The 7th Canon: Robert Dugoni
When a priest is accused of murdering a young man who is supposed to protect the evidence piles up but did he really commit the crime? A man goes to court and claims someone is trying to take about his pet Albert. Albert is quite astute as he can sing the theme from the Andy Griffith show which might help his owner win the case but will he? What happens when a man claiming to be Elvis goes to create his will can he really be sane enough to distribute his estate? The story centers around attorney Peter Donley who is thrown into a dangerous arena filled with corruption, deceit, lies and murder in order to free a well known priest from jail and a death sentence and trying to figure out how to get Albert to sing and convince a jury the man claiming to be Elvis is sane.
Father Thomas Martin just wanted to create a save haven for young boys that were misguided, into prostitution, drugs, violence and more. Andrew Bennett made his way to the shelter but his demeanor allowed the Father Martin to hesitate since he did not allow anyone strung out or drunk to stay the night. Usually closing and locking the front and back doors at a certain time he delayed, went to the recreation room, recorded the names of those that would stay the night never expecting to find the badly burned body of Andrew Bennett. Located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco this hustler, drug dealer and misguided teen found himself at the shelter for refuge but for some reason he left. How he got back in and returned is at the heart of this mystery. As the story progresses and the Priest is arrested and placed in a cell the DA who has here eyes on the Attorney General’s job wants to bury the Priest and create a case that she thinks will be air tight.
Dixon Connor is an angry, demented and violence cop who broke down the door to the Priest’s office and conducted an illegal search without a search warrant. Suspended and told to take a long leave of absence he is bent on taking down not only the Priest but anyone associated with what happened to his father in the past and using force, blackmail and threats are not beyond his realm of expertise. As you hear his voice and listen to his words you begin to wonder just why he survived on the force for so long and who has his back. Gil Ramsey is the Attorney General who has his eyes on greener pastures but has to deal with his demanding father, Augustus and the secrets they share that might just bring them both down. But, when Danny Simeon goes to investigate something for the Priest, the police have already arrived and they think he is the killer and what happens next allows readers to know just how dangerous Connor is which explains why his boss suspended him.
Peter Donley is helping to create the case for defending the Priest and his uncle Lou is his boss. But, not watching his diet, overweight and high blood pressure cause him to have a heart attack and stroke leaving Peter in an unusual position having to take on the case if the Priest will allow it. Things for Donley often spiral out of control as demons from his past, his abusive father and what happened the night he died comes flooding back as author Robert Dugoni shares many graphic scenes with readers.
Linda St. Claire is a tough prosecutor nicknamed THE CHAIR referring to the electric chair and she will do anything to crucify the Priest and evidence whether real or circumstantial she did not really care. When the call about the body in the shelter came in Connor and his partner John Begley got it and learned there was a dead body in the shelter.
Ruth-Bell is a pistol and his uncle’s secretary who ran the law office equally as well as his uncle and when she called to tell him that his uncle was in the hospital and might not make it, his first thought was what now!
Augustus Ramsey is dangerous, ornery and the father of the Attorney General who had high ambitions for him and who was harboring a secret that would be revealed about their past if it got out and would ruin both of their lives. As he explains to his son how things will go and the fact that he never attained the position in government he wanted he expected Gilbert to handle the case his way.
When Peter finally meets with the Priest after a startling first encounter in the jail he barely speaks and explains very little until they go to court, he’s forced to be at the arraignment and when a plea is asked for Peter says he needs more time but the Priest straight out declares his innocence. The year is 1987 when car phones were just coming into play, videotapes and cassettes and people were driving bigger cars as 28 year old Peter Donley, with only three years of practicing law, with his wife Kim and son Benny will now find himself on a downward spiral that might lead to more than one person’s demise and destruction. The 7th Canon: “A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of law.” Peter Donley aims to do that at all costs. But, money is tight and his wife is a medical resident and the first scene dealing with the ownership of an African Gray Parrot sets the message for readers to know that he will defend a client at all costs using any means possible. Father Thomas Martin, the Priest of Polk Street, and runs the shelter for these boys and the area called Polk Gulch is filled with these type of kids and when Andrew Bennett is murdered and he is arrested the evidence is huge and Lou Giantelli, who is Peter’s uncle, represents the Archdiocese. With his uncle incapacitated and the DA and St. Claire itching to close the case anyway they can with a win for them both, things take on an ugly turn. But, his uncle hired Frank Ross a private detective whose skills are great and whom Donley hopes will help him clear the Priest. As Donley begins to piece together what might have really happened and then attends the arraignment, meets a tough judge who won’t allow anything to disrupt his courtroom, Peter is about to take on the fight of not only his life but the Priest’s too. So, why in a murder-one arrest would the DA suggest offering a plea? What happens when we learn more about Connor and his threats against several of the boys and what really happened that night? Who opened the door and let someone in? Who is Red and what part did he play and why is he afraid of Connor? Looking past what is obvious and hoping to find his way to safe the priest, Donley fights his own past as the author takes us inside his mind and allows us to witness his most serious fears. Accused of murder and of being a pedophile, the story focuses on values, morals, and dirty cops and priests. But, the other side digs into the Priest’s past and learns more about his teen years, getting in trouble with the law and wants to use it as a jumping point or starting point at trial. The author’s defense of the Catholic Church and what has been in the news in the past about dirty priests accused of being pedophiles, and finally the author through both Peter, Father Martin and even his wife Kim help teach readers that they have to learn to forgive themselves before others will and their pasts might haunt them but the present needs to be focused upon. With a father that was abusive and violent coming home drunk many times and a mother who needed his protection will Peter finally realize that sometimes the road taken is the only one that is truly paved. Meeting with the Archdeacon, Donatello Parnisi we learn of his allegiance to the priest and understand why his uncle took on clients that do no pay since the Archdioceses finances the rest. With his letter opener as one weapon and links to other young people murdered uncovered by Ross, the common denominator is their lifestyle and the burns found on all of the bodies. With a DA who will do anything to get a win, a prosecutor with little moral fiber and a killer who will stop at nothing short of more murders to take on not only Peter, Ross and the Priest but the entire legal system too.
Author Robert Dugoni takes us back in time when technology was not as advanced as it is now and to a shelter whose purpose it is to save the unsavory and hopefully change their ways. With Danny Simeon as his possible alibi that he could not have killed Andrew the ending will startle and stun readers as more lives are in danger and just who will come out alive and who will learn that sometimes defending a client to the best of your ability you hope is enough to honor the meaning of the 7th Canon.
Peter Donley is a complex character with many hidden layers as if Father Martin. The DA is hiding something from his past and his father will stop at nothing to prevent him from revealing it. Dixon Connor is vicious and dangerous and when Peter comes face to face with the killer his life is not the only one that will change. With his life hanging in the balance and danger coming to his wife just who will survive what the killer’s final plan is and who will be ready to serve justice another day? This looks like the author might have two strong characters in Peter Donley and Frank Ross to possibly team up once again and start another series.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine