Star Witness (Joseph Antonelli #5), by D.W. Buffa

Eight stars

D.W. Buffa has done well with his Joseph Antonelli legal thriller series, taking the reader into the depths and darkest corners of the genre. In this novel, the protagonist tries his hand at the law in the glitzy city of Los Angeles, battling the giants of Hollywood and the seedy underbelly of the politics of the silver screen. While settling in San Francisco, Antonelli receives a call to come to Los Angeles to meet with a potential client. He cannot help but wonder and is brought to the city, where Stanley Roth, the famous film director, finds himself in some hot water. After his wife, Mary Margaret Flanders, was found in their pool, her throat slit, all eyes look to Roth as the obvious killer. Antonelli learns that Roth did not have the strongest marriage to his movie star spouse, nor was it monogamous, but there are a few more troubling aspects. With the revelation that Roth was violent to his wife and surrounded by vipers in his movie studio, there are many triggers that could have pushed Roth over the edge. Add to that, Roth saw himself as the greatest film executive ever, having penned ‘the modern Citizen Kane’ to show some of the hurdles he overcame. Antonelli finds himself battling uphill the entire time and facing a ruthless prosecutor who is out for blood. However, Antonelli has a few tricks up his sleeve, which he will need to use effectively, as the evidence paints a picture of guilt like no other. Buffa does well in yet another of his novels to show that Joseph Antonelli is a versatile character and one the attentive reader can enjoy. Recommended to those who have loved the series to date and the reader who enjoys a deeper and denser legal thriller.

Many will know that I have an affinity for novels by D.W. Buffa, which prove to be a deeper read and trigger the need to think a little more about the content. Delving into the world of Hollywood politics, the reader discovers new angles about Antonelli and this realm of the law, though there is little backstory on offer. Antonelli has seemingly chosen to live in San Francisco now and is making headway in his relationship that sparked in the past novel, though it is his ability to adapt to ever-changing legal scenarios that is the main focus of the protagonist here. The masterful courtroom work is what makes Antonelli such an interesting character, but it is replaced with decent banter and a great deal more angst for the world of Hollywood and the accused’s plight as he faces almost certain conviction, based on the facts. Other characters pepper the pages of the book and offer some shape to the case at hand, it is the cutthroat world of the silver screen that keeps the characters intriguing. As always, it is Buffa’s style to slowly draw the reader in with characters whose lives are anything but simple and who serve to draw out interesting tangents about the case and those actors at the centre of the legal argument. The story held my attention throughout, though the Hollywood angle served to offer less of a punch than a flick to the ear. Buffa never makes reading his novels easy, but the themes developed do offer something unique from past books in the series. The story seemed darker and not as sharp, but the end result baffled me as many of the past novels have done as well. I am fully committed to the series and am eager to see what new ideas await the dedicated reader. It’s time to dive into another novel and see what Buffa has in store!

Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for new twists and an ever-evolving protagonist. Not my favourite of the series, but surely one that kept me wondering.

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