introducing readers to writers since 1995

December 13, 2004

Alafair Burke's Holiday Gift Suggestion

by Ron Hogan

alafair.jpgAlafair Burke is a former deputy district attorney from Portland, Oregon, who now teaches criminal law at Hofstra Law School. She's also the author of two mysteries set in Portland starring a fictional deputy DA named Samantha Kincaid: Judgment Calls and Missing Justice. Crime writing runs in the family, as she reveals in one of the many books she recommends this season. She also steps outside conventional genre boundaries with a quirky novel that I, for one, can readily endorse as a gift for the adventurous reader.

A good chunk of my 2004 reading time was spent with the growing list of mystery series characters who visit my nightstand annually. For me, that meant good reads from Michael Connelly (The Narrows), Sue Grafton (R is for Ricochet), Lee Child (The Enemy), James Swain (Loaded Dice), Jonathon King (Shadow Men), and, of course, James Lee Burke (In the Moon of Red Ponies). All of these novels met the greatest challenge of a series by continuing the growth and freshness of a known character. Each new installment feels like a part of the arc of the series, one chapter in the changing life of the protagonist.

Currently, I'm finishing the final pages of Jonathan Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn. Lethem tells the story of Lionel Essrog and his quest to find the killer of his crime boss/father figure with humor, poignancy, and a clear love of language. Oh, and did I mention Lionel has Tourette's syndrome? Never cartoonish, Lionel's condition certainly does make for unpredictable dialogue.

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