Cover image for Murder one
Murder one
Bernhardt, William, 1960-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
319 pages ; 25 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Library
Central Library X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
Alden Ewell Free Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Clarence Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Elma Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Kenilworth Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Marilla Free Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
Frank E. Merriweather Library X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
Anna M. Reinstein Library X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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In Murder One, bestselling author William Bernhardt thrusts idealistic Tulsa, Oklahoma, attorney Ben Kincaid into the most controversial courtroom challenge of his career . . . an explosive murder case that Kincaid will confront not only as a lawyer--but as a defendant. The crime is remarkably heinous: veteran police detective Joe McNaughton is found savagely slain, mutilated, and hung from a public fountain in downtown Tulsa. Scrawled across his chest in blood is the word FAITHLESS. The accused is a tabloid reporter's dream: stunning, nineteen-year-old Keri Dalcanton, a stripper involved in a kinky affair with the married McNaughton . . . and now cast by media, police, and public alike as a vengeful woman scorned. Powerful circumstantial evidence and the prosecution's deftly orchestrated attacks on the defendant's character have Kincaid's client all but convicted. Until a major technical blunder by overzealous cops overturns the case--and sets Keri Dalcanton free. Amid a firestorm of outrage, Ben maintains his client's innocence. But angry comrades of the victim are convinced otherwise--and vow to see "justice" done, by any means necessary. When a police raid on his office uncovers the bloody murder weapon, Ben gets a first-hand taste of the infamous Blue Squeeze. And as a new trial of Keri Dalcanton is launched, Ben faces his own day in court, charged with conspiracy and murder. What follows is a breathlessly twisting battle of legal wits--and lethal surprises--in which no holds are barred, no secrets are left unexposed, and ultimately, nothing is what it seems. With Murder One, the author of Silent Justice and Dark Justice breaks loose and surpasses his own acclaimed reputation for legal thrillers that are "engrossing" (Associated Press), "throat-grabbing" (New York Daily News), and "richly drawn" (Chicago Tribune). This is William Bernhardt's electrifying entrée into the front ranks of crime fiction.

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 3

Booklist Review

Beloved veteran Tulsa police sergeant Joe McNaughton has been murdered in a particularly sadistic manner and put on public display. The suspect is 19-year-old stripper Keri Dalcanton, who had been having an affair with the married cop. Underpaid, underappreciated Ben Kincaid, a champion of underdogs, gets Keri off on a technicality, which triggers a police vendetta. At the direction of McNaughton's partner, Arlen Matthews, who is in love with the enraged widow, "rogue" officers act in concert to avenge the murder, and a politically ambitious D.A. tries to get the case reopened. Police plant evidence and try to intimidate Kincaid, his client, and his staff. Kincaid turns to his longtime assistant Christina McCall once again, this time as a legal peer. Just out of law school, she is more skeptical of Keri's innocence than Kincaid but just as outraged by police tactics. Keri's brother, a guilt-plagued religious psychopath, is the wild card in the game, out to defend his sister from all detractors as he trolls Tulsa's backstreets for fresh methods of self-punishment. This fast-paced thriller pitting cops against lawyers and courts has enough surprising plot twists to maintain suspense to the very end. --Vanessa Bush

Publisher's Weekly Review

Perhaps fans of Bernhardt's Silent Justice will welcome the return of Tulsa defense attorney Ben Kincaid in a twist-filled sequel, but others will find little to cheer for in this clumsy, implausible courtroom thriller. After the gory, ritualistic murder of police sergeant Joe McNaughton, Kincaid finds himself unpopular with the public and police for his vigorous defense of McNaughton's sexy 19-year-old mistress, Keri Dalcanton, who has all but been convicted of the murder. Despite damning evidence, Ben gets her off on a technicality; both attorney and client subsequently feel the "blue squeeze" as angry cops conspire to attain justice by any means possible including raiding Ben's office, physically abusing him, planting evidence and cooking up charges of homicide and conspiracy against him. McNaughton's angry widow is equally eager to get Keri, and soon even Ben's staff may be in danger. Ben, meanwhile, is fighting to contain amorous feelings for Keri that may be clouding his judgment, and he's breaking in a new partner, his former legal assistant, Christina McCall, who may have similar feelings for him. Although Ben and especially Christina who's intelligent, crafty and engaging are easy characters to root for, little sounds natural here: secondary characters, plotting, dialogue ("Please hold me") and even courtroom arguments disappoint. And while readers may not guess all the twists in the plot, neither are they likely to believe them. Abundant clich?s and crude contrivances give a surprisingly amateurish feel to this disappointing effort from veteran Bernhardt. Agents, Robert Gottlieb and Matt Bialer. Author appearances in Oklahoma and Texas. (Apr. 3) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Back from Silent Justice, Ben Kincaid must defend a man accused of murdering and mutilating a popular cop. