cover image Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy

William Bernhardt. Ballantine Books, $21.95 (374pp) ISBN 978-0-345-38683-0

Two lawyers on the lam from a rape victim's family, the mob, the cops and the FBI move this tale through Dallas neighborhoods and corrupt institutions faster than a hanging judge can bang a gavel. Forsaking his popular series hero, attorney Ben Kincaid (Perfect Justice), Bernhardt here gives fictional life to cop turned defense attorney Travis Byrne, who's aided by skip-chaser (one who tracks down people who have violated their bond) turned federal prosecutor Laverne Cavanaugh in a quest to spring Byrne from a crafty frame-up. When the court appoints Byrne to defend loathsome Alberto Moroconi against charges of having raped and mutilated a coed, the case seems merely routinely repugnant to the veteran attorney. Soon, though, Byrne is roughed up by mafia goons, leaned on by the FBI, abused by the judge, threatened by the victim's brother and smeared by the press. The capper comes when Moroconi kills a guard, bursts out of jail and spreads mayhem that gets blamed on Byrne, who goes on the run to clear his name. Soon he's joined by Cavanaugh, at first forcibly, as Byrne, who's gone to her for help, ties her up to keep her from turning him in; and later willingly, after they are attacked and Byrne's car is blown up. Cavanaugh's grasp of the information superhighway, her old skip-chaser connections and Byrne's street savvy keep the pair a half-step ahead of pursuers as they work their way through a puzzle that hinges on a mysterious list. Despite some minor flaws--the plot turns on a few weak devices, an important relationship between Travis and a young girl isn't solidified, the humor doesn't always work--this novel proves as engaging as Bernhardt's earlier work, with its appealing pair of heroes deftly set up for a sequel in the courtroom finale. $100,000 ad/promo. (Mar.)