Review

Hate Crime

by William Bernhardt



The release of William Bernhardt's series of legal thrillers
featuring Tulsa attorney Ben Kincaid has become an annual event
greeted with quiet but heartfelt anticipation by a growing legion
of readers. Kincaid, one-half of the law firm of Kincaid &
McCall, is a bit hapless in his personal life and on the business
end of his professional one; it is in the courtroom where he hums
along on all four cylinders, functioning at his fullest potential.
Bernhardt has been building Kincaid's background and personality
slowly and carefully, using dribs and drabs of those elements to
cement an interesting and occasionally frustrating background to
plots that have become more complex. Bernhardt has at the same time
become more confident and sure-footed in his efforts. His new novel
HATE CRIME is a reward for those readers who have faithfully
followed Bernhardt from the beginning.

This is by far Bernhardt's most ambitious effort to date, and his
best. A great deal of Kincaid's past is revealed as it suddenly
collides with his present. Bernhardt moves Kincaid and Christina
McCall, Kincaid's law partner and erstwhile romantic interest,
temporarily out of Tulsa and into Chicago, due to a case that seems
unwinnable and a client who appears at once indefensible and
reprehensible. Johnny Christensen is charged with killing a man
named Tony Barovick, motivated entirely by Barovick's sexual
orientation. Christensen admits the beating, but denies that he
murdered Barovick. The case though appears to be a slam-dunk
against him.

When Ellen Christensen, Johnny's stepmother, approaches the Kincaid
& McCall firm and asks that they represent him, Kincaid
abruptly refuses, notwithstanding that the case contains the
elements that would otherwise seem to appeal to him the most: it's
a seemingly unwinnable case, with an indefensible defendant. McCall
elects to undertake the defense by herself partly because of
Kincaid's reticence and his strangely negative reaction to Ellen.
Kincaid eventually and reluctantly joins Christensen's defense when
his sense of justice and the challenge of winning an apparently
unwinnable case carry the day.

As Kincaid and McCall delve more deeply into the case, they
discover that there are others who had both opportunity and motive
to murder Barovick. Kincaid is assisted to some extent by his
friend Mike Morelli of the Tulsa Police, whose own romantic
complications provide an interesting counterpoint to Kincaid's.
Morelli finds that a case of his own may have some bearing on
Kincaid's. Little do they know that there are individuals who are
willing to do anything to keep Kincaid and McCall from obtaining an
acquittal of their client and finding the real murderer. Of almost
equal significance, however, more about Kincaid's past is revealed
as we learn why his personal life is so lacking. HATE CRIME, in its
conclusion, provides a possible change in that situation as
well.

Those readers who have steadfastly stuck with Bernhardt and Kincaid
will be thrilled once again with this book. Bernhardt takes chances
with his characters here and continues to grow and improve as a
craftsman, making the reader the clear winner. Additionally, there
is a sly, quick reference to Eminem that only sharp-eyed readers
will catch. With HATE CRIME, Bernhardt should earn a spot on many
thriller fans' "must read" lists, if he's not there already.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Hate Crime
by William Bernhardt

  • Publication Date: January 25, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0345451481
  • ISBN-13: 9780345451484