cover image Primary Justice

Primary Justice

William Bernhardt. Ballantine Books, $7.99 (320pp) ISBN 978-0-345-37479-0

In his fiction debut, Bernhardt, a lawyer, delivers an appealing mystery with a wry perspective on corporate law and unlikely moments of high adventure. Sanguine Enterprises v-p Jonathan Adams and his wife Bertha want to adopt Emily, whom Jonathan found wandering on an empty lot; she is afflicted with memory loss, possibly as the result of emotional trauma. The case is handed to Benjamin Kincaid on his first day with a high-powered Tulsa, Okla., law firm; later that same evening Jonathan's mutilated body is discovered in a dumpster. Bertha is determined to keep Emily, and Joseph Sanguine assures Ben of his sympathy and assistance. But Ben's superiors instruct him to lay off investigating the murdere.g. p. 120 . His uneasiness escalates when he learns that Jonathan received mysterious phone calls and worked odd hours just prior to his death. Gradually Ben is drawn into an extracurricular (and illegal) investigation of Emily's past and Sanguine's finances. The tale is enlivened by characters like Christina McCall, an engaging, streetwise legal assistant, and Darryl Tidwell, a Sanguine employee and the author's revenge against people who tell lawyer jokes. (Jan.)