Seven years after he failed to get a client acquitted of a horrendous multiple murder, Tulsa lawyer Ben Kincaid has one last chance to keep him from being executed.
As usual in Ben’s dozen quixotic legal jousts (Criminal Intent, 2002, etc.), it doesn’t look like much of a chance. Food-industry chemist Ray Goldman was convicted on the strength of eyewitness testimony from the most unimpeachable source imaginable: Erin Faulkner, the one surviving member of the home invader who took the lives—and, in a particularly gruesome twist, the eyes—of her father, her mother, and her six brothers and sisters. Now, with Ray only a week from his date with the needle and all his appeals exhausted except for one last pro forma motion for habeas corpus, Erin turns up in Ben’s office saying that her testimony was mistaken: the bulldog ADA had pressed her to make her uncertain identification positive. The golden opportunity Erin’s admission presents to Ben swiftly turns to lead, however, when she’s found dead the next morning, an apparent suicide. Ben’s old friend Mike Morelli, the homicide detective currently in the doghouse with the chief because of his role in turning a fast-food hostage situation into a bloodbath, disagrees sharply with his new partner, no-nonsense Sgt. Kate Baxter, about whether Erin really did kill herself—or, later, whether her best friend Sheila Knight, who was about to spill some long-suppressed secret to Ben’s investigator, did as well. What can’t be disputed is that despite Ben’s repeated pleas to hostile Judge Derek for just a little more time, he plays so little role in cracking the case that you have to wonder what Judge Derek means when he tells him, “Nice job, Mr. Kincaid.”
Despite a constant habit of crosscutting that suggests he doesn’t trust the drama his scenes create on their own, Bernhardt, unlike his struggling hero, does his very best work in wrapping up this clever mystery.