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.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Judge and Jury (Daniel Pike Thriller #5), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

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.

Review: Judge and Jury

William Bernhardt is back with another legal thriller that pushes Daniel Pike and the Last Chance Lawyers into the middle of quite the quandary. After much string pulling in the background, Conrad Sweeney is forced to face Daniel in court, though justice may not be as blind as it claims to be. While on sabbatical to clear his father’s name of a murder for which he was convicted, Daniel Pike helps to upend a major organ trafficking ring. When the local leader is gunned down in court, Pike cannot help but presume that Conrad Sweeney, local philanthropist, may have something to do with it. Goading Sweeney into making some slanderous comments in public, Pike leaps on this and files a civil suit, hoping to both clear his father’s name and get Sweeney’s involvement with much of the crime in St. Petersburg on the record. However, while Pike turns to his colleagues at Last Chance Lawyers, he is not immune to issues of his own, having been involved with known murderers—both personally and professionally—and tried for the crime himself. As the legal wheels turn, Sweeney and his defence team seek to create as many blockages as possible, still plotting to ensure Pike never works in town again. Meanwhile, a cartel with ties to Sweeney is still riling after losing their latest black market scheme, all because of Pike. Someone will have to pay and blood will be shed. This is yet another instance where fancy legal briefs and well-timed objections cannot save the day. Another decent addition to the series by Bernhardt, who’s looking at new angles to keep the novels fresh. Recommended to those who have enjoyed the series to date, as well as readers who enjoy the fast pace any trial and investigation brings a well-balanced book.

I am a longtime fan of William Bernhardt and his legal thrillers, which have taken things to new heights in a genre that appears supersaturated. His newer Daniel Pike series has grown on me, with its unique approach to defence work on the Florida streets. The premise of this piece leads itself to being the climactic novel where Pike can finally challenge Conrad Sweeney and air all the accusations, after seeing so many negative things with the philanthropist’s fingerprints on them. Pike has been through much in the series, but always seems to grow as an individual. While the central focus is character development and how to foil the ongoing plots of Sweeney, there is a great deal of important backstory that attentive readers will want to learn. Bernhardt has held out, offering only tidbits in the past, but this is where it all comes together, forcing Pike to digest much more than even he expected. The cast of strong secondary characters provides the reader with some great support as the story progresses. Pike’s peaks and valleys are certainly complemented by those who fill the pages of this thriller, offering a flavouring all their own. The story began a little slowly, seeking to flesh out some of the issues with the blackmarket and (another) scheme in which Conrad Sweeney is acting as puppeteer. However, once the civil law theme emerges and the narrative gains some momentum, it is a strong story that finds a decent groove. With a mix of boardroom and courtroom legal drama, there is much for the reader to enjoy while getting their dose of the law. Mid-length chapters allow the story to develop without offering too many teasing cliffhangers, though things move along quickly enough that the reader wants to keep going. It’s anyone’s guess how the series will progress from here, with an ending that leaves the reader somewhat in suspense and the title of the next book offering what might be a sense of closure. One can only guess what William Bernhardt has in store next, but it is sure to be something worth the wait.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for another winner. I can only hope you can balance your writing workshops and publications, as both are quite important to ensuring great novels emerge.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Twisted Justice (Daniel Pike #4), by William Bernhardt

Seven stars

Long a fan of William Bernhardt’s writing, I returned for the fourth novel in his Daniel Pike series. Bernhardt still has a great ability to write, though I do miss some of the sharper prose from his earlier series work. Early one morning, Daniel Pike and his paramour, who also happens to be the mayor of St. Petersburg, are startled awake by a knock on the door. A detective and two officers greet them with arrest warrants for the murder of the District Attorney. He’s been shot and gruesomely crucified for all to see. An anonymous email sent to the St. Pete PD includes a recording where Pike and the mayor discuss getting the DA ‘out of the way’. Pike is used to defending the innocent on serious charges, but now he is the one in the hot seat. He turns to his colleagues, the Last Chance Lawyers, who begin to sift through the evidence. Much of this appears to be a campaign to smear Pike and send him away for good, if not see him executed. While the team tries to build a case for Pike’s defence, the famed attorney has a hard time sitting on his hands and letting the wheels of justice turn for themselves. Meanwhile, a young woman emerges out of the water one day, battered and bruised. All anyone can get out of her is that her name is Elena, though the rest is complete nonsense. Working an angle based on rumours and hearsay, the defence tries to prove that the illustrious DA might have been involved in something that got him killed. However, time is running out and the evidence is still too flimsy to ensure Pike’s innocence. An interesting take in the series that pulls no punches. Bernhardt does well to tell his story, even if it lacks some of the cutting edge many fans have com to expect from past novels. Recommended to those who need a decent crime thriller, as well as the reader who wants something to pass their travel or vacation time.

There’s nothing like a great legal thriller to get the blood pumping. William Bernhardt has delivered this time and again with some of his Ben Kincaid novels, though the turn to Daniel Pike has been somewhat of a diluted collection of stories. Pike remains a decent protagonist, whose backstory of wanting to see the innocent stay free pushes him to do all that he can to find the truth. Badgered by a few in town who want nothing but to see him suffer, Pike is always trying to find legal loopholes for his clients. His Casanova-like moves are also a key to his character, though one can only hope that he’ll find a way to tame those while facing a major legal battle. Other characters emerge as decent additions to the series, bringing their own flavour to a novel that takes the reader in many directions. Some of the new faces that emerge offer new and interesting perspectives, though no one stands out as stellar for me. With a decent plot and well-paced narrative, the book was a decent read, though I was not as enthralled as I might have hoped. Daniel Pike seems almost to be biding his time for something bigger and better. Bernhardt is surely quite busy with all his writing seminars, where one can hope some of the next big names are learning the craft, though the caliber of his writing seems to be suffering a tad. Still, I like them enough to keep pushing forward and hope there is more to come from the Last Chance Lawyers before too long.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a decent effort. I trust you have some more ideas to share with your fans soon.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Trial by Blood (Daniel Pike #3), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

In his latest novel in the Last Chance Lawyers series, William Bernhardt pulls the reader in with an interesting situation that has two legal trials taking place simultaneously. Fourteen years ago, young Ossie Coleman disappeared after his mother’s violent death. When an eighteen year-old stumbles into town, claiming to be Ossie, he has quite the story to tell. He speaks of being held at a cabin in the woods by a ruthless man and only barely escaped. This creates quite the controversy, as the Colemans will soon be splitting the sizeable wealth of the family’s patriarch. With Ossie’s return, he is to inherit 25% of it all. Family members begin doubting the claims that this man is Ossie and the case goes to civil court. Daniel Pike is assigned the case from his mysterious boss, Mr. K, and tries to build a case to support the claim. When St. Petersburg PD are called to a local theatre, they find Harrison Coleman—Ossie’s uncle—has been murdered in a most gruesome way. To add to it, it would appear the elder Coleman has written ‘Ossie’ on the mirror when covered in condensation. Pike’s legal expertise is now going to be stretched as he tries to fight two legal battles. With evidence and doubt piling up, many within Pike’s firm hope that he will see the light and abandon the case. However, Daniel Pike is not one to shy away from a challenge and is sure that his client is being set-up, whomever he might be. When someone tries to ‘persuade’ Pike outside his boathouse, he is left clinging to life, but undeterred. Someone is pulling strings behind the scenes and trying to ensure that Pike loses everything. Entering the criminal trial with nothing to lose, Pike seeks to persuade a jury that his client is innocent, still wondering if the young man next to him is Ossie Coleman and whether his story of being a prisoner holds up. Bernhardt does a masterful job weaving together this story that will have the reader guessing and wondering until the final chapter. Recommended for those who love a good legal thriller, as well as the reader who has a long affinity for the work of William Bernhardt.

I discovered WIlliam Bernhardt many years ago and have been obsessed with this writing ever since. He can not only tell a story, but pulls on the courtroom to push the drama even further, allowing the reader to feel fully involved. Daniel Pike continues to grow in this series and has shown that his less than stellar backstory has not created too many issues in his present. His affable nature is contrasted greatly by his determination to fight for his client, no matter the obstacle. As can be seen throughout the novel, even a beating that leaves him clinging to life will not stop Pike in finding the truth and keeping his enemies at bay. Other characters, both those returning and new faces, keep the story moving along well. While I was uncertain how well the Last Chance Lawyers would work, the different personalities have meshed well and keep me wanting to know more. The story was strong, focussing on the Ossie Coleman character, and leaving the reader to wonder what happened and how that fits in with the current goings-on. The courtroom battles and legal maneuvers are wonderfully paced and keep the reader wanting to know a little more. I cannot help but find myself fully ensconced in the series and am eager to see what happens next, particularly with that stunning cliffhanger at the end!

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a great novel and an up-beat series with legal themes throughout.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

Court of Killers (Daniel Pike #2), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

The latest novel from William Bernhardt is sure to intrigue many, as he mixes a strong legal thriller with some underlying societal issues. Daniel Pike is happy to still be working with his ensemble of legal minds. When a new case comes to the firm, Pike’s faceless superior presents it as campaign finance issue that has plagued the mayor of St. Petersburg. Armed with his legal toolbox, Pike and his associate make their way to the office of Camilla Pérez, who feels that she is being targeted by the alt-right for her views. What begins as a financial matter soon goes south when the police show up to arrest her for murder. It would appear that four men with loose connections to Pérez were found in an industrial oven of a bakery she owns. The evidence is piling up, but Pike is not afraid of this, sure that there is an explanation. While preparing the case for trial, Pike is the target of a few close encounters by someone behind the wheel, with threats uttered and warnings offered. He’s also set to face off against the one member of the D.A.’s office not afraid to cross swords with him, making this a case that few will want to miss. With a judge set in his ways about a woman’s place, the case moves forward, a powerful man hiding in the background and pulling the strings. Pike will have to use all his efforts to show that Mayor Pérez is not only innocent, but the victim of a smear campaign, both political and sexual in nature. In a courtroom setting that keeps the reader guessing until the jury comes forth with a verdict, the reader is set to see how Bernhardt can develop a case with ease. Recommended to those who love William Bernhardt’s writing, as well as the reader who finds solace in courtroom/legal thrillers.

I have long been a fan of William Bernhardt and his work. I remember binge reading much of his Ben Kincaid series one summer and cannot get enough of his work, when he is not busy teaching the next generation of fiction writers with his various seminars. Daniel Pike is again in the middle of a trying case, but he is ready for whatever is tossed before him. His life seems to be better grounded than in the debut novel, though it is his prowess in the courtroom that keeps the reader intrigued throughout. There are certainly strong personal development moments throughout, but Pike is a man on a mission and nothing will stand in his way of success. Other characters on both sides of the legal argument make a great impact throughout this novel, including those who would see Camilla Pérez suffer for being a strong woman. Bernhardt is able to convey many themes through the characters he’s chosen, which the reader will discover when when take the time to read the book attentively. The story is decent and the development of the plot keeps the reader wanting to know a little more. The true version of events is there for all to see, but it takes a highly attentive reader to piece things together before the sound of the final gavel. I am eager to see what is to come with the third novel, something Bernhardt promises is set for release in November 2019.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a great piece. I am eager to see what else you have in store for your fans, a group that is surely growing with each strong book you release.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: