While fly-fishing in Arkansas, Ben Kincaid lands an indefensible racist for a client
For Ben Kincaid, the forests of Arkansas are a place to escape the hubbub of the courtroom and enjoy the outdoors. But for the thousands of Vietnamese refugees who came through this backwoods area in the mid-1970s, the Ouachita Mountains were a place to begin their new life in the United States. And for Tommy Vuong, an activist among the American-born Vietnamese, the woods are a place to die. When Vuong is found stabbed through the neck beneath a burning cross, the logical suspect is Donald Vick, a member of a local white supremacist hate group who was seen fighting with Vuong the previous day. No lawyer in the county will take Vick’s case, but Kincaid can’t refuse. His new client is sullen, hateful, and demands to plead guilty—even though there’s no evidence linking him to the crime scene. No matter what it takes, Kincaid will bring justice to the backwoods, whether the inhabitants like it or not.
After a promising beginning, Bernhardt's latest thriller starring Oklahoma attorney Ben Kincaid, seen last in Deadly Justice , drifts into formulaic TV-movie scripting that slights its serious subject. When a young Vietnamese refugee is brutally murdered near Silver Springs, Ark., all the evidence points to Donald Vick, a member of the white-supremacist group Anglo-Saxon Patrol (ASP). When no one will defend Vick because of his politics, Kincaid, who is in Arkansas on vacation and believes that even those with heinous views deserve proper representation, agrees to take the case. For his pains, he is attacked by hooligans, beaten by a deputy sheriff, ostracized by the entire town and obliged to accept bodyguards supplied by the ASP Grand Dragon. This liberal's nightmare is simplistically portrayed: no opposing principals in the cast attempt to understand Kincaid's position, so there is no discussion of the issue at the story's heart and little narrative tension. Instead, the characters are people with permanently unchangeable opinions who mostly yell at each other. Even the story's fiery climax and the late twists of its plot have a set-piece quality that diminishes the novel's impact. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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January 29, 1995
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