Plot/Counterplot, by William Bernhardt

Nine stars

William Bernhardt returns with a stunning piece of fiction that strays from his usual legal thrillers. Using a bestselling authors as his protagonist, Bernhardt spins a tale about how those with wonderful ideas for crime thrillers can sometimes be the best weapon when they fall into the wrong hands. In a story that mixes fiction with the deadliest realities, Bernhardt provides readers with a novel unlike any I have read in a long while. Graphic depictions told in a highly realistic fashion, William Bernhardt proves why he is at the top of his game and eager to share his skills with readers!

The most creative stories of espionage and criminal masterminds come from the keyboards of top-notch authors, something Dylan Taggart knows all too well. The bestselling author has wonderful ideas fuelled by a childhood filled with anything but bliss. Taggart’s calmness is jolted one night when he and his girlfriend are taken hostage so that he can create the ultimate plan to steal a military weapon like no other. Fiction does truly turn into fact at this point.

While Taggart refuses to be a part of the charade, his mind is soon turned when he is tortured to the brink of death. Taggart’s ideas flow easily as he creates the ultimate story the captors use to help find a way to get into the military compound and get their hands on the deadliest weapon imaginable.

As the story progresses, Taggart is forced to make a decision that could have deadly fallout, all while trying to determine who is behind this event and what their ultimate goal could be. Many of those he meets along the way could be close to the top of the pyramid, but the elusive Supervisor remains in the shadows. Will Taggart be able to coax them out through his writing. More importantly, might there be a chance to take a stand before the ultimate act takes place, killing countless innocent civilians in this game of international cat and mouse? William Bernhardt does well to build up the action and has the reader desperate to find out how it all comes together.

There’s s something about William Bernhardt and his writing that leaves me wanting more each time I read one of his novels. He has such a strong ability to build a story up for the reader to enjoy, while keeping things poignant with today’s happenings. A detailed narrative that flows with ease proves essential to developing a strong novel, something that Bernhardt can do with significant ease. He uses great characters and a stunning collection of backstories to provide the reader a great roadmap as things get more intense. Plot lines emerge that take the reader in one direction, only to turn things around with another element couched in secrecy. I found myself captivated by much of what was going on throughout the piece and can only hope that there will be more stories of this calibre, be they one-offs or part of a larger series.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for proving once again just how talented you are and wha you bring to the genre.

Shameless (Splitsville Legal Thriller #3), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

William Bernhardt is back with another novel in his <i>Splitsville</i> series. While divorce law has never been one I get excited reading about, the twists that Bernhardt puts on the series make it well worth my time. With some strong legal matters and a quick pace, the novel has all the right ingredients for a stellar piece of work.

Kenzi Rivera has done a lot at the family law firm and made a name for herself, but also remains in her brother’s shadow. That said, she is a sharp divorce attorney, who has also been dabbling in criminal and civil law, as well as broadcasting her meteoric rise through social media. When her father’s decision to divorce proves headline-worthy, Kenzi agrees to help, if only reluctantly.

Soon thereafter, things get even messier, as her step-mother is charged with murder. The victim, Mr. Rivera’s mistress. This is one case from which Kenzi cannot run, but the fact that her father wants her as lead defence attorney is both baffling and awkward. While Kenzi preps for what will be a trial unlike any other she has presented, she’s left to wonder just what happened.

Working through the endless facts and forensics, Kenzi can only wonder if she’s agreed to help a hapless client, especially as the truth about the relationship and a sordid past come to light. Kenzi is one to defend her clients to the bitter end and this is not something she is willing to sidestep. Rather, she will give it her all, with her father watching from the courtroom. A powerful piece with all the elements of a great legal thriller.

William Bernhardt has long been a stellar writing of the top legal thrillers that have crossed my path. He is thorough and clever in his writing, as well as how he crafts the legal arguments, all while keeping the reader front and centre throughout. This is the third series of his that I have found highly addictive and I am never at a loss for words when Bernhardt is in the writing chair.

William Bernhardt has a style that many other authors could gladly replicate for stellar novels. His narrative is strong and begins with a bang. He’s always looking to build the drama and momentum throughout, keeping the reader along for the ride. His characters are complete, but already able to build on themselves throughout the series. Readers will beg to know more about them, which they are privy to as the series progresses. Plot twists and legal manoeuvrings appear throughout, keeping things from being too predictable, but never to the point that the reader is lost in the shuffle. I can only hope there are more books along these lines to come, be they in this series or elsewhere. William Bernhardt is surely one author to watch!

