their house.
This was her first case in her new unit, and while she had met some
of the detectives before in passing, she was now working closely
with new people. Thus she felt somewhat reassured to see two men
who she had met before and had formed a bond with: Raymond Johnson
and his partner, Jack Walker.
The case was just starting; at that point all they knew was that
Clarissa Easterbrook, "an administrative judge … [who] is not
the kind of judge that many of us would envision, in a courthouse,
presiding over trials," was reported missing. Based on their
experience and smarts, the authorities ruled out nothing. These
kinds of cases can turn on a dime and move quickly from a person
whose whereabouts are unknown to finding that person's body on a
slab in the morgue.
The following day Samantha is watching a news conference called by
Dr. Easterbrook when Russell Frist, recently appointed supervisor
of the MCU and her new boss, welcomes her to the unit. He asks her
to meet him in his office, where they soon begin to discuss the
Easterbrook case. Says Frist, "I talked to the boss. I don't think
he intended to throw you into the middle of things so quickly. You
know, he figured the judge'd turn up in a couple of hours, and he
wanted to make sure we did what we could in the meantime. Go ahead
and ride the case while she's missing, but if a body turns up, you
don't want this to be your first murder. I know you're hungry, but
… forget about running this on your own. We always have two
attorneys on any death penalty case, which this may very well be,
if it's a kidnap gone wrong. And Clarissa Easterbrook isn't exactly
your typical murder victim."
Samantha is a smart, sophisticated, experienced public attorney.
She understands her position in her new job and concedes that her
superiors are, for the most part, correct in keeping her reigned
in. But of course she constantly pushes the boundaries they set,
and almost every time she follows her own instincts she is right on
target. The body of the judge is found at a building site. One of
the non-union workers is arrested and charged with the murder. But
Kincaid is not satisfied with the investigation or its outcome.
Without compromising herself, her staff or her co-workers, she
begins a parallel investigation that reveals deeply buried secrets
pointing to corruption and scandals among some of the most powerful
and influential people in Portland, Oregon.
MISSING JUSTICE is a finely wrought aggregate of the elements of a
police procedural, merged with the architecture of a legal thriller
and a tightly plotted "old-fashioned" mystery. As Sam slowly learns
exactly what is expected of her in her new role, she manages to
keep her dignity, maintain her own standards and not compromise
herself in any way. She knows that she and the crew made mistakes
in the beginning, but she works hard to undo any damage they may
In Samantha Kincaid, Alafair Burke has penned a heroine with a
strong will and great acumen. In this second outing for them, both
Burke and Kincaid come off as very talented and justly claiming
their place among the work of writers like Linda Fairstein and Jan
Burke (no relation). Alafair Burke happens to be the daughter of
James Lee Burke, a very popular and well-known writer in his own
right. But Ms. Burke has her own style, her own innate talent and a
fertile imagination. She has the gift every writer longs for: to
grab the reader's attention on page one and hold on to it until the
last word on the last page is read.
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 7, 2011