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"Sergeant Callery, would you please describe the condition of the body when you found it?" Callery swallowed hard before answering. "Are you sure you want me to?" This would be the focal point, Ben Kincaid realized, for the entire trial- all that came before and all that followed. Every murder trial had one-an indelible moment in which sympathies were polarized and the full gravity of the crime struck the jury like a ball peen hammer to the head. Even though he knew there was not a soul in the courtroom who did not already know the answer to this question in gruesome and graphic detail, this would be the moment when everything changed, and not for the better. "I'm sure," Assistant District Attorney Nick Dexter said. He obviously didn't mind the delay. A little suspense preceding the big moment could only increase the jury's attention level. "Please tell us what you saw." Sergeant Callery licked his lips. His eyes drifted toward the floor. His hesitation was not just for dramatic effect. He was not anxious to proceed. And Ben didn't blame him. Describing a crime scene was always difficult. But when it was a cop talking about the murder of another cop-one he knew per-sonally and had worked with on many occasions-it bordered on the unbearable. "When I arrived, I discovered that Sergeant McNaughton's body had been stripped of clothing. He was chained naked to the base of the main fountain in Bartlett Square-right in the center of the downtown plaza. He'd been hog-tied; his arms and legs were pulled back to such an extent that some of his bones were actually broken. He'd been stabbed repeatedly, twenty or thirty times. A word had been smeared across his chest-written in his own blood." "And what was the word?" "It was hard to tell at first, given the condition of the body. But when we finally got him down and put him on a stretcher, it looked to me like it said 'faithless.'" "Was there anything else . . . noteworthy about the body?" The witness nodded. The spectators in the courtroom gallery collectively held their breath. They knew what was coming. "His penis had been severed. Cut off-and stuck in his mouth." To Ben, it was an almost surreal moment, as if they were all actors in a play. After all, everyone knew what questions would be asked, as well as what answers would be given. There were no surprises; they were just going through their prescribed motions. And yet, the singular horror of the crime had an impact that left no one in the courtroom unmoved. This case had been high drama from the outset. Everyone knew about this ghastly crime. How could they not? The body had been on display for almost an hour before the police managed to get it down. Workers going downtown that cold Thursday morning couldn't help but see the macabre, almost sacrificial tableau. The location had been well chosen. Downtown Tulsa was a place where people worked, but almost no one went there for any other reason. From the time the workday ended until sunup, it was virtually deserted. Even the police rarely patrolled; the inner downtown streets were inaccessible by car and there was simply no justification for mounted patrols at that time of night, when no one was present. And so the killer was able to create a grisly spectacle that had been etched into the city's collective consciousness during the seven months since the crime occurred. "Why are they spending so much time describing the body?" a voice beside Ben whispered. "How is that relevant to who committed the crime?" The question came from the defendant-Ben's client, Keri Dalcanton. She was a petite woman, barely five foot two. She had rich platinum blond hair and skin the color of milk. She was wearing no makeup today-on Ben's advice. She was a natural beauty, with perhaps the most perfectly proportioned body Ben had observed in his entire life. And he'd had a lot of time to observe it, during the months they'd spent preparing for this trial. Even in the courtroom, Ben was struck by how Keri exuded youth and energy. But that was not surprising. She was only nineteen. "It isn't relevant," Ben whispered back. "But Dexter knows the gory details will appall most jurors and make them more inclined to convict. That's why we're spending so much time here." "But it isn't fair," Keri said, her eyes wide and troubled. "I didn't do those things. I couldn't-" "I know." Ben patted her hand sympathetically. He wanted to take care of his client, but at the moment it was more important that he pay attention to the testimony. If Dexter thought Ben wasn't listening, all kinds of objection-able questions would follow. Dexter continued. "Did you check the body for vital signs?" "Of course. When I first arrived. But it wasn't necessary. He was dead. As anyone could see at a glance." A tremor passed through Callery's shoulders. "No one could have lived in that condition." "Why did it take so long to free the body?" "We weren't allowed to alter the position of the body until the forensic teams had been out to make a video record and to search for trace evidence. Even after that was done-Sergeant McNaughton's body had been double-chained to the fountain and the lock was buried. We couldn't get him loose. We eventually had to bring out a team of welders. Even then, progress was slow." "And during this entire time, the decedent's naked mutilated body was on public display?" "There wasn't much we could do. We couldn't cover the body and work at the same time. And there's no way to block off Bartlett Square." "Were you and your men finally able to get the body free?" "Eventually. Even then, though"-his head fell-"nothing happened the way it should. His right arm had been pulled back to such an extreme degree that when we released the chains-it snapped off. And the second we moved McNaughton's body, his-member-spilled out onto the ground." The man's jaw was tight, even as he spoke. "It would've been horrible, even if I hadn't known Sergeant McNaughton so well and trained under him. I've been on the force six years, but this was the worst, most horrible . . . goddamnedest thing I've seen in my career. Or ever will see." Ben knew Judge Hart didn't like swearing in her courtroom, but he had a hunch she would excuse it this time. The media representatives in the gallery-and there were a lot of them- were furiously taking notes. The McNaughton murder had dominated the papers and the airwaves for at least a month after the crime occurred, and the onset of the trial had refueled the obsessive coverage. Ben had never had so many microphones shoved in his face against his will; he'd never seen so many people insist that he had some sort of constitutional duty to give them an inter-view. His office manager, Jones, had even found a reporter hiding in the office broom closet, just hoping he might overhear some tasty tidbit of information. His legal assistant, Christina McCall, had the office swept for listening device. A blockade of reporters awaited them every time they left the office; another greeted them as soon as they arrived at the courthouse. It was like living under siege. Dexter was asking routine predicate questions to get his exhibits admitted. It was an obvious preliminary to passing the witness. "Psst. Planning to cross?" Ben glanced over his shoulder. It was Christina. For years, she'd been indispensable to him as a legal assistant. And now she was on the verge of graduating from law school. "I don't see much point," he whispered back to her. "Nothing he said was in dispute." Christina nodded. "But I'm not sure this business with the body was handled properly. I think the police bungled it six ways to Sunday." "Granted. But why? Because they were so traumatized by the hideous death of their colleague, a fact we don't particularly want to emphasize. And what difference does it make? None of the evidence found at the crime scene directly incriminates Keri." "You may be right. But I still think any cross is better than none. Whether he actually says it or not, Dexter is implying that Keri is responsible for these atrocities. We shouldn't take that lying down." Ben frowned. He didn't want to cross, but he had learned to trust Christina's instincts. "Got any suggestions?" She considered a moment. "I'd go with physical strength." "It's a plan." Dexter had returned to his table. Judge Sarah Hart, a sturdy woman in her midfifties, was addressing defense counsel. "Mr. Kincaid, do you wish to cross?" "Of course." Ben rose and strode to the podium. "Sergeant Callery, it sounds as if you and your men had a fair amount of trouble cutting that body free. Right?" The change in Callery's demeanor and body language when Ben became his inquisitor was unmistakable. He drew back in his chair, receding from the microphone. "It took a while, yeah." "Sounds to me like it was hard and required a great deal of strength." "I suppose." "And if it was hard to get the body down, it must've been even more difficult to get the body up." He paused, letting the wheels turn in the jurors' minds. "The individual who chained Sergeant McNaughton up there must've been one seriously strong person, wouldn't you agree?" Callery had obviously been expecting this. "Not necessarily, no. The killer could've-" Ben didn't give him a chance to recite whatever explanation he and Dexter had cooked up ahead of time. "How much did Sergeant McNaughton's body weigh?" "I couldn't say exactly." "You must have some idea." "It would just be a guess." "You were there, weren't you, officer?" "Ye-ess . . ." "You were, I assume, paying some degree of attention when your men were cutting the body loose?" Callery tucked in his chin. "Yes-" "So how much did McNaughton's body weigh?" Callery frowned. "I'd