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for another great legal story that had me glued to my seat!

Yuletide Splitsville (Splitsville #2.5), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

A holiday short story that fits nicely in the middle of his most recent series, William Bernhardt offers some joy during a busy time of year. Providing the reader with some great storytelling through the eyes of his strong characters, Bernhardt helps pass the time. Grab a glass of eggnog (homemade, if you can) and a biscuit, before you enjoy this piece, sure to bring a little of the holiday spirit back to your life.

Kenzi Rivera is eager to spend some quality time this holiday season with her work colleagues. However, when her assistant, Sharon, receives a call from her parents, Kenzi agrees to accompany her over there. It would seem that a family heirloom has gone missing and without finding it, Sharon’s parents could be headed to an end of matrimonial bliss. As Kenzi enters what soon becomes a war zone for her, she sees just how tense things are between all members of the family. With Kenzi’s intuitive nature, the holiday season could be saved, but it will take a great deal of work. William Bernhardt offers up a nice story to warm the heart without too much time invested.

I have long enjoyed the writing of William Bernhardt. He knows what he’s doing and keeps the story on track to be worth the reader’s time. With strong characters and an easy to understand narrative, things flow with ease. While this was not my favourite series, I enjoyed some of the development that took place within. I’m eager to read the last novel in the series to catch up, but this is surely one that helped me pass a little time with the Christmas rush in my rearview mirror.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a great piece that reminded me of the importance of family. Hoping others fins this to be the dame type of gift.

Exposed (Splitsville Legal Thriller #2), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

Always keen to read anything by William Bernhardt, I returned to this new series to see how the worlds of divorce and murder collide. (No comments from the peanut gallery, please!) Bernhardt spins quite the story and gets to the root of many topics that are abuzz in society, while also using his stunning writing style to keep the reader entertained throughout. Another winner from an author who has shown he has the magic many authors seek.

As a competent divorce attorney, Kenzi Rivera works well in her family’s practice. However, she is still living in the shadows cast by both her father and brother, leaving Kenzie eager to carve out her own niche. When she lands a high-profile divorce case, she’s sure that it will help her define an already exciting career. When a two members of a thruple reach out for assistance in a divorce case, Kenzie is eager to help. Wading into the world of polyamorous relationships, Kenzie realises just how poorly versed she, and most of the legal community, tend to be on the subject.

After a scandalous set of photos leak during the divorce proceedings, Kenzie must be on guard for what could happen next. When one of the women in the thruple turns on the other and accepts a payout, tempers flare and accusations are made, but things really take a turn when the jilted wife is accused of murdering her fellow wife by strangulation.

Kenzie is forced to change gears and leave divorce proceedings behind as she defends her client on charges of murder. The evidence is stacked against her, but Kenzie is not yet ready to toss in the proverbial towel. Working her way through the trial, Kenzie wonders if there is more to the thruple than meets the eye and whether someone might be trying to push all the blame on her client.

All the while, someone has been targeting people along the streets of Seattle, strangling them and leaving their bodies for the authorities to discover, while others simply vanish into thin air. Could the Seattle Strangler be behind the murders, leaving Kenzie’s client in the clear? It will be a major uphill battle, pitting Kenzie against some ruthless DA who is seeking to advance his career. However, determination will be one of the tools in Kenzie’s legal quiver she will have to use effectively. Bernhardt at his best, stirring up legal matters to educate his readings fans!

I have long enjoyed the work of William Bernhardt, finding his approach to legal writing to be both intriguing and highly educational. Bernhardt always hits the nail on the head and shows how complex legal matters can be. Using new and unique angles to the law, the reader is able to immerse themselves in all that Bernhardt has to offer, taking much away from each novel. Well-paced and full of drama, this is a series I am surprisingly enjoying more than I thought I might.

William Bernhardt has a way with writing, such that the reader is pulled into the middle of the legal drama and never loses their interest. The momentum builds with a strong narrative and develops as plots and characters add depth to an already intriguing piece. Chapters of varying lengths keep the reader guessing what awaits them and they can usually find momentum in forging onwards as the book gets more intense. Bernhardt uses legal and societal matters to grease the wheels, keeping the reader in an ever-learning situation. I am keen to see how the next (and last?) novel in the series will play out for fans.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for another winner in a long list of wonderful novels.

