I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Death's Witness by Paul Batista
Published by Sourcebooks: Landmark on October 1, 2006
Genres: Mystery, Suspense
When Tom Perini, a legendary Heisman Trophy winner turned criminal lawyer, is found brutally murdered in Central Park, his widow Julie not only must unravel the mysteries of her husband's secret double life, but survive long enough to discover the truth. A thriller and courtroom drama of corruption and greed so authentic it leads like tomorrow's headlines.
The set up
Tom Perini is a former Heisman Trophy winner and New York Jets quarterback now working in New York City as a lawyer. Life is great, he’s admired by everyone, is happily married to Julie and loving father to 2 1/2 year old Kim. He comes home and goes for a run in Central Park and that’s the last time his wife sees him alive.
Tom was one of several attorneys representing clients, including a U.S. congressman, charged by the U.S. attorney of racketeering, bribery, money laundering and various other related charges. Tom’s client is the head of a trucking empire and is suddenly without representation. Things begin to unravel as the investigation into Tom’s murder starts to shift from finding his killer to sullying his reputation. Julie begins a one-woman campaign to try to push for justice, especially when others associated with Tom and/or the case get murdered.
This was a really interesting case with lots of twists and surprises. You gradually learned more about those associated with it and Tom, creating a clearer picture to help make deductions. The path to the clues was intriguing and it was difficult to sometimes tell the good guys from the evil as so many were flawed. Things progressed quickly at a pace that helped move the story along.
What didn’t work so well
Julie emerges as a main character early on but I never could connect with her. By the end of the book, I still didn’t feel as if I had a complete picture of who she was or what really motivated her, which had her showing up unpredictably. One minute she’s a severe introvert and the next she’s doing things that totally belie that nature. Her sudden romance was just that, cropping up seemingly from nowhere without any foundation for the pairing. Vincent Sorrentino, the lead attorney for the case, was a central figure but his characterization was also cloudy. Even Tom remained an enigma to the very end. I think the story may have been better served with far less detail about inconsequential things and more time devoted to developing these characters.
One thing that bothered me a lot was the preponderance of racial stereotyping. It often threw me out of the story as, this being a third person narrative, the character observations were not directly attributed to a speaking character or his or her thoughts. It occurred enough that I started tracking them.
The bottom line
This is an interesting story with unusual and intriguing circumstances. I was immediately drawn into the story and was invested in the outcome. In the end, however, I still didn’t feel like I understood the main characters or the hapless Tom Perini. That’s the biggest mystery of the story and it still remains.