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by William Bernhardt
Ballantine Books, January 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 034545149X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Attorney Ben Kincaid gets a phone call from Senator Todd K Glancy of Oklahoma, to come to Washington to be his lawyer. The two men had gone to law school together but their careers went in different directions. Ben is a lawyer of varying degrees of success and Glancy is a big-time senator, who has been mentioned as the man to run in the next presidential race.

Unfortunately for Glancy, a video has been released to the press that shows him in the middle of a very explicit and highly-charged sexual indiscretion with a young female Senate Page, by the name of Veronica Cooper. Glancy wants Ben to defend his good name against any sanctions that the senate might put upon him. Ben accepts and, with his partner Christina McCall and their investigator, a man named Loving, they travel to Washington.

But before Ben can even get to see Glancy, the young woman in the video is found bled out with her throat cut in the Senator's private room. Glancy insists that he's not guilty and asks Ben to take on this new legal problem. Ben accepts and sends Loving, his investigator, out to see what he can learn about the dead girl, Veronica. For the remainder of the book, we follow Ben and Christine in the courtroom and separately tag along with Loving on the dark streets and inside the even more sinister Goth and vampire clubs around Washington.

The courtroom drama is very much of a normal vein. We see how the trial brings out the bad and good qualities of both the lawyers and the witnesses involved. We're privy to the lawyers' tactics on how a murder trial is planned and fought. On the whole, the courtroom drama portion of the book is very well done and highly interesting.

The story also follows the investigator, Loving, and the plot becomes more and more fantastic. It seems the murdered girl had contacts within the local vampire community. It's made clear that most of these people don't think they are supernatural vampires, just people with a certain genetic need for the taste of blood and a shared disaffection for sunlight.

Some members of the community do think that there are real 'Vampyres' amongst them. One such creature, the head vamp, who calls himself The Sire, takes his blood lust to lurid extremes. In this portion of the book there are some scenes of gruesome violence and torture.

As the book is dedicated to Josh Whedon, the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer on television, I got the distinct impression that the writer, William Bernhardt was trying for a very similar kind of feeling of a supernatural, fantasy comedy in this Ben Kincaid book. Though having one moment of comedy then going to a torture scene and then back to comedy played well on an overall humorous television program, the close juxtaposition of these two emotions didn't work in a basically serious dramatic courtroom novel.

This is the 14th in the Ben Kincaid series and the first I've read. This book stands well enough on its own, but the descriptions and ages of the series' characters are missing and that leaves the new readers without some important information. There is also a goodly amount of back filling in of details from other series installments, letting the readers in on the fact that they have missed out on a lot of adventures and relationship changes, but that doesn't much interfere with the main plot in A CAPITOL MURDER.

In the comedy, horror, supernatural-themed sections, the readers can't be certain if the writing is tongue-in-cheek so the book has a tendency to become cartoonist, where even the worst torture and mutilation can't be taken seriously. Unfortunately, the legal section also tends to overlook basic clues that scream out to be examined, but the ending of the book is satisfying enough so that it doesn't become outstanding points of contention.

A CAPITOL MURDER is an enjoyable book and the writer does a fine job of making the pages turn at a fast pace. It simply isn't a great book and there's not much here that would urge readers to read the other 13 installments of the series.

Reviewed by Sharon Katz, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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