cover image Perfect Justice

Perfect Justice

William Bernhardt. Ballantine Books, $21.95 (369pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38028-9

After a promising beginning, Bernhardt's latest thriller starring Oklahoma attorney Ben Kincaid, seen last in Deadly Justice , drifts into formulaic TV-movie scripting that slights its serious subject. When a young Vietnamese refugee is brutally murdered near Silver Springs, Ark., all the evidence points to Donald Vick, a member of the white-supremacist group Anglo-Saxon Patrol (ASP). When no one will defend Vick because of his politics, Kincaid, who is in Arkansas on vacation and believes that even those with heinous views deserve proper representation, agrees to take the case. For his pains, he is attacked by hooligans, beaten by a deputy sheriff, ostracized by the entire town and obliged to accept bodyguards supplied by the ASP Grand Dragon. This liberal's nightmare is simplistically portrayed: no opposing principals in the cast attempt to understand Kincaid's position, so there is no discussion of the issue at the story's heart and little narrative tension. Instead, the characters are people with permanently unchangeable opinions who mostly yell at each other. Even the story's fiery climax and the late twists of its plot have a set-piece quality that diminishes the novel's impact. (Jan.)