Splitsville (Splitsville #1), by William Bernhardt

Seven stars

Eager to try the newest series by William Bernhardt, I turned to this debut novel. Always one to push the limits of the law, Bernhardt delivers something exciting and full of thought-provoking writing. Kenzi Rivera has something to prove, both to herself and those around her. When she was passed up for promotion within the family law firm, Kenzi uses that to propel herself into a worthwhile career. When she is approached by a young scientist to help win a custody battle, Kenzi puts her all into the case. Things take an interesting turn and Kenzi is soon defending her client in a murder trial, which will surely push everyone outside their comfort zones. It’s a trial like no other for Kenzi and her client. Bernhardt delivers a curious series debut that will have readers eager to forge onwards.

After being passed over for a promotion within the family law firm, Kenzi River is furious. She’s an established divorce attorney, used to fighting for her place as a lawyer and woman. She’s ready to make an impact, though Kenzi is never sure what’s waiting around the corner.

When Kenzi is hired by a young scientist who wants to win back custody of her daughter, the case proves more complicated than meets the eye. Kenzi’s client is involved in a religious group with some dubious stances, including tattoos and domineering hierarchies. Kenzi is ready for a challenge but this might be a little too much.

After a major fire in town leads to a woman dying in the blaze, all eyes turn to Kernzi’s client. It would have made things much easier for her, though Kenzi thinks that there is more to the story, including the possibility of being framed to smear the custody case. Kenzi has no experience in criminal law, but will have to learn swiftly, as she’s being pulled into the middle of a life or death case that could put everything Kenzi knows on trial as well. A great story that has more twists that the reader might expect at first glance.

Having long been a fan of William Bernhardt and his books, I was intrigued to see this latest series. There’s something alluring about the story and Bernhardt weaves a curious tale that is sure to pique the interest in the attentive reader. With a strong narrative and some unique characters, Bernhardt uses his strong abilities to keep the reader on their toes throughout this legal thriller that is more than it appears to be on the surface.

Kenzi Rivera is a great protagonist with a great deal to prove. She’s had a great run as a lawyer, but is not happy when her father overlooks her abilities and offers managing parter to someone else. Keen to prove herself, Kenzi uses her experience as a divorce attorney to help those seeking to fight for custody for their children. She’s a single mom as well, which helps Kenzi understand her clients’ need for clear answers throughout the process. When Kenzi is pushed to the limit, she does all she can to help a desperate client, which includes working parts of the law she’s never practiced. There is a lot more to learn about Kenzi, which may come out as the series progresses.

In this series debut, William Bernhardt finds new ways to tap into unique aspects of the law, pushing characters well outside their comfort zone. With a strong foundational narrative, things progress with ease, keeping the reader on their toes throughout. Decent characters flavour the story as well, leaving the reader to find some to whom they can relate as the story progresses. With a mix of chapter lengths. Bernhardt pushes the reader to forge ahead throughout the reading experience. Bernhardt has done well in the past to create wonderful stories with unique legal angles. I can only hope that, should I invest more time in the series, I will see the same things for myself.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for an intriguing series debut. I will have to look deeper into the series to see how I feel about it all.

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:

Rough Justice: Three Ben Kincaid Stories, by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

To end the year, I thought I would return to a short collection of short stories by William Bernhardt, in his powerful Ben Kincaid series. I have read them all on their own before, but with this collection, I chose to re-post the reviews together, for the curious reader.

Yuletide Justice (Ben Kincaid # 18.5)

A short story set on Christmas Eve seeks to invoke both the traditional Bernhardt mystery with some holiday cheer sure to warm the heart of any reader. When Ben Kincaid offers to help with the simple theft of $400 at the local pawn shop, what appears to be a case of sticky fingers by one of its employees turns out to have deeper rationale. Trying to piece the clues together, Ben discovers the truth and has a holiday season epiphany of his own, showing the softer side to his somewhat frigid character.

What We’re Here For (Ben Kincaid # 7.5)

In this short story, the reader revisits the powerful courtroom antics of Ben Kincaid,. In the midst of a personal injury trial, Kincaid fights for a client whose modelling career is over after a horrible car accident. Making his case against a wealthy doctor and his wife, the case gets away from Kincaid, forcing him to look to alternate avenues to bring justice to the forefront. Finding that tiny loophole, Kincaid seeks to bring a sliver of joy to someone whose life is otherwise ruined.

