Sunday, December 16, 2007

Alafair Burke

by Steven Williams

Alafair Burke black and white photographAlafair S. Burke, daughter of acclaimed crime fiction writer James Lee Burke, is an author, law professor, and legal commentator born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Alafair earned a degree in psychology before going on to attend and graduate from Stanford Law School. As a practicing attorney, she has served as a deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon for several years before leaving to teach law in New York State. Three of her four published novels are set in Portland. Alafair has stated that her decision to move from practicing law to teaching was motivated in part by the difficulties she had setting aside the more unpleasant experiences as a prosecutor. She currently teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School on New York's Long Island. Alafair is fairly well known from here guest commentary on Court TV's Catherine Crier Live, a show that has provided in-depth coverage of such high-profile legal news stories as the trials of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel, Danielle Van Dam's convicted killer David Westerfield, Andrea Yates, and Rabbi Fred Neulander. Although the show ended in the spring of 2007, Alafair's contributions to the show were notable included a analysis of the Edgar Ray Killen case and the Michael Jackson acquittal. Beginning in 2003, Alafair also has been writing popular mysteries having written four books total as of 2007. She has openly described how her most frequently recurring character, the Deputy District Attorney Samantha Kincaid is actually her alter ego.

Judgment Calls, A Samantha Kincaid mystery by Alafair Burke front cover
Judgment Calls (2003)
Alafair Burke's first mystery, a legal thriller set in Portland, Oregon, introduces her recurring character, DA Samantha Kincaid. At the beginning of the story, after three years of waiting, Kincaid finally gets her chance at her first case for the Major Crimes Team, part of Portland's Drug and Vice division. A thirteen-year old runaway has ben found drugged, raped, beaten, and left for dead. Kincaid decides to go after attempted murder instead of the easier assault charge. Things become complicated when neither the suspect's alibi nor the victims story make complete sense. Kincaid finds herself pursuing all sorts of clues and in the process uncovers a very dangerous truth. The connections to the case include an earlier death penalty conviction, a teenage prostitution ring, and a possible serial killer. In the end Samantha's life and professional career are put at risk.

Missing Justice, A Samantha Kincaid Mystery by Alafair Burke front coverMissing Justice (2004)
Alafair's second mystery again features Samantha Kincaid. It begins with Kincaid having just joined the Major Crime Unit in the Portland police department. A prominent local judge disappears and not long after, her murdered body is found. Kincaid investigates possible suspects while at the same time learning about and adapting to her new work environment and especially the people in it. Evidence turns up revealing the murdered judge's affair with a politician as well as a labyrinth of financial dealings and contracts related to her judgments and which she had apparently accumulated in an effort to obtain control over the city's elite. When a poor black former drug addict is fingered for the crime by some circumstantial evidence, possibly motivated by the fact that one of the dead judge's rulings lost him his home and the custody of his children, Kincaid has difficulty believing he could really be the murderer. Despite the red herrings, Kincaid is convinced that the murder was not a crime of passion and that neither the dead woman's jealous husband or the angry black ex-addict is the murderer. Kincaid's decision to exonerate a man who she is convinced is innocent unknowingly makes her a possible target of whoever set the whole thing up.

Close Case, A Samantha Kincaod Mystery by Alafair Burke front coverClose Case (2005)
Samantha Kincaid returns in Alafair's third mystery. She is drawn into the investigation of the murder of a street smart and popular investigative reporter who has been pursuing a major story about a police shooting with racial overtones. Before she can discover much though, the cops come up with a suspect and then a confession. The pat solution bothers Kincaid and she finds that there seem to be some connections connecting back with the police. It turns out that the cop who coerced the confession might have wanted to cover up the fact that the murdered reporter was romantically connected with the cop's wife. To complicate matters, all the cops linked to the suspicious confession are also close to Kincaid's live-in boyfriend, a police detective. Plus the cop who coerced the confession is her boyfriend's partner. Even thought the confession is recanted, Kincaid is forced by circumstances to prosecute the case against the supposed killer and must do so in such a way that the real killer is uncovered without destroying her career or her personal life.

Dead Connection by Alafair Burke front cover

Dead Connection (2007)
Alafair's fourth mystery introduces a new main character in a new setting in the form of Ellie Hatcher, a female detective working in New York City. The story begins with her special assignment to a homicide task force headed by a rogue detective trying to find a serial killer apparently linked to a popular New York City online dating service. She enters the world of cyber dating set up with an identity that fits the profile of previous victims. The pursuit of the murderous sociopath brings up terrible memories for her. Her father was killed in the pursuit of a serial murder back in her hometown of Wichita, Kansas. Hatcher finds herself filling the roles of both hunter and prey as she stalks the killer, hopefully netting him before she becomes his next victim. To top things off, she uncovers a link in the killings to the Russian mafia which brings in the FBI to further muddy the waters.

Portland, Oregon skyline with Mount Hood in the background color photograph

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Creative Commons License
Alafiar Burke, an emerging author if legal thrillers by Steven Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available by contacting Steven Williams through Bookmarc's BookmarcsOnline.

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