Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Canon Review of three William Bernhardt books

What's up, Canon Review Fans. Sorry to be so tardy with today's review, but today's been a bit crazy and I haven't had time to get on the computer, nor did I have a good idea. Finally I decided, what the hey, I'll review some books that I've read this week. Earlier this week, I was looking for something to read, so I decided to read some of my sister's William Bernhardt books. Bernhardt is an ex-attorney who has written over 20 mystery/thriller novels, most of which featuring the character Ben Kincaid, an altruistic lawyer from Tulsa (Bernhardt's hometown)who usually takes on the least promising cases and somehow manages to find a way to win using guile, legal expertise, and the help of his office staff and his ex-brother-in-law detective. Kincaid is a man of many contradictions, he comes from a well-to-do family, but seems to prefer living near the poverty level. He likes to think of himself as a simple guy who takes very few risks, but more often than not he finds himself in dangerous situations in his pursuit for justice. This week, I read three such books featuring Kincaid as the main character, Murder One, Primary Justice, and Blind Justice

Murder One

The first book I read this week was Murder One, which was probably a mistake considering it's like the 12th book or so in the Kincaid series. However, Bernhardt does a great job in introducing and describing the key characters, meaning that someone like me entering the middle of the series can easily pick up on each character. In other words, this book works as a stand-alone book and a part of the series. if you know what I mean. Anyway, the plot concerns the murder of Joe McNaughton, a Tulsa police officer who was hung up naked in downtown Tulsa, so all those poor saps driving into work got to see a naked, mutilated dead man. The town is convinced that McNaughton's mistress, a stripper named Keri Dalcanton, was responsible for his untimely demise. However, Kincaid gets the case thrown out on a technicality. This does not please McNaughton's fellow officers, who put the "blue squeeze" on Kincaid, and discover new evidence (namely, the knife used in the murder) in Kincaid's office. The Prosecution gets the case to be tried all over again due to the discovery of the new evidence, and with the whole police force after Kincaid and everyone sure of his client's guilt, it looks as if Kincaid is facing a stacked deck. This book was good for the first 280 some-odd pages, as the courtroom scenes are described in vivid detail, and Bernhardt does an excellent job of building the suspense. However, in an attempt to provide a shocking ending, it seems as if he decided to throw logic out the window, and it's quite a sleazy ending to boot. For the last few pages, it's as if Bernhardt became Vince Russo or something and tried to stuff about 18 different plot twists per page. I get wanted to have a twist ending, but he kind of went overboard there a bit. Because of that, I'll give it a three out of five

Primary Justice

This is Bernhardt's first book, also meaning that it's the first book in the Ben Kincaid series. Kincaid has just moved from Oklahoma City and is now an associate lawyer at Tulsa's biggest law firm. His first case is supposed to be a simple adoption case involving an older couple, but things get complicated when the would-be father ends up murdered. Kincaid not only must deal with the adoption, he now sets out to find the murderer, with the assistance of Tulsa detective Mike Morelli, Ben's ex-brother-in-law and college roommate, and feisty, super-sharp legal assistant Christina McCall. Kincaid also must deal with the politics of working in a large law firm, and he has a demanding, arrogant boss in Richard Derek, who is convinced that Kincaid does not have what it takes to become a good lawyer and lets him know this at every opportunity. Derek is a real jerk, let me tell you. For a first novel, it isn't too bad. Sure, it was a little rough around the edges, but it is an easy read that kept my interest from beginning to end, even if it seems as if Kincaid is somewhat clueless in the story. I'll give it a 3.639 out of 5.

Blind Justice

Probably the best of the three books I read this week. This book takes place right after Primary Justice, as Kincaid is now operating his own private practice, scarping by with little money and no big name clients. He has a secretary, Jones, who got the job after Kincaid defended him in court, and Jones offered to work out his payment. Unfortunately for Kincaid, his good friend Christina McCall has been charged with murder, and it's up to Ben to defend her and keep her out of jail, or worse. With the FBI heavily involved, and without assistance from Mike Morrelli, Ben is up the creek without a paddle, so to speak. To make matters worse, the judge in the case is none other than Richard Derek, who still holds a grudge against Ben from the events of the previous book. This book is rather suspensful. Sure, there's a subplot with a parrot that really doesn't go anywhere, and a lot of time is spent on events that ultimately end up unimportant, but the ending comes out of nowhere, and unlike Murder One, it makes a lot of sense. I'll give it a 3.98028 out of 5.

Overall, my impressions on Bernhardt is that while he can tell a story well, there are a few mystery authors that I've read who I would consider superior. Bernhardt's strength seems to be writing about the courtroom scenes, as he builds those up real well, and uses his knowledge of the law to paint a clear picture while at the same time not burdering the reader with a ton of legal jargon. I'd say if you are in the mood to read a suspense/mystery novel, than you could do a lot worse than Bernhardt's books. Well, thanks for reading, and if you have any ideas for future reviews, than let me know either by leaving a comment on the blog or by e-mail at For no reason at all, here's Colonel Nathan R. Jessup.

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