D.W. Buffa is back with another legal thriller, sure to pique the brain of those who have followed the Joseph Antonelli series with any regularity. While there is a great deal of courtroom drama, the bulk of the book also tackles legal and societal theory, both looking deep into the past and towards the future. Buffa take the reader on quite the journey, at times getting a little preachy and esoteric. Some who can see through this can enjoy another legal thriller, but I worry many will get lost in the minutiae of the discussions, which might sour them to the overall experience.
Joseph Antonelli has quite the reputation in the legal world, both within San Francisco and elsewhere. He’s never lost a case that was his to win and has few ticks in that unfortunate box at all. His latest client, Justin Friedrich, will soon be convicted for a crime he did not commit. All the evidence points to Friedrich shooting his wife aboard their yacht and it’s almost time to end proceedings. However, someone soon approaches Antonelli with an offer.
James Michael Redfield runs a tech company with experience in artificial intelligence. When Redfield speaks privately with Antonelli, they enter into a loose lawyer-client relationship, complete with retainer. The privilege from this transaction forbids Antonelli from speaking about what comes next, as Redfield hands over the gun and a receipt to prove Friedrich’s innocence. What could Redfield want and why did he wait so long to exonerate an innocent man? Antonelli is eager to discover this, though is sworn to secrecy, under the privilege requirement.
When another high-profile murder occurs on a university campus, Antonelli is pulled into the middle of it and is again defending an innocent person, with Redfield working in the background and promising that he can solve it all, in due time. Antonelli is unsure of the web in which he finds himself and can only imagine that he’s a pawn in a larger game. While the privilege will not protect any future crimes, Redfield has said nothing conclusive and is still using the privilege to keep Antonelli on a short leash.
As the legal manoeuvrings continue, Antonelli tries to see what Redfield is doing and the sort of game he finds necessary. It seems that the trial is the thing that Redfield wants most, the situation that helps prove his larger theory, which has ties to artificial intelligence. Antonelli wants no part of it, but is as much a victim of it all as those he represents to ensure justice. A complex story that shows Buffa has layers to his meanings. Perhaps a little too much for many, though.
While I have loved D.W. Buffa’s writing and all he stands for, his legal thrillers are surely the best of all his books. That being said, he usually uses the courtroom as a stage and shows the wonders of the law through the interaction of both sides and the jury as a central arbiter. This novel took things away from those actors and left the reader to ponder the Socratic methods of law, justice, and philosophy. While it was intriguing to get to the root of it all, things could likely have taken less of a dense road to success.
Joseph Antonelli is still a masterful character and shows his abilities throughout this piece with ease. However, there was something that seemed lost, as much of his magic was not convincing a jury of his client’s innocence, but rather swimming in the complexities of legal theory, philosophy, and being stuck in a madman’s web. Antonelli does well when he can see forward, but there’s something impeding him throughout this book, which lessens his impact overall.
While I like a book that makes me think, I believe Buffa went a little too far here, perhaps forcing series fans to dig through what they are using to finding in order to discover the legal gems they seek. Those who pick this book up out of the blue (I have never understood those who do not start a series at the beginning) will likely be lost and really lose interest before long. It’s too bad, as Buffa has much to offer, with longe and detailed chapters that accompany a strong narrative. However, I can see the density being a turn off for some. I persisted, mainly because I know the power of a Buffa novel. I am not sure many would have the same fortitude and this novel was not a true reflection of the rest of the series.
Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for one of your thinking novels. I appreciated many of the life lessons you offered, even if things were a little much at times.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons