Major Mike Morelli of the Tulsa PD and FBI agent Swift are working together to solve a kidnapping when, most mystifyingly, the kidnappers vanish with the ransom in spite of their stronghold being surrounded by law enforcement officers. At the same time, Tulsa attorney Ben Kincaid is approached by woman to take up the case of her son, who is supposed to have tortured and killed a gay man while in a fit of fanaticism against homosexuals. In a startling turn of events, Ben refuses to take up this very high-profile case and leaves his partner Christina utterly flummoxed.
The story then proceeds from three different angles. Christina goes to Chicago, takes up the young man’s case and struggles to find evidence to exonerate her client -- who is looking guiltier by the second -- and investigates the victim as well. Both anti- and pro-gay activists get involved in the case, which rapidly takes a dangerous turn. Meanwhile, Mike, who’s still stumped by the kidnapping case, and his partner, along with Agent Swift, get involved in a case of brutal murder. How is this connected to Christina’s case? Interspersed throughout the narrative are entries from the dead gay man’s diary which reveal a saga of repressed feelings, prejudice, and his struggle for love, acceptance and tolerance.
William Bernhardt’s new book deals with a very controversial topic – that of hate crimes, particularly those against the gay populace. The author has taken great care to set out how and why people are influenced by various means, nature, nurture and otherwise, to be intolerant of those who are different from them. Conversely, through the diary of the gay man, Bernhardt also shows how things appear from the opposite point of view and reveals a craving for acceptance that is really heart-rending. How savagely this intolerance is expressed in the form of beating a gay man is described in explicit and painful detail. But death is just the beginning of a trial which rapidly becomes a media circus and breeds some hostile acts of terror. Main characters like Ben, Mike and others are carried over from previous Bernhardt novels, as are some existing relationship issues. But these in no way interrupt the narrative and indeed add depth and intrigue to it. Concise, slick, quick, engaging, a bit brutal for some readers’ tastes, containing more plot twists than ordinary, Bernhardt’s story is a saga of powerful drama and societal flaws.