The 7th Canon of the American Bar Association code: “A lawyer should represent a client zealously within the bounds of the law.” Whenever that phrase is uttered in any media platform, it’s a dead giveaway that the case under consideration will be challenging. The defendant is in a lot of trouble and we, the audience, are in for a thrill ride.
Peter Donley, three years out of law school, is working for his Uncle Lou’s law firm in the Tenderloin section of San Francisco, not the best address in town. He is indebted to his uncle for helping him and his mother at a rough time in their lives and is grateful for the job, but a growing family dictates that it is time to move on. He has a plum offer and is about to give his uncle notice, when Lou is hospitalized with a heart attack.
Uncle Lou's biggest client is the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and when one of the priests is charged with the murder of a teenager in his care, as well as possible pornographic acts, Donley catches the case, since Lou will need time to recover. The assignment looks dicey, but Donley owes it to his uncle to follow the 7th canon.
Father Tom Martin, complete with shaved head, an earring, and a tattoo, is not the typical parish priest, but he’s just right for the boys’ shelter in the Tenderloin. He’s been the dedicated champion of this safe haven for street kids for years. The disconnect? The evidence points to the priest; there is blood everywhere and Tom had opportunity, if not motive. Thing is, he says he didn’t do it.
Fr. Tom is being railroaded, but why? And why is everyone in such a rush to file the motions and convict the guy?
Donley must deal with the murdered teen, elusive complicit witnesses, and the evidence found at the scene, all pushing him to his emotional limits. In the process, Donley’s personal demons are forced to the surface, and Dugoni delivers another complex central character. An ambitious DA, the Chief Prosecutor, the former Governor of California, and a cop gunning for revenge, are among the tightly drawn supporting cast. There are lots of secrets with people very interested in hiding them, and we are reminded that evil often wears a suit and tie.
This book (a dozen versions ago) was written before the critically acclaimed David Sloane series, but placed in a drawer in favor of other novels that were published at the time. “The 7th Canon” is a standalone novel, but fans of Dