Alafair Burke






Alafair Burke's new novel, CLOSE CASE, is the third installment in the Samantha Kincaid Mystery Series.

Barbara: Hello, Alafair. Welcome to Reviewers Choice Reviews. I'm delighted to have the opportunity to ask you a few questions about your new book CLOSE CASE.

Samantha Kincaid is a fascinating character. How has she grown from her first introduction to the character we see in CLOSE CASE?

Alafair Burke:  In Judgment Calls, Samantha was still pretty green and easily shaken.  By the time we see her handling yet another murder prosecution in Close Case, she has come to accept violence as part of everyday life.  She even has to shake herself occasionally to make sure she hasn't become too hardened to all of it.  She's also growing a bit in her personal life, trying to make room for another male in her house other than Vinnie, her French bulldog.

Barbara: In CLOSE CASE Samantha lands two high profile cases. She must deal with the pressure of the media spotlight on both cases, handle the community outrage and cope with her courtroom nemesis Lisa Lopez. She's under enormous pressure, but that just seems to bring out her best skills. At first I suspected she was being set up to take the blame if things went wrong in either case. Was this intentional?

Alafair Burke:  The pressure of high-profile cases was definitely something I used to create the atmosphere that permeates Close Case. The book starts out with pressure on the streets, caused by massive protests downtown and growing animosity between Portland's police bureau and civil rights groups.  That creates unrest for the general public, to be sure.  But it's another thing altogether to know that when the tension finally explodes, you'll be holding the bag on the eleven o'clock news.  That's what Samantha has to struggle with while she's also fighting to do the right thing: as she says, "Get bad guys, don't get good ones."

Barbara: CLOSE CASE deals with Samantha's personal relationships as well as the legal aspects and career dramas. I enjoyed the personal side so much. Her vulnerability and insecurities make her realistic and likable. It's on again off again with Samantha and Chuck Forbes. Is it really over with Chuck or will we see more of him in the future?

Alafair Burke:  I honestly don't know.  Part of me would love to see them live happily ever after, get another dog, and maybe even make some babies. But I just don't know how that happens with them.  Maybe Chuck is the love of Samantha's life, but I don't think I'm ready to decide that right now. She's got some more growing up to do in the domestic department.

Barbara: Readers may not know that your father is the best-selling author James Lee Burke. How has his writing influenced you?

Alafair Burke:  His writing is quite different.  He's a man of his generation from the South and has a love of his own region, its culture, and its dialect.  I'm a woman in my thirties and have spent most of my life in larger cities.  Those differences come across in our books, no surprise.

What did influence me was seeing his dedication to writing.  Like plenty of people, we're a family of storytellers.  But watching him sit down at the end of the day and put his stories to paper always made the writing process a natural one for me.

Barbara: I've read that you began writing mysteries on your father's typewriter as a child. I'm curious to know what your favorite books were when you were young?

Alafair Burke:  Hands down, The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by EL Konisburg.  Before Harry Potter ever heard of Hogwarts, Claudia and Jamie lived secretly in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  To this day, I can't go to that amazing museum without nursing fantasies of sneaking in overnight.  I was also a big Encyclopedia Brown fan.  Oh, and Amelia Bedelia.  Mysteries and bad puns were the ultimate entertainment - not much has changed for me thirty years later.

Barbara: How many more novels do you have planned for this series?

Alafair Burke:  I don't know how anyone plans those kinds of things.  As a reader, I appreciate a series when the character remains consistent but continues to evolve, like an old friend.  As long as I feel I can still accomplish that with Samantha, I'll keep writing about her.  I'd love to have the chance to write twenty more.  Plus, she doesn't age in real time, so it will be fun to have a forty year old alter ego when I'm getting up in years.

Barbara: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. We will certainly be looking forward to your next book.

Alafair Burke: Thank you so much.  Readers can go to for character bios, pictures of locations in the books, and other information.

July 2005


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