Cover image for Silent justice
Title:
Silent justice
Author:
Bernhardt, William, 1960-
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2000.
Physical Description:
391 pages ; 25 cm
Summary:
Tulsa lawyer Ben Kincaid is preparing for a class action suit against Blaylock Industrial Machinery over a toxic chemical dump. As he prepares, a killer is stalking Blaylock's employees.
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780345428127
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

"I think we're doing the right thing here. Not the smart thing. Certainly not the safe thing. But the right thing." Such is attorney Ben Kincaid's assessment of the case he has just taken on--despite his professional belief that the class action suit is a suicide mission. Logic tells him to turn away eleven angry, devastated parents, but his underdog's heart cannot forget their innocent children whose untimely deaths cry out for justice. H. P. Blaylock Industrial Machinery Corporation is charged with dumping toxic chemicals into the community's drinking water. Facing off against the small Kincaid staff and their meager resources is Tulsa's largest law firm and Ben's onetime employer: Raven, Tucker & Tubb. And challenging Ben in the courtroom is the firm's fabled top gun, Charlton Colby--not to mention a hot-headed judge with a notorious soft spot for big business. But as Ben prepares for legal battle, a select group of Blaylock employees are fighting for their very lives against a sadistic killer. With each gruesome murder, a terrifying connection is more deeply drawn between Ben's quest for justice and another man's relentless hunt for the spoils of his own private--and very dirty--war. Critics hailed William Bernhardt's earlier bestsellers as "captivating" (New York Law Journal) and "throat-grabbing" (New York Daily News). Now the author's storytelling prowess reaches heightened levels of intensity and ingenuity. Constructed with enough twists to keep even expert whodunit solvers offbalance, Silent Justice proves that--as Library Journal declares--Bernhardt is "the master of the courtroom drama."


Author Notes

William Bernhardt is the author of many books, including Primary Justice, Double Jeopardy, Silent Justice, Murder One, Criminal Intent, and Death Row. He has twice won the Oklahoma Book Award for Best Fiction, and in 2000 he was presented the H. Louise Cobb Distinguished Author Award "in recognition of an outstanding body of work in which we understand ourselves and American society at large."

A former trial attorney, Bernhardt has received several awards for his public service.

He lives in Tulsa with his children, Harry, Alice, and Ralph. (Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ninth in Bernhardt's popular series (Primary Justice; Perfect Justice) starring crusading Tulsa attorney Ben Kincaid, this thriller mines the same territory covered by the film A Civil Action and Jonathan Harr's bestseller on which it was based. Kincaid appears in the John Travolta role, representing a group of suburban families whose children have died of leukemia, apparently from drinking well water polluted by toxic waste from the greedy Blaylock Industrial Machinery Corporation. Blaylock is predictably represented by an unscrupulous, high-powered attorney who knows all about his client's culpability, but chooses to rely on his personal relationship with a corrupt judge to derail justice. Kincaid, who has no vices and apparently no sex drive, is beset with increasing financial woes and relies professionally on his trusty and lovely assistant, law student Christina McCall, a woman so fashion-conscious that she goes yachting in spike heels. The counterplot involves an intrepid serial killer who is systematically torturing and murdering people who serve many different functions at the Blaylock plant; the killer is attempting to secure some "merchandise," although as the conspiracy unravels it's not entirely clear why these murders are necessary. Justice winds up prevailing, but it isn't exactly "silent"; rather, the verdict is delivered with a loud bang. The parallel plots only touch when the author forces them together at the end, and the connection is, at best, strained coincidence. In spite of Bernhardt's clear homage to Harr's book and the film, this novel does offer some fresh, often witty dialogue, but is overall a derivative effort from a talented writer. 5-city author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Library Journal Review

H.P. Blaylock Industrial Machinery Corporation has been dumping toxic chemicals into the water supply, killing several young children. Now, as lawyer Ben Kincaid helps launch a class-action suit, someone is killing off Blaylock employees. A conspiracy of silence? Berhardt's books have been best sellers in paperback. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

