D.W. Buffa has done well, writing both legal and political thrillers. Now, I have the chance to see him blend these two sub-genres in the explosive fourth novel in the Joseph Antonelli series. After his cousin reaches out to him, Antonelli agrees to travel to San Francisco to consider representing a young man accused of murder. While this would not seem to pose any issue, the fact that the victim is a United States senator adds drama and intrigue to the case. Senator Jeremy Fullerton is well known around California, though he is by no means a favoured son. He was involved in a run for the governorship and hoped to use that office to springboard his campaign for president. As Antonelli arrives and gets a lay of the land, he discusses the case with his potential client, Jamaal Washington, who says that he was walking home from work one foggy night and came upon the slain senator. From there, things take an odd turn that sees Washington shot by SFPD and his fingerprints on the murder weapon. As Antonelli agrees to act as defense counsel, he begins preparing his case, which will be more difficult than he could have imagined. Antonelli is pulled into the political realm to see just what Fullerton was like and how many people disliked him for a handful of reasons. Accusations from all corners paint quite a picture, none more than the revelation of his congressional assistant, who has taken over running in the gubernatorial race. By the time court proceedings commence, Antonelli is subjected to an aggressive feud between the District Attorney and the judge, making it clear that they’re no longer in Portland. While Antonelli effectively presents his case, he cannot help but wonder if the merits of his client’s innocence will prevail, or if a young black man will be sandbagged and sent to die because of circumstantial evidence. Another stellar courtroom thriller with Buffa’s signature slow reveal, forcing the dedicated reader to use patience as they learn the truth. Recommended to series fans and those who enjoy the darker side of politics.
Many will know that I have read and enjoyed novels by D.W. Buffa in the past, both political and legal thrillers. The mix has added a new level of intrigue for me, particularly with Joseph Antonelli in the mix. The reader, who has learned much about Antonelli in the past, is subjected to something a little different. The opening chapter retells some of his early memories from childhood, as well as the annual trips he took to San Francisco to visit family. Now, with a handle on criminal defense work, he is back, though his family life takes a backseat—save for a paragraph long explanation of what happened to his fiancée after the end of the previous novel. Rather, Antonelli is forced to dive into the world of politics and legal work in the ‘big city’. Antonelli finds himself wandering around, learning scraps here and there, while also trying to use this to distract from his client being accused of a capital crime. As with the past novels, the masterful courtroom work is what makes Antonelli such an interesting character. Others pepper the pages of the book and offer interesting tangential narratives, exploring more about the victim and how politics can change someone. While the impatient reader may complain about too much weighing things down, it is Buffa’s style to slowly draw the reader in with characters whose lives are anything but simple. The story held my attention throughout, mixing criminal law with the mudslinging of politics. Buffa never makes reading his novels easy, but the narrative is full of nuggets to keep the reader on their toes, with rewards for remaining dedicated. The legal arguments are presented well and leave the reader to wonder where the truth can be found. I am fully committed to the series and cannot wait to see what else Buffa has for his protagonist, with new approaches to criminal defence emerging. Not a courtroom thriller series for all, though surely perfect for a reader who enjoys being an active part of the journey.
Kudos, Mr. Buffa, for another winner. I cannot wait to see what comes in the next novel you have in this series.
A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons