Cover image for Criminal intent
Criminal intent
Bernhardt, William, 1960-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Ballantine Books, 2002.
Physical Description:
358 pages ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
X Adult Fiction Central Library
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



When a priest with radical ideas and a parish council with traditional values lock horns over the beliefs they hold most sacred, there's bound to be controversy--and consequences. But murder crosses the line between committing a sin and committing a crime, turning a battle over faith into a battle for justice. And smack in the middle of the explosive case is Tulsa attorney Ben Kincaid. Kincaid rescued Father Daniel Beale once before. When the priest's renegade views and violent temper nearly cost him his position as rector of St. Benedict's Church, Ben intervened and saved the day. Now Beale is the prime suspect in the brutal murder of a female parishioner--though lack of evidence has left the case unsolved. But as Father Beale struggles to escape the shadow of suspicion, another woman is savagely slaughtered. And this time, Ben himself discovers Beale literally red-handed . . . with the blood of the victim. As Father Beale declares his innocence, Ben and his team feverishly work to build a defense that will deliver the man of God from a date with the death chamber. But each new revelation that emerges in the packed courtroom only serves to tilt the scales increasingly in the prosecution's favor. And Father Beale's own shocking testimony ignites a firestorm of controversy that could doom his last best hope for acquittal. In his heart and in his gut, Ben knows Father Beale is innocent. But proving it means taking a leap of faith that will plunge Ben into the whirlpool of dark secrets and dangerous intentions that surround St. Benedict's. And ultimately, it will force the idealistic attorney to confront the chilling face of evil in the most unexpected of places. Criminal Intent proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the author of Murder One has earned his critical reputation as the master of the courtroom drama whose novels of legal suspense consistently offer a one-of-a-kind reading experience. From the Hardcover edition.

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

Booklist Review

Here's a series that found an audience early and has just kept rolling along, repeating its successful formula again and again. The eleventh Ben Kincaid novel (the first, Primary Justice, appeared in 1991) is pretty much like its predecessors: a solid, by-the-numbers legal drama, suspenseful enough but saddled with frequently awkward dialogue and off-the-rack characters. There's nothing particularly wrong with the Kincaid mysteries, but there's nothing particular right about them, either. They deliver the basic legal-thriller package, but without any of the style or intensity that readers have come to expect from, say, Philip Margolin or John Lescroart. This time around, Ben is defending an Episcopalian priest on a charge of homicide; the prosecution's theory is that this man of the cloth murdered an associate because she was among a group of parishioners who wanted him replaced because he permitted gay and lesbian groups to hold meetings at the church. There are witnesses, suspects, false leads, and various legal-thriller shenanigans, but it all has the feel of been-there-done-that. Still, Bernhardt clearly has found his readers, and they are a loyal bunch. Readers'-advisory librarians might like to try an experiment: for those who request this distinctly middling Ben Kincaid novel, recommend in addition Jane Haddam's thematically similar but far superior 2001 thriller, True Believers, which concerns a Catholic priest accused of murder and a parish that ministers to the gay community. --David Pitt

Library Journal Review

In the latest Ben Kincaid mystery, one parish priest may be going to heaven soon; he's facing the death penalty for murder. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



"Father forgive me for I have sinned. "Father forgive me for I have sinned. "Father forgive me for I have--" Helen's voice broke off. She was breathless. She had murmured the words a hundred times, a thousand perhaps. But it didn't seem to help. Nothing seemed to help. She was on her knees in the church prayer garden, surrounded by birch trees and flowering plants and multicolored azaleas, a Garden of Eden recreated. Was she Adam, the one who submits to temptation and therefore must be cast out? Or was she Eve, the temptress who leads others to sin and degradation? "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done . . ." Her hands were folded and her head was bowed. She was saying the words, chanting them like some arcane ritual. But who was listening? Who would hear the prayers of a woman who had done what she had done? Had done and been doing for years, she thought, and the sickness took hold of her, sending waves of nausea throughout her body. She doubled over in agony. At first, what they did had not bothered her. Or perhaps it had, but somehow she managed to suppress the guilt, to bury her true feelings in a morass of rationalization and intellectual posturing. And then one morning, not long ago, she awoke and realized--she was a sinner. A pawn of Satan. What she had done--what they all had done--was worse than mere sin. It was complete and utter corruption. Moral bankruptcy. It was evil. "Father forgive me for I have sinned. "Father forgive me for I have sinned. "Father forgive me for I have sinned." She recited the words over and over again, but she obtained no comfort from them. She glared up at the ebony sky, but she found no answer, no release. What was she going to do now? She had gathered some of the others, had talked to them about it. Some had even admitted they shared her feelings. But it wasn't enough. Talking would never be enough. Action was required. She had to do something. She heard a noise behind her, from somewhere deeper in the prayer garden. The door at the base of the bell tower was closing. But who would be in there at this time of night? Was it the priest? One of the church regulars? An irrational fear gripped her. She didn't want to be seen, not in here, not now, not like this. "What are you doing?" She let out a small sigh of relief when she saw who it was. Nothing to worry about there. "I'm just . . . having a quiet moment. Spending some time alone. If you wouldn't mind . . ." "Could you please help me?" Helen tried not to frown. This was one of the inescapable realities of being in a church--there was always someone who needed help. An old woman wanting someone to run after her groceries. An Altar Guild guy recruiting help with the cleanup. And it always seemed to come at the least convenient time. "I don't know. . . ." "Please. I really really really need your help." "What is it?" "I saw something in the garden, near the base of the tower. Something strange and . . . frightening." Helen pushed herself to her feet. "Show me." She followed down the cobbled sidewalk toward the bell tower, in one of the most isolated and secluded parts of the labyrinthine prayer garden. There were two marble benches flanking a small recess planted with honeysuckle and flowered hedges. Many of the parishioners had buried the ashes of loved ones here; a tall marble obelisk behind one of the benches stood as a memorial. "So? . . ." "Over there. By the bench." Helen looked in the direction indicated. Someone had been digging. Signs of excavation were evident; an azalea bush had been all but uprooted. "My God," Helen whispered. Had someone been digging up . . . one of the graves? She had been at the funeral last week, and she knew this was where Ruth's sister's ashes had been buried. "Why would anyone--?" Helen's eyes widened with repugnance and amazement. "You?" She turned just in time to see the shovel right before it struck. It hit her on the side of the head, knocking her sideways. The pain was excruciating. She felt as if her brain had been dislodged, her jaw shattered. Her legs crumbled, and she fell down onto one of the benches. She remained conscious, but just barely. She watched as the shovel came closer, then closer, then closer still. "But . . . why?" Helen managed to gasp. "Why not?" Her assailant's hands clutched her throat with a strong, unbreakable grip. Helen felt her consciousness fading, and she knew that in a few short moments she would be dead. Was this the penance she had been seeking? Was this what it took to make her feel clean again? Her brain was too muddled to make any sense of it. As she felt her life slowly trickling away, her thoughts were not focused on these questions of theology and personal redemption. As she stared into the face of her killer, all she could think was: I can't believe it's you! I can't believe it could possibly be you! Excerpted from Criminal Intent 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.