* Six Months Before * Who let him in here? Ben Kincaid wondered. He peered across the study quad at the scruffy-looking older man hovering near the front double doors to the University of Tulsa College of Law. Ben's attention was drawn by the fact that the man was wearing a long overcoat; it was ill-fitting, wrinkled, and stained. The man's chin was covered with salt-and-pepper stubble. His eyes were red and ringed, as if he hadn't had a good night's sleep in weeks. He was looking for something, or someone. Ben couldn't imagine who or what that might be. The man did not look as if he belonged here. Even the lawyers-to-be with the most rudimentary grasp of personal hygiene did not rise to this level of dishevelment. Ben wondered if maybe the man had gotten lost on his way to . . . To what? The homeless shelter? Come to think of it, there wasn't anyone or anything anywhere on the TU campus that was likely to welcome this visitor. Ben wondered if he should ask the man what he wanted. Or perhaps whisper a word into the ear of Stanley Robinson, the security guard he'd just seen outside the dean's office. Ben was distracted by a petite, attractive woman making her way toward him. She had a creamy complexion perfectly accented by two tiny patches of freckles on either side of her aquiline nose. Her engaging gait not only spoke of extreme self-confidence but, as an added bonus, did remarkable things to the curly strawberry-blond hair dancing just above her shoulders. As she sidled up to Ben, he admired her crazy-quilt miniskirt, which had more colors than a jumbo box of Crayolas. Ben arched an eyebrow. "Is that a dress or a cry for help?" Christina McCall didn't bridle. "It's ethnic chic. I'll have you know this pattern is all the rage in Mozambique." "Is that a fact?" "It is." "I haven't kept up with Mozambiquii fashion trends the way I used to." "More's the pity." Christina tilted her head back, sending her hair bouncing behind her shoulders. "I hear you're teaching The Tiger's class this afternoon." "True." Although Ben had been practicing law for years, only recently had he begun teaching classes at the local law school as an adjunct professor. As he had quickly learned, The Tiger was Professor Joseph Canino, a curmudgeonly Ichabod Crane who'd been teaching Civil Procedure since the dawn of time. "Apparently he was called away at the last moment. Some kind of emergency." "Probably heard of a law student somewhere he hadn't publicly humiliated and rushed off to remedy the omission." "Quite possible." "I don't know where such a student might be, though. Mozambique, perhaps." Ben smiled. Professor Canino was of the old school; he used the Socratic method like a dagger to slit the throats of the unwary or unwitting. "I gather you're in this class?" Christina had worked as Ben's legal assistant for as long as he'd been in solo practice in Tulsa. Two years before, she'd decided to expand her horizons and start law school. Since they worked together and knew each other personally, they both agreed it was best that she not be in any of Ben's regular classes. But it looked like this morning they were going to be in the same classroom whether they liked it or not. "I am," she replied. "So don't be cruel." "I'll try to restrain myself." Christina scampered off toward class, leaving Ben to admire once again her seemingly inexhaustible high spirits. It had been almost ten years since Ben finished law school, but it hadn't been so long that he'd forgotten how much he'd hated it. Egomaniacal professors, arbitrary subjective grading, unrelenting pressure to succeed, unrestrained favoritism--a hideous gauntlet one was required to run in order to practice the world's least respected profession. What a deal. As Ben crossed the study quad, he observed that most of the students' sentiments were aligned with his own, not Christina's. The sweaty brows and twisted grimaces of those purporting to study told him that law school had not changed much over the past decade. In a carrel just off the main hallway, Ben spotted the grizzled man in the overcoat he'd seen near the front doors. What was he doing? Certainly not studying; he wasn't even carrying a book. His eyes were still roaming about. Who was he expecting to see? Or maybe he had it wrong, Ben reasoned. Maybe his first impression had been correct. Perhaps the man was homeless and he was just looking for a place to lie down where security guards wouldn't hassle him. Ben considered recommending one of the cushioned sofas in the library. It was quiet in there, and if he covered his face with his hands, the staff would take him for another student who had fallen asleep while reading the rapturous words of the distinguished Learned Hand. "Which class did you draw this time?" Ben turned and saw Professor John Matthews, the leading tort law expert in the state of Oklahoma. He'd written texts and hornbooks on the subject; he was the unquestioned authority. "I'm filling in for The Tiger." Matthews stroked his beard and smiled. "Ah. Lucky man." "How do you figure?" "If those kids are expecting to see The Tiger walk through that door, they'll be virtually orgasmic when they see anyone else. Even you." "You sure know how to flatter a guy, John." Matthews laughed and headed down the corridor. Ben entered the classroom. All at once, the students fell silent, shifted around, and turned their eyes front and center. What a marvelous ego trip, Ben thought, not for the first time. This must be how judges feel when they