LEGALLY DEAD by Edna Buchanan


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A disillusioned U.S. Marshal leaves the Witness Protection Program to freelance.

The case that puts Michael Venturi over the top is the rape and murder of two children by Gino Salvi, a witness in a union corruption case whose fondness for little girls was well-known to the federal agents who gave him a new identity and relocated him to an unsuspecting New Hampshire town. Venturi finds a way to make Salvi pay for his latest crimes, but before he can quit the Witness Protection Program in protest, he’s scapegoated and fired. Retreating to Miami to lick his wounds with his Marine buddy Danny Trado, he rescues Lyle Gates, a disgraced NASA engineer, from a suicide attempt, then persuades Gates to let Venturi fake his death and send him off to a new life where nobody will know the vile rumors about his past. Warming to his work, Venturi, aided by a number of old friends and ex-colleagues who just happen to have exactly the skills for faking death scenes and creating new identities, repeats the experiment with a pair of wrongfully convicted molesters, a threatened judge and a wealthy widow whose greedy children want to declare her incompetent so that they can help themselves to her fortune. These episodes are absorbing but slack; minor variations in individual cases aren’t enough to mask the fact that Venturi and his chums keep making the same moves with equal success every time. Not until the story’s second half do serious complications kick in with the news that several of the informants Venturi helped place in the Witness Protection Program have died. Then his current crop of clients begin to die too. Why, and at whose hand?

The creator of Britt Montero (Love Kills, 2007, etc.) keeps the pages fluttering, even though suspense doesn’t begin to build until late in the game.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9477-5
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2008


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