Good legal drama, emphasis on legal. The book bogs down when it strays away from the courtroom.
VP Browning is an interesting character. We learn he memorized Lincoln's 2nd inaugural address, "to make it his own," and that ever since the United States had gone downhill, that that address represented the pinnacle of American history. He attended Harvard Law School not to become a lawyer, but because he wanted to learn the law. Now, stunted in his role as vice-president, he finds himself under attack and a former classmate, Jimmy Haviland, under indictment for the murder of Annie Malreaux whom they both loved who had ostensibly fallen from a window years before. Browning hires Antonelli to be his classmate's attorney, with the goal of insulating himself from the political fallout. Clearly, Browning, and Antonelli, believe that the purpose of the trial is not to convict a killer, but to bring Browning into disrepute so he cannot run for president against the current President Walker. As Antonelli notes in his opening statement,, "Why would the prosecution not call the only witness to the death, someone who was present in the room when Annie fell or was pushed from their hotel room to her death many years earlier, a death that had officially been ruled an accident.
The premise that the White House would resurrect a twenty-year-old case to embarrass the sitting VP so they could get him to resign and not run for president so they could appoint a new Chief Justice as the current Chief is in the hospital and expected to expire soon (let me catch my breath) is bizarre if not ridiculous.
For some reason, this book has a flavor similar to those of Richard North Patterson, and I kept having the feeling I had read it before, unlikely. It reeks of middle age disillusionment, political corruption, and hidden agendas. Everyone has his trust breached.
Layering a book with seemingly irrelevant digressions can be tricky. The reader has to have some interest in the subject of those digressions which often are at the expense of plot. Buffa manages to pull it off in this book -- most of the time. Things will be cooking along nicely in the courtroom and then, as if he has no prep work to do, he'll trot off someplace or with someone and muse upon his life and friends. Stick to the courtroom.