Victor Bevine’s latest novel, Certainty, is based on a true story. It begins in June 1919, a few months before the end of WWI. Set in Newport, Rhode Island, the location of a large Naval training station, the story involves William Bartlett, a young lawyer from a genteel family, and Samuel Kent, a beloved clergyman who has been accused by three young sailors of sexual impropriety. Despite the disapproval of his senior partners, Bartlett agrees to defend Kent, and the ensuing trial grows increasingly sensational as revelation after revelation demonstrate that some men will go to any lengths to preserve their version of morality.
Not only was this novel an interesting character study, but it was also a court drama with intriguing twists. Early on we are told that “Newport was a small town, controlled by a tight tapestry of founding families, and one hand always washed the other.” However, war has brought change and life will never be the same.
Bevine offers readers dialogue that drives the story forward and characters both major and minor who illustrate the many faces of man: the bully, the naïve innocent, the righteous, the idealist, the noble heart, the manipulator. At one point Samuel Kent says to William Bartlett, “God. Justice. The rule of law. And do you never find those to be in conflict?” Compelling words, as applicable today as they were in 1919.