guess about two ten, two twenty pounds." "Two hundred and twenty pounds. And of course, he was dead, right?" "I think everyone in the courtroom is aware of that fact, counsel." Just like a game of cat and mouse, Ben marveled, not for the first time. Two diametrically opposed archenemies pretending to be civil. "Would it be fair to say that it's harder to move a dead body than a live one?" Callery nodded. "Much." "So we're talking about two hundred and twenty pounds of pure dead-weight, right?" "About that, yeah." "But someone somehow managed to carry the body to Bartlett Square- without the use of a car-to elevate it, hog-tie it, and wrap it around the central fountain." "That's about the size of it." "Sergeant Callery, you were pretty good at estimating your deceased colleague's weight. Would you care to guess what my client, Ms. Dalcanton, weighs?" He grinned faintly. "I would never be so indelicate." "Then I'll tell you. A hundred and three pounds. Wearing shoes." He paused. "So you're saying that these feats of tremendous strength, which frankly I doubt you and I could manage working together, were accomplished by this tiny woman? How?" A bad question, as it turned out. "We believe she drove the body there. We found faint traces of tire tracks on Fifth, parallel to the fountain. Someone drove onto the pedestrian walkway beside Bartlett Square. We believe she wrapped the chains around the body's hands and feet while it was still in the car, then dragged him to the fountain. As the coroner can confirm, the body had any number of scrapes and abrasions that could be the result of being dragged over the pavement in this manner. Once she had the chain around the fountain, we believe she was able to improvise a rudimentary pulley system to haul the body up." Ben silently cursed himself. This was a classic case of asking one question too many. "It still sounds to me as if it would require a good deal of strength." "Maybe. But if I've learned anything in my years on the force, it's that size is no indicator of strength. Sometimes the most potent medicine comes in small bottles." "That's quaint, officer, but are you seriously suggesting-" "Besides," Callery said, rushing his words in edgewise, "whoever said Keri Dalcanton wasn't strong?" A small smile played on his lips. "I hear she gets lots of exercise. All that high-octane dancing must build up some stamina." There was an audible response from the gallery. Callery was referring to the fact that Ben's client worked-at least until she became a permanent resi-dent of the Tulsa County Jail seven months ago-at a "gentleman's club" at Thirty-first and Lewis. In other words, she was a stripper. Another dramatic- and damning-fact that everyone in the courtroom already knew all too well. The press wouldn't let them forget. No article overlooked the salacious side of the story. The headlines began STRIPPER SUSPECTED and continued with SEX CLUB SIREN SEIZED. "Sergeant Callery, it took three men to lower McNaughton's body to the ground. Are you seriously suggesting-" "Hey, I saw that picture in the paper. You know, the one with her in nothing but a bright red G-string thingie? Looked to me like she had lots of muscles." "Your honor, I object!" Ben knew what Callery was talking about, though. The day Keri Dalcanton was arrested, a morning paper, in an unaccountable lapse of taste, had run a picture of her taken on the job. Something a reporter swiped from a backstage bulletin board, apparently. Tasseled pasties on her ample breasts; bright red G-string on her rock-'n'-roll hips. The paper apologized the next day, explaining that it was the only photo of Ms. Dalcanton they could locate, as she had covered her face when arrested. One of the lamest excuses for tabloid coverage by purportedly "legitimate" journalists Ben had heard yet. Ben approached the bench. "Your honor, I object to any discussion or sly references to my client's former occupation." Judge Hart lowered her eyeglasses and gave Ben the no-nonsense look he knew all too well. "On what grounds?" "It will work extreme prejudice against Ms. Dalcanton." "Probably. But she should have thought of that before she took the job. Overruled." "But your honor-" "I've ruled, Mr. Kincaid." "Then I'll object on a different basis." She arched an eyebrow. "And that would be ...?" "I object because . . . because the photo in question has not been admitted into evidence." "Do you want it to be?" "Hmm. Good point." Ben returned to the defense table knowing that his cross had been a bust. He hadn't put a dent in the prosecution's case, and given what few arrows he had in his quiver, he was unlikely to do so at any time in the future. He could see the determination in the eyes of the prosecution and police officers, and he could see the revulsion in the eyes of the jury. Even Judge Hart, normally a sympathetic, fair judge, was cutting him no slack. This time, the stakes were too high. The crime was too appalling, and too well known. He had to face facts. Barring some kind of miracle, Keri Dalcanton was going to be convicted. Excerpted from Murder One 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.

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