cover image Murder One

Murder One

William Bernhardt. Ballantine Books, $23.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-345-42814-1

Perhaps fans of Bernhardt's Silent Justice will welcome the return of Tulsa defense attorney Ben Kincaid in a twist-filled sequel, but others will find little to cheer for in this clumsy, implausible courtroom thriller. After the gory, ritualistic murder of police sergeant Joe McNaughton, Kincaid finds himself unpopular with the public and police for his vigorous defense of McNaughton's sexy 19-year-old mistress, Keri Dalcanton, who has all but been convicted of the murder. Despite damning evidence, Ben gets her off on a technicality; both attorney and client subsequently feel the ""blue squeeze"" as angry cops conspire to attain justice by any means possible including raiding Ben's office, physically abusing him, planting evidence and cooking up charges of homicide and conspiracy against him. McNaughton's angry widow is equally eager to get Keri, and soon even Ben's staff may be in danger. Ben, meanwhile, is fighting to contain amorous feelings for Keri that may be clouding his judgment, and he's breaking in a new partner, his former legal assistant, Christina McCall, who may have similar feelings for him. Although Ben and especially Christina who's intelligent, crafty and engaging are easy characters to root for, little sounds natural here: secondary characters, plotting, dialogue (""Please hold me"") and even courtroom arguments disappoint. And while readers may not guess all the twists in the plot, neither are they likely to believe them. Abundant clich s and crude contrivances give a surprisingly amateurish feel to this disappointing effort from veteran Bernhardt. Agents, Robert Gottlieb and Matt Bialer. Author appearances in Oklahoma and Texas. (Apr. 3)