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The Legacy    by D. W. Buffa order for
by D. W. Buffa
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2002)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The credibility of the details of this author's courtroom scenes are not surprising since he had ten years experience as a defence attorney. He adds to that in The Legacy the San Francisco murder of a brilliant and charismatic U.S. Senator with serious presidential aspirations and enemies at the highest levels in the land. A young black pre-med student is shot fleeing the scene. Joseph Antonelli is asked by his cousin Bobby to consider taking on Jamaal's defense, to be paid for by Bobby's partner Albert Craven, who happens to be an old friend of the young man's mother.

At first sight in his hospital bed, clean-cut Jamaal does not match the stereotypical picture of the 'mindless predator' who would kill for the contents of a wallet. Antonelli readily believes his story of going to help after hearing a shot, but the odds are stacked against his client. It is in the interests of the many who benefit from Jeremy Fullerton's death (including the governor and the president), that it be dismissed as murder in the act of robbery. Fullerton was amoral in his quest for power and seemed unbeatable (by normal means) to his enemies and his allies. The latter included powermonger Lawrence Goldman and his lovely daughter Ariella, who was both the Senator's speechwriter and his lover.

Antonelli's focus on a defense is disturbed by seemingly paranoid warnings of danger from ex-KGB agent Bogdonovitch, and by his growing interest in Marissa Kane, whom he finds 'interesting and exotic, like something out of a painting by Gauguin'. As the case progresses and the defense lawyer exploits the mutual hatred between the judge and district attorney, action heats up outside the courtroom and peril creeps up close, and much too personal, for Antonelli. Like Gauguin, Buffa paints his thriller on a large canvas, his characters in bold colors, from the protagonist himself who dares to direct suspicion on high in defense of his client, to the fleshy and frightening observer of events who warns the lawyer against suggesting 'conspiracy and cover-up'.

It's a well-developed and absorbing story, with quite a few surprises thrown in, and some fascinating connections between the case and the lawyer, who shares with the defendant a lack of knowledge of his father's identity, and whose Grandpa was forced to give up his own fortune to Lawrence Goldman's grandfather. I enjoyed the courtroom drama, the mystery itself, the striking descriptions of San Francisco, and especially Antonelli's inditement of those whom the dream of power corrupts. His final musing on Jeremy Fullerton says it all ... 'He was in love with what he was going to become and lived so much in the future that the things he had to do to get there were buried in the past almost before he had done them.'

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