CAPITOL BETRAYAL is the newest novel in William Bernhardt’s series featuring Ben Kincaid, whose legal career has elevated him into a position of importance in the national political arena. An attorney and a legal advisor to the President of the United States, he has been called to the White House on the morning of April 14th. Kincaid had argued favorably to President Roland Kyler’s views in the energy sector, thus there is a good chance he’ll be appointed to the administration’s energy commission.
En route to the Oval Office, Kincaid is joined by Dr. Henry Albertson, the president’s physician; Sarie Morrell, the Chief of Staff; and Admiral William Cartwright, head of the White House Military staff. Their audience is delayed by the press secretary, who announces that a nuclear crisis is unfolding. Cartwright blusters his way forward in a “take-charge” manner.
A nuclear suitcase bomb has disappeared from an Arlington armory and is believed to be in the hands of terrorists. CIA field agent Seamus McKay reports that a situation near the Washington Monument involves the same threat, but is incommunicado at the present time. President Kyler presses Kincaid for opinions on oil drilling rights and legal issues concerning them. Admiral Cartwright interferes with a rude statement that such matters hold minor significance to the nuclear menace that has now surfaced. After a lengthy discourse on an international situation in Kuraq in the Benzai Strip involving a possible U.S. troop invasion following the downing of a U.N. Red Cross helicopter, Cartwright directs his anger at the President. The military dictator, Colonel Zuko, will not allow the U.S. to recover the passengers, so Kyler puts troops on alert for invasion. Cartwright argues that a major war will be the result.
Just as Kyler’s doctor steps forward to check on his stability, a Secret Service Agent takes hold of Kyler and steers him toward the door. All in the room must be evacuated to the PEOC, the presidential safe bunker, leaving Agent Zimmer in charge. Secretary of State Ruiz asserts his position to be informed of the latest developments, and Kincaid gains new insights into brash personalities in such high positions. The ensuing events lead to challenges to Kyler’s leadership, his health in jeopardy and his very job at stake. Kincaid’s role is soon to defend the President’s sanity; the trial of his life depends on his legal skills and his empathy for justice for the man accused. The nuclear threat, the Middle East situation, political rivalries and egomaniac personality clashes combine for a plot reeking with sabotage in the highest degree.
Bernhardt has developed a strong hero in Kincaid, and this latest installment reads with ease. His characters are well-drawn, his plotting shines, and while the storyline wanders toward the barely believable, it is saved by realistic circumstances. In addition, Sabon, the attractive typeface used, illustrates the chapter headings and numbers with a pleasing outcome. Bernhardt’s legal background gives authority to CAPITOL BETRAYAL, which will surely keep this series going for many years to come.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on December 26, 2010