The Judgment (Joseph Antonelli #3), by D.W. Buffa

Eight stars

D.W. Buffa returns with another novel in the Joseph Antonelli legal series that will keep readers on the edge of their seat as the case slowly reveals itself. In a story layered in nuances and subplots that are as interesting as the central case itself, the reader will have to focus all their attention to catch every aspect and piece the case together effectively. Judge Calvin Jeffries is dead after having his throat slit. Jeffries’ murder remains a mystery as many gather to remember his life, including Joseph Antonelli. It is at the reception that many recount the time that Antonelli and Jeffries clashed, an event Portland’s premier defence attorney would like to forget. However, Antonelli knows that there is more to the story, which includes the plight of Elliott Winston, an up-and-coming lawyer that Antonelli tried to guide and who struck up an odd friendship with the judge. Winston is now locked away in an institution for the criminally insane and expresses little distress when Antonelli shares the news. After some quick police work, a suspect is arrested for the murder and a press conference is called. Antonelli tries to get himself appointed as defence counsel to the homeless man, but the suspect commits suicide in his cell after offering a full confession. Case closed, or so it would seem. When another judge is found murdered in the same manner a few months later, another homeless man is arrested, but he’s chosen to stay mute. Antonelli takes up the case and brings it to trial, though there is something that does not make sense with the case. Might all this have some tangential connection to Elliott Winston? Antonelli cannot shake the possibility, but will have to put all his efforts into defending his latest client. If that were not enough, his high school sweetheart has resurfaced, leaving Antonelli to process feelings he thought were long buried. An excellent legal thriller that slowly reveals itself, leaving the dedicated reader to patiently peel back all the layers to get to the truth. Recommended to series fans and those who want a deeper and darker legal tale to keep them enthralled.

Let me first say that the time it took me to read this book—a week—should not be indicative of my feelings about it. Life happens and I wish I had been able to dedicate more time, over a shorter period, to getting through it. I have read and enjoyed a handful of novels by D.W. Buffa, both political and legal thrillers, each one as powerful as the last. Joseph Antonelli’s backstory is again pulled into the forefront of this novel, both a more recent past—covering Judge Jeffries and Elliott Winston—and that of decades ago. Both these narratives fill in some of the gaps that series fans may have discovered with the protagonist, though it is the current-day developments that enrich the character even more. With a sharp legal mind and the determination to get his clients the justice they deserve, Antonelli dazzles readers while leaving the prosecution cursing themselves. A handful of supporting characters serve to keep the story moving forward, all of whom are new to the series. This permits the reader to see Antonelli react in new and surprising ways. The story itself was great, though it will take much attention and some mental gymnastics to keep the storylines straight, somewhat important in the overall novel. Buffa never makes it easy, but the narrative flows well and the reader will be rewarded by being patient and staying the course. The legal arguments are intriguing and presented in a captivating manner, which only adds to the allure of the novel. I am committed to the series and cannot wait to forge ahead to see what else Buffa has in store for Antonelli, while providing interesting approaches to criminal defence. Not a courtroom thriller series to be dismissed, though I warn readers who want something light, this may not be for you.

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for keeping me entertained throughout. I cannot wait to see what else you have in store for us in the series and what antics Antonelli will undertake.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: