Alafair Burke

Samantha Kincaid - 30ish-year-old Deputy District Attorney, Mulnomah County, Oregon
Ellie Hatcher - 30-year-old Rookie Detective, Manhattan's Thirteenth Precinct, NY

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"Dead Connection "

(Reviewed by Eleanor Bukowsky JUL 10, 2007)

“Look at the reasons why people kill.”

“Greed, jealously, lust, revenge.”

“Exactly.  Sociopaths kill innocent people out of these same motivations, but the logic behind their reasoning may make sense only to them.”

A possible serial killer is targeting young and attractive females in Dead Connection, by Alafair Burke. Thirty-year-old rookie Ellie Hatcher is temporarily transferred to Manhattan's Thirteenth Precinct, where she is assigned to work with Flann McIlroy of the Manhattan South Homicide Task Force. Flann has a reputation for concocting off-beat theories about his cases that have sometimes led to a successful outcome. With Ellie's help, Flan plans to track down a killer who used an online dating service to meet his victims. It may not be a coincidence that a second young woman, Amy Davis, was murdered exactly one year after the killer struck for the first time. Ellie and Flann are up against a vicious and clever sociopath who has his own hidden agenda and is willing to kill repeatedly to achieve his goals.

Read ExcerptFifteen years earlier, Ellie's father died, apparently by his own hand. However, she is convinced that William Summer, known as the College Hill Strangler, actually killed Kansas detective Jerry Hatcher and made his death appear to be a suicide. Ellie has gone public to clear her father's name and help her mother collect the life insurance and pension money that were unjustly withheld from her.

Alafair Burke is a skilled writer with a no-frills, earthy style and a welcome a touch of sardonic humor. The angle about Internet dating is timely if a bit shopworn, and tech-savvy readers will enjoy the passages explaining the ins and outs of computer networking. Ellie and Flann are insightful, hard-working, and determined; their solid instincts eventually lead them in the right direction. Unfortunately, they are initially led astray by the false trail that the perpetrator leaves for them.

Although socializing is not high on Ellie's agenda, Burke creates a much-needed romantic interest for the lonely detective. At the same time, her irresponsible older brother, Jess, suddenly reappears in her life. He cheerfully mooches off Ellie and teases her unmercifully, but underneath his sarcastic veneer, Jess is a loving brother who is extremely protective of his little sister.

As the book progresses, Burke introduces too many red herrings and byzantine subplots that will leave some readers scratching their heads in bewilderment. They may need to reread a good portion of the novel in order to decipher who did what to whom and why, since the plot threads eventually unravel. There are allusions to corruption in the police department, the uneasy relationship between law enforcement professionals and the headline-hungry media, the competition between local cops and the FBI, and the nefarious actions of Russian mobsters. Ellie Hatcher is the book's saving grace. She is a fully developed character with both brains and beauty, who also has a nice balance of self-confidence and humility.

Far from tying up her story too neatly, Burke presents a satisfyingly open-ended conclusion. She demonstrates that life throws unexpected challenges at us when we least expect them. In addition, the book's finale has a touch of moral ambiguity. Normally law-abiding individuals will sometimes ignore the dictates of conscience in the interest of achieving justice.
  • Amazon readers rating: from 38 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Dead Connection at

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Bibliography: (with links to

Samantha Kincaid series:

Ellie Hatcher series:



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About the Author:

Alafair BurkeAlafair Burke is the daughter of acclaimed crime writer James Lee Burke and has been writing mysteries since before most kids could read. Alafair is a graduate of Stanford Law school and formerly had been a deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon. She now teaches criminal law at Hofstra School of Law and lives on Long Island, New York. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014