After Hours (A Novella in the Ben Kincaid series)

Bernhardt turns away from traditional main character, Ben Kincaid to allow his friend, Mike Morrelli, to take centre stage. When Morreilli begins a homicide investigation into a graphic murder, the baggage that follows is more than some can handle. Morrelli wrestles with all that he has placed before him and realises that his personal life has strong parallels to the situation that befell the victim. A great story sure to connect story lines ahead of Bernhardt’s newest novel that he admits is on its way in the autumn.

It is always a pleasure to return to Bernhardt’s first series and dabble amongst some of the great short pieces he penned. I always enjoyed Ben Kincaid, as I do Daniel Pike and the new characters that Bernhardt has created. I hope readers will, as I did, discover the wonders of Kincaid and the legal nuances he faced in a long and storied career. If this short pieces spark an interest, all the better!

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for reminding me yet again why I enjoy your writing so much!

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:

The Last Chance Lawyer (Daniel Pike #1), by William Bernhardt

Eight stars

The legal thrillers penned by William Bernhardt never cease to grab the reader’s attention. This debut novel in a new series has all the elements of a powerful courtroom drama mixed with the social issues of the day, sure to fire up all who take the time to read it. Daniel Pike is a lawyer who puts justice before all, meaning that he is invested in any client who is able to pay. After some courtroom antics sees a sketchy client waltz through a loophole, Pike is pleased and the payout is forthcoming. His law firm does not hold as loose a set of morals and he is tossed out on his ear. However, he is not unemployed for long, when a mysterious message is sent for him to meet at a nondescript location. Less a law firm than a relaxing place for the inner child to enjoy themselves, Pike is surprised when he is offered a position with the ‘Last-Chance Law Firm’, which specializes in helping those who are at the end of their legal rope. Pike tosses caution out the window and agrees to sign on the dotted line, more curious than anything. His first (and only) case is to help a young girl whose immigration status is a little grey, though deporting her back to her country of origin could mean certain disaster. A guardian is set to take her in and Pike must get the wheels rolling on the adoption. However, no sooner is the ink dry on the application to adopt, the guardian is fingered for a killing during a gangland massacre on the tough Florida streets. Feigning ignorance, Pike must presume his new client is innocent, even while the murder weapon appears in her backyard. Knowing a young girl’s safety rests on getting his client off for the murder, Pike uses all his resources to help a woman who awaits certain death if she is convicted. If ever there was a last-chance situation for two clients, this would be it. When the case is expedited and heads to trial, Daniel Pike kicks it into high gear and faces the greatest adversity he has ever encountered, but he cannot let his own fears serve as a hurdle. He must present the best defence he can. A stellar debut by William Bernhardt, full of legal intrigue and passionate advocacy for the immigration issues in America today. Recommended to those who love all things courtroom related and with a passion for the underdog.

I have long loved the legal and courtroom thrillers that William Bernhardt has penned, which are full of humour and intensity. While he has taken some time off to work on his teaching of new writers, it is always a pleasure to see when he is able to work on his own craft and provide his fans with something to read. Daniel Pike is a wonderful protagonist and someone who will certain continue to grow on series fans, provided that Bernhardt offers up more of the same. One who loves to work on his own timetable, Pike forges ahead with justice as his impetus, no caring who is paying his fees, as long as he feels a wrong needs advocating. He is not a ‘kick you in the shins’ type, but will not stand back and let the justice system dictate the rules. Witty and domineering in the courtroom, Pike takes no prisoners as he tries to get to the bottom of every witness’ narrative to shape the larger story. The rest of the last-chance lawyers prove to be an interesting collection of legal minds, with their own quirks that will surely push this series forward for as long as Bernhardt desires. The characters mesh together effectively and play off one another with ease. Their passion for the law is apparent, even if it is sometimes buried under layers of chicanery. The secondary characters help to make this a wonderful legal thriller, full of just the right conflict and pressure to find justice amongst all the testimony. There is also a a strong push by Bernhardt to highlight some of the issues with the current immigration situation, reactivated by the current US Administration. One would have to be daft not to see the social commentary found within the pages of this book, though it does not overshadow the wonderful writing that Bernhardt is known to use when telling a story. The narrative is crisp and the dialogue on point, allowing the reader to relax and enjoy, while remaining astute to all that is going on. I cannot wait to see what else Bernhardt has in store for readers with this series. What a treat awaits those who liked this debut!

