Final Verdict (Daniel Pike #6), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

Having long been a fan of William Bernhardt and his work, I was eager to get my hands on the final novel in his latest series. With gritty lawyers, who push the limits of cases that seem all but lost, the narrative takes the reader on an adventure to show that nothing is truly determined until the final gavel has come down. Daniel Pike has been working with the Last Chance Lawyers for a number of years, always one step behind local philanthropist and businessman, Conrad Sweeney. When Sweeney is arrested for murder, Pike must make the difficult decision about whether to defend him. Even as it causes strain within his team, Pike does not hesitate, sure that he can produce the best defence possible in order to help a client who has no other solution. What’s revealed in court is only the tip of the iceberg, as Pike and his team fight against a pile of evidence to bring Sweeney the justice he deserves and some answers in a case that is as scandalous as it is gruesome. Bernhardt does well to tie up loose ends in this novel, while also revealing much in the final chapters.

Daniel Pike has vowed to find answers about his mother’s murder and how everything went down that night years ago. He has been working through the stories and evidence, sure that local businessman and philanthropist, Conrad Sweeney, had something to do with it, but without concrete evidence, it is only speculation. This animosity has come out many times before, both in and out of the count courtroom, but Sweeney is slick and always finds a way to distance himself from local legal issues.

During a routine police investigation, dismembered pieces of a body have turned up in Sweeney’s private freezer. He’s is taken into custody and charged with murder, while professing to be innocent. When someone comes forward, having seen Sweeney arguing with a man, the police piece it together and learn that the victim is that very same individual. Sweeney’s case is making headlines all over St. Petersburg, but it is only when the elusive Mr. K. reaches out to the Last Chance Lawyers that things get interesting.

Pike, who heads the team of lawyers seeking to help those who have no other legal options, is leery about taking on the case. He’s had a beef with Sweeney for years, but comes to see that he cannot cherrypick the cases he wants just because he feels it’s beneficial. While some of the team turn their back on him, Pike is determined to find justice for Sweeney, no matter the cost.

As the case goes to trial, Sweeney insists that he’s being framed and that someone from his business interactions has tried to ruin him. While Pike cannot be so sure, he puts on the best case he can in short order, pushing to turn over every rock before him. How can a private room have been accessed by someone other than his client? How can troubles that have come to light be explained away without derailing the defence narrative?

While the case is racing forward, someone’s out in the Nevada desert, having escaped the custody of a Central American cartel. Will this be the key to explaining things away for Pike, thereby exonerating his client and providing justice for all? It’s a race to the finish, as Conrad Sweeney has yet to be able to show everything that’s happened is not his own doing. Pike will have to pull out all the stops and find one errant detail to win, if it even exists!

William Bernhardt’s writing has always left me excited and eager to explore legal thrillers a little more. While he does not go for the flashy, the books are always intriguing and rests on a minute detail that brings the case together. This series has utilised the same formula and connects each novel together until all is revealed here. There’s something gritty about the work Daniel Pike does, finding a way to turn a sure defeat into a victory for those who have no other options, all while being led by a mysterious ‘Mr. K.’ who calls the shots through random video meetings.

Daniel Pike has always been an intriguing character, having developed a strong backstory throughout this series. His interest in the simple life is disrupted only by the case thrust before him, though Pike is never one to shy away from a challenge. He’s determined to find the truth, no matter how elusive and appears keen on protecting the rights fo those who need defending, putting his personal animosity on the back-burner whenever he can. Those who have followed the series will see how much he’s grown over the years and come to fit nicely in the role he has with the Last Chance Lawyers.

Bernhardt has developed a number of interesting supporting characters over the years, many of whom work to complement Pike in his legal efforts. There is no shortage of personalities who appear throughout the series, including Conrad Sweeney. Bernhardt has effectively created backstories and story arcs with these characters, while utilising them well to push this final story through to the end. It’s wonderful to see and I can only imagine that they will appear in some of the author’s future writing, as he is prone to do on occasion.

While the story was nothing out of this world, it worked for the type of novel I sought. Entertainment value and strong narrative momentum headlined this piece, which presents a legal matter and tries to take it through the court system. Bernhardt has a wonderful way of pushing the story along, keeping the reader enthralled without being too far-fetched. Short chapters propel the piece forward and keep things exciting as the courtroom setting heats up. As with any final novel in a series, there’s time to tie off the loose ends and reveal much, which is surely what Bernhardt does with the final few chapters here, tossing the odd spin on what the reader likely expected. I’m eager to see where things are headed next and how William Bernhardt will continue to dazzle. I will be there for the ride.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for another winner. Let’s hope others are as positive with their sentiments, as I know readers can be a fickle bunch!

Be sure to check for my review, first posted on Mystery and Suspense, as well as a number of other insightful comments by other reviewers.

https://www.mysteryandsuspense.com/final-verdict/

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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