Promoted from Vice to Major Crimes, Portland (OR) Deputy DA Samantha Kincaid (Judgment Calls, 2003) gets her first murder case.
Twelve hours after leaving his wife Clarissa home in bed, Dr. Townsend Easterbrook returns to find her missing. But one of her shoes soon turns up, followed by her dog—spotted in an unlikely parking lot a few miles away—and, in due time, her corpse, battered and left outside an office park. Who would have reason to kill an administrative-law judge, most of whose civil cases were both low-stakes and routine? The cops suspect the grieving widower, but after a ham-handed full-court press on him backfires in a shower of lawyers, they fix on an easier target: Melville Jackson, a janitor/handyman who was evicted from his public housing on Clarissa Easterbrook’s orders. The case seems perfect. Jackson repeatedly threatened the victim; his fingerprints are on the knocker of her front door; and the hammer that killed her is found in his place. Any other prosecutor would sit back and enjoy the ride, but Samantha’s soon brewing schemes with Jackson’s shaggy court-appointed counsel, figuring out whether the defendant could have been framed by folks whose power stretches from the legal system to her own family.
A deftly extended episode of Law & Order, whose structure it mimics without adding anything compelling or new. Burke’s neatest surprise is why Samantha, tossed off her first big case, ends up happy anyway.