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for another wonderful novel. I can see much potential here and await news on the next novel.

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

Justice Returns (Ben Kincaid #19), by William Bernhardt

Nine stars

After a significant hiatus, William Bernhardt is back with another Ben Kincaid courtroom thriller that will surely envelop the reader throughout this high-impact novel. Ben Kincaid enjoys work in Oklahoma City, with his law firm and handful of clients. While he enjoys dabbling in criminal law, he’ll take what he can get. While in the middle of a civil trial, Kincaid is warned about a potential client waiting in his office, one that could cause him many headaches. Rushing back to see what’s going on, Kincaid comes face to face with Omar ‘Oz’ al-Jabbar, a man he knew back in high school before his conversion to Islam. Oz recounts a horrible tale about being interrogated by the CIA for 21 days, where numerous ‘enhanced’ techniques were used. In charge of the interrogation was one Abdul Nazir, once working for Hussein’s Iraqi Forces, but now one of the Agency’s most productive representatives. After weighing his options and being influenced by members of his family, Kincaid agrees to file suit against the US Government, a long-shot but one that might force the CIA’s hand to admit wrongdoing. US Attorney Roger Thrillkill is happy to bury these allegations as nothing but a vendetta for a man who was hiding essential information. During a press conference, Thrillkill begins fanning the flames about American security in the face of terrorists, all to entice media coverage. To add to the dramatic effect, Thrillkill is happy to allow Nazir a chance to speak. Soon thereafter, a shot rings out, Nazir is dead, and Oz is holding the murder weapon. What was a civil matter has now turned criminal, with the US Attorney filing capital charges. Now, Kincaid must decide if he is ready to defend a former friend, whose life is on the line. This is more than a murder trial, even one with capital implications. It pits the American view of Muslims against the rights guaranteed in the Constitution. If that were not enough, one of the young Kincaid twins is exhibiting some odd behaviours, which has Ben wondering if there may be something significantly wrong. With a trial before him Ben Kincaid will have to hope for a miracle, with the country watching his every move. Series fans and those who love a courtroom drama will appreciate this book, full of political undertones and an ending that is as explosive as they come.

I am a long time Bernhardt fan, particularly of his Ben Kincaid novels, which always mix social issues with some of the best courtroom writing I have ever read. The reader is pulled not only into the middle of the case, but also can witness the banter of the trial as it progresses. Ben Kincaid has been around for a longtime, his legal demeanour quite subdued, but his passion for the law ever-present. Series fans will have seen much progress throughout (and now into the 19th novel), but this piece offers both development and some significant backstory from a time Kincaid would likely prefer to forget. Added to that, the new role of father and the struggles that this entails, Ben Kincaid has become a complex and quite endearing character. Most stories are full of strong secondary characters and this is no exception, be it the countless witnesses on both sides, the prosecutor who seeks to discredit everything, as well as Kincaid’s strong support base, who have been with him from the early days. The story comes to life through these characters, as do the numerous struggles. The story is, in my opinion, long overdue and while it rehashes a subject I have long since tired reading about (the America versus Muslim world clash), it is less ISIS and more civil and constitutional rights. Bernhardt does not hold back in his strong social commentary about the rights of Americans and anyone in the world, particularly at the hands of American agents. As discussed throughout, fundamental rights enshrined in the US Constitution are not afforded to Americans when it is deemed a matter of security. Added to that, the ongoing thumbing of noses towards Geneva Conventions and the interesting means by which US Administrations can spin things to meet their needs. One other central issue at the beginning of the novel pertained to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, read: torture, and how some in the Administration feel security weighs more heavily than rights. That’s a matter for the reader to ponder here and for themselves, but I found many of the comments within this novel echoed some of the sentiments I have had for over a decade, though I am sure my being Canadian, many would want me to keep my mouth closed on US matters.

Kudos, Mr. Bernhardt, for a stunning novel that shook me to my core. I have been waiting patiently for another Ben Kincaid piece and am so happy you’ve found the time to craft it for your many fans!

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