Review

The Legacy

by D. W. Buffa



There's an author --- I'm not going to name him, as it would serve
no purpose --- who wrote a book of fiction over 10 years ago that
was, and still is, a masterpiece. It was a tale of murder and
suspense, of courtroom procedures and lawyers, and was on the
bestseller lists for months and months. People who didn't
ordinarily read books read this one and reread it. It was adapted
into a film that was disappointing, if only because it had no hope
of capturing the mood of the book upon which it was based. The
author, for whatever reason, has been unable to even come close to
matching the magic of that one novel. He followed up with other
novels that were at best competent and at worst almost unreadable.
It would be fair to say that his dwindling readership at this point
is limited to those of us who keep picking up each new, sporadic
release, hoping that somehow he will match the power of that
earlier one.

Which brings us to D. W. Buffa. Buffa practiced law as a defense
attorney in Portland, Oregon; he is apparently retired from that
profession, choosing instead to write novels concerning Joseph
Antonelli, a defense attorney who sees justice, and guilt, in terms
of black and white. Buffa has not only captured the magic of the
novel that I alluded to earlier (which he did not write) but also
continues to sustain it. It is as if he picked up where the other
author left off. And we are richer for it.

Buffa now resides in the Bay Area of Northern California. This,
perhaps, accounts for the change of scenery in THE LEGACY, the
fourth of Buffa's novels concerning Antonelli. THE LEGACY finds
Buffa in San Francisco, defending a young man accused of shooting
and killing Jeremy Fullerton, a United States senator, in the front
seat of his car in an apparently random act of street violence. But
the suspect is not some street punk with a revolving door, repeat
offender history; he is a Berkeley pre-med student who is beating
the odds and working his way through school. The case against
Antonelli's client, however, seems airtight.

As Antonelli begins to investigate the circumstances of the
Senator's life and death, he discovers that Fullerton, while
enormously popular with the electorate, was an amoral, nihilistic
opportunist who was loathed by almost everyone who came into
contact with him. And that is only the beginning. Antonelli's
investigation follows a trail that leads straight to the office of
the governor of the state of California --- and perhaps beyond.
When Antonelli begins asking questions, he attracts attention from
individuals who will do anything to ensure that their secrets
remain secret.

Buffa's forte has never been the intricacies of the mystery
presented in each of his books. Experienced readers will be able to
dope out "whodunit" a third of the way through THE LEGACY. That
fact will not spoil or disturb their enjoyment of the book one bit,
nor will it alter the compelling nature of the narrative. Buffa's
ability to cast a spell through his storytelling is marvelous. In
THE LEGACY, his ability to describe the city of San Francisco, it's
inhabitants, and the inner workings of the city (without resorting
to leaning on the more sordid elements found there) is amazing. He
gets it so right and so on target that upon reading THE LEGACY one
is tempted to drop everything and immediately travel there. And for
a former native of The City, it is like reading an account about a
former lover who, until that moment, you didn't realize you missed.
Similarly, Buffa's descriptions of what occurs during the course of
a trial, inside and outside of the courtroom, are quite simply
without equal. For the layman, Buffa's account will be revealing
and mesmerizing; for the litigator, it will recall their own
experiences before the bench and in chambers.

The biggest mystery surrounding Buffa is why he has not achieved
the commercial success equal to the critical acclaim he has
received and so obviously deserves. Over a relatively short span of
four novels, he has demonstrated that he cannot only play, but also
stay, for as long as he chooses to. Any fan of literature of any
genre who is not familiar with his work is needlessly depriving
themselves.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

The Legacy
by D. W. Buffa

  • Publication Date: July 1, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense
  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446527386
  • ISBN-13: 9780446527385