enter the courtroom. The classroom was designed in the Greek theater style: three tiers of elevated seats and continuous tabletops formed a semicircle around the podium, which was on the lowest level. Ben took his place in the center, opened his teacher's edition of the textbook, and started. "My name's Ben Kincaid, and I'm filling in for Professor Canino this morning, as I expect most of you already know. So let's get to it. Who can tell me what a JNOV is?" He glanced at his seating chart. "Mr. Brunner?" A middle-sized man in his early twenties pushed himself unhappily to his feet. "Uh . . . what were those letters again?" "JNOV," Ben repeated, enunciating clearly. "JNOV," Brunner repeated thoughtfully. "Is that a rock band?" There was a tittering of laughter throughout the classroom. This would never happen if The Tiger were present, Ben knew. Apparently Ben had a less imposing reputation. He wondered what his nickname was. The Titmouse, perhaps. "No, Mr. Brunner, you must be thinking of Run-DMC. Or perhaps, ELO, if you're as old as I am." He turned his attention to the rest of the classroom. "Who can tell me what a JNOV is?" The first hand up rose above a very familiar head of red hair. Ben supposed he was obliged to call on her. She shouldn't be penalized for knowing the substitute prof. "Ms. McCall?" Christina bounced to her feet. "A JNOV is a judgment notwithstanding the verdict." "Excellent." Ben put a little check mark beneath her name on the seating chart. He had no idea what, if anything, The Tiger planned to do with these check marks, but Christina had certainly earned hers. "And what does that mean?" "It means that after the jury delivers its verdict, the judge may set it aside." "You're two for two, Ms. McCall. On what grounds may the judge disregard the jury's verdict?" "Well . . . it looks to me like the judge can do it on just about any legal grounds he wants. Anything the judge believes calls the verdict into question." "That's exactly right." Ben's eyes swept across the three raised tiers of seats. "There's a lesson to be learned here, future advocates--one you must never forget. In the courtroom, the judge is King of the Forest. So try not to cross him or her." He glanced down at his notes. "Ms. McCall, could you give me the facts of Conrad versus Richmond Pharmaceuticals?" To his surprise, Ben saw that she was no longer looking at him. Her eyes had diverted toward the door. He glanced over his shoulder. It was that shabby man in the overcoat--the homeless man, or whatever he was. He was peering through the glass in the door, the expression in his eyes strange and intense. What was his problem? Ben wondered. He was definitely beginning to regret not reporting the man to Security. Something about the sight of him lurking outside the door was unsettling. Ben turned back around and cleared his throat. "The case, Ms. McCall?" "Oh. Right. Sorry." She glanced down at her textbook. "Conrad was a woman who had been advised to use a new sedative manufactured by Richmond while she was pregnant. Turned out the drug had serious side effects, although that did not become apparent for--" Ben heard the click of the door behind him. The man in the overcoat was entering the classroom. "Can I help you?" Ben said, not doing a very good job of masking his irritation. Somehow he knew The Tiger would never tolerate such an intrusion. The man kept walking until he was far too close to Ben for comfort. His breath reeked; Ben detected traces of several diverse meals and perhaps some alcohol as well. His body was not much better; the smell rising from beneath that coat was so pronounced Ben almost winced. The stranger spoke in a quiet, hushed voice. "You the professor?" "I'm trying to be," Ben said, with an edge that could cut butter. "What is it you want?" "You know what I want." The man stepped even closer and whispered in Ben's ear. "Is the merchandise secure?" "What?" "You heard me. Is it?" "I'm afraid I must ask you to leave." "Not until you tell me what I want to know." Ben's irritation was augmented by the feeling that he was losing control of the classroom. "Sir, once again, I must insist that you leave." "Answer me!" The hush was gone; the man's voice swelled. "Is the merchandise secure?" "I don't know what you're talking about." Ben looked at Christina, then jerked his head toward the door. Intuitive as ever, she received the message and started for help. "Is it secure?" The man's breathing accelerated. Sweat trickled down the sides of his grimy face. "Is it?" Out of the corner of his eye, the man saw Christina making her way toward the door. "Stop!" he shouted. Christina did not stop. On the contrary, she picked up the pace. In the blink of an eye, the man reached beneath his wrinkled overcoat. Less than a blink later, he was holding a sawed-off shotgun in his hands, cocked and ready to fire. "I said, stop!" Christina froze in place, obviously unsure what to do next. Shrieks pealed out of the gallery. Some of the students rose; some of them ducked under the desks. "He's got a gun!" someone cried. "He's crazy!" shouted someone else. Frenzied confusion followed. Damn! Ben thought. Where had that shotgun come from? This man was crazier than he'd thought--and more dangerous, too. Ben took a hesitant step forward. "Now, look, let's stay calm." The man whipped the sawed-off around so it was pointed at Ben's face. "Stay back! Stay away from me!" Someone in the rear of the classroom screamed, a loud, ear-piercing cry that sent chills down Ben's spine. The stranger faded back till he was pressed against the chalk-board. He panned back and forth with the weapon, assuring everyone present that they were within his line of sight. Ben felt his knees beginning to tremble, but he tried to block that out of his mind. He was in charge in here--in theory, anyway. If anyone had a chance of bringing this maniac around, it was him. He took a cautious step toward the man. "Please stay calm. I'm sure we can find out whatever it is you want--" "Stay back, I said!" The man pressed forward, his eyes wild and crazed. "Don't think I won't fire. I will! I got nothing left to lose!" Behind him, Ben saw Christina quietly roll back into action. She was trying to take advantage of the momentary diversion of the stranger's attention to slip out the door. No! Ben tried to send her an unspoken message with his eyes. But it was no use. Christina kept edging toward the door. "I warned you!" the man bellowed as he whirled around with his shotgun--and fired. Ben's heart stopped at the report of the shotgun, like a sonic boom in the small classroom. The shot hit the wall just above Christina's head, spewing plaster and chalky dust all over her. Christina threw up her hands. "All right! I'm not moving! I'm not moving!" The intruder rushed toward her, gun still at the ready. He grabbed her by the hair, wrapped it around his fist, then shoved her back against the wall, hard. More of the students shrieked as Christina's head slammed against the wall. Her eyes batted rapidly as she struggled to maintain consciousness. "Don't hurt her!" Ben shouted. The man with the gun stepped back, bringing Ben into his line of sight. "I can hurt all of you. I will hurt all of you. If you don't tell me what I want to know!" He fired the gun again, this time into the ceiling. Ben ducked behind the podium. This man was insane, Ben thought grimly. He had to be. And he couldn't count on reasoning with a man who had no reason. They were all in deadly danger. "Fine," Ben said, choking on the plaster dust that filled the air. "Fine. I'll tell you anything. Anything. Just ask." The man's teeth were clenched tightly together. "I already did! Is the merchandise secure?" Ben stretched out his hands. "I don't know what you're talking about!" The man fired the gun again, this time near Ben's feet. "Is the merchandise secure?" "Yes!" Ben shouted. "Yes! It is! It's so secure--you wouldn't believe how secure it is." The man rushed toward him. He grabbed Ben's lapel and shook him. "You're lying to me!" "I'm not! I don't know anything about your . . . merchandise!" There was a momentary flicker in the man's steely gaze, as if a new thought was being processed for the first time. "Isn't this your classroom?" "Yes, but . . ." Ben's lips parted. "Do you think I'm Professor Canino? Because I'm not." "You're not? But you said--" "I'm filling in for him. I'm a substitute teacher." The man stepped away from Ben, slowly and cautiously, keeping his wild eyes on the entire classroom, daring anyone to move. His retreat was interrupted by the clattering of footsteps just outside the door. Security, Ben saw through the window. Thank God. Stanley must've heard the shots. Three security officers started through the doors, including Stanley. As soon as Stanley saw the man holding the shot-gun, he drew his own weapon. Ben feared there would be a shoot-out--and then he realized it was going to be something else, something far worse. The man with the shotgun grabbed the back of Christina's head and shoved her forward, using her as a human shield. "Stand back! I'll shoot her! I will!" The three security officers froze. "Drop your guns!" Ben could well imagine what was going through Stanley's mind. Normally, cops were taught never to relinquish their weapons. But Stanley wasn't a cop. What's more, the man with the shotgun was acting crazy. They might be able to talk him down, prevent him from doing anything brutal. But if they continued to threaten the man now, he would probably explode--and Christina would be caught in the fallout. With evident reluctance, Stanley laid his pistol on the floor. The other security officers did the same. The man with the shotgun rushed forward, pushing Christina ahead all the way, till he had recovered the weapons and shoved them into one of his outer coat pockets. "Now, get out of here! Now!" Stanley tried to maintain a calm demeanor. "Couldn't I stay and talk? I know you don't really want to hurt anyone. Why don't we--" The gun exploded in Stanley's face. The shot struck just over and behind him, splattering the wall. Stanley ducked, horrified, clutching the side of his face. The shot had come so close it had singed his cheek. "Now get out of here!" the man screamed. "Now! Now! Now!" This time the security guards left, including Stanley. After the door closed, the man with the shotgun whipped around. He shoved Christina down to the floor. "Nobody moves! Nobody goes anywhere! We're all staying right here until I get what I want!" Ben rushed to Christina's side. He took her hand and helped her up. "How are you?" Christina shrugged. "I'm fine, damn it." She gazed at the maniac with the shotgun. "Wish I'd moved a little faster." "You and me both." Ben helped her to an empty seat in the front row. He had a sinking feeling they were both going to be here for a good long while. From the Paperback edition. Excerpted from Silent Justice by William Bernhardt All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.