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Ham-fisted, corpse-clogged legal procedural from defense-lawyer/first-novelist Buffa. Joe Antonelli is just too good a lawyer to be true: He's won about every case he's ever taken, including those involving clients so obviously guilty that his mentor, Senior Circuit Judge Leopold Rifkin, compares him to Athenian pretty boy Alcibiades, the air-headed contemporary of Socrates with whom, Rifkin insists enigmatically, Antonelli shares an ""erotic"" persuasiveness. Instead of recommending that Rifkin double-check his Plato for this kinky misreading of Greek social ethics, Antonelli accepts Rifkin's challenge to defend Johnny Morel, an especially loathsome piece of human slime who's accused of raping his 12-year-old stepdaughter Michelle. Morel insists he's innocent, and, despite flunking a lie detector test, demands that Antonelli refuse a plea bargain and go to trial. While doing background work, Antonelli fends off the seductive advances of Michelle's drug-addled mother, Denise. Meanwhile, Denise's estranged lesbian lover, Myrna Albright (""Funny,"" she tells Antonelli, ""you don't look like a court-appointed lawyer""), hints darkly that there's more to this case than he thinks. Soon enough Johnny is found dead, followed by Denise. Judge Rifkin, of all people, is accused, and picks Antonelli to defend him. As has become typical for the genre, Buffa has Antonelli cynically jigger the system to acquit a client with whom Antonelli's interests are conflicted, only to have Antonelli discover that someone has been manipulating him all along. Cool courtroom high jinks mired in forced plotting, clumsy dialogue, and the author's clear loathing of the legal trade.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Henry Holt