DNA evidence has turned criminal justice upside down. Hundreds of people have been found innocent through the examination of new DNA evidence. That trend makes for an intriguing plot line for mysteries. In Alafair Burke’s All Day and A Night, Anthony Amaro is spending life in prison without parole for killing six women. (The tile is prison slang: all day is life, tack on a night and it means without parole.) When psychotherapist Helen Brunswick is found murdered in a similar fashion, a “fresh look” team is put together to reassess the investigation that led to Amaro’s arrest and conviction. Is the latest murder a copycat? Or is the original killer still out there?
New York Police Detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner, J.J. Rogan, are tapped to head up the team. Ellie’s not too happy about the assignment since it was handed down by her boyfriend, Max Donovan, who was recently appointed to the New York D.A.’s Office of Conviction Integrity. The D.A.’s office has received several anonymous letters attesting to Amaro’s innocence. With the Brunswick murder making headlines, Max has been charged with finding out if the wrong man is serving time for crimes he didn’t commit.
Burke has written other mysteries featuring Ellie Hatcher, but in this outing she introduces another strong female character, attorney Carrie Blank, whose half sister, Donna, was one of the women Amaro was convicted of killing. Carrie, who won a prestigious scholarship, then nearly lost it, managed to finish college and law school with honors. Now she’s working for a top notch law firm. But when Linda Morehouse, an attorney with a FOX-like TV show, asks Carrie to join her firm to find out what really happened to Donna, Carrie can’t resist. Before too long, Carrie realizes she is getting no closer to finding her half sister’s killer and farther away from her own values and convictions.
Burke does a good job of constructing a legal thriller as well as a police procedural that contains many twists and turns. Her characters are not cardboard. She allows us to see they virtues as well as their flaws. We can’t help but root for both Ellie and Carrie.
We know that Ellie will return in yet another Burke mystery. Carrie? We can only hope.
All Day and A Night