cover image Dark Justice

Dark Justice

William Bernhardt. Ballantine Books, $22.5 (400pp) ISBN 978-0-345-40738-2

The eighth in a series of popular courtroom cliffhangers, Bernhardt's newest Ben Kincaid novel (after Extreme Justice) finds the savvy defense attorney in a tiny logging town in the Pacific Northwest. The sinister forces at work behind Magic Valley's Bunyan-esque simplicity emerge when a tree-cutter explodes in anger and kills a local lumberjack--and Ben's old client, George Zakin, is suspected of the foul play. Called on to defend this man again (six years earlier Zakin had been accused and acquitted of an ecoterrorism homicide), Ben reluctantly takes the case. Ben's investigation of the other suspects--a scar-faced drug lord, the mysterious Bigfoot creature often sighted in the thick, dark woods, the leader of a covert logging consortium called ""The Cabal"" and many a vicious redneck snarling repetitiously about ""tree-huggers""--brings Ben into dangerous contact with the Magic Valley's underbelly. The sexiness of Ben's opponent, ""stunning young prosecutor"" ""Granny"" Adams, raises the courtroom stakes. But somehow--perhaps because the cranky old hanging judge would rather be fishing--these scenes fail to deliver the drama they promise. Bernhardt juices the suspense with chapter-ending teasers (""The secret would have to die. With her.""), but the gratuitous violence and oversimplification of the logging controversy keep the potboiler on medium-high at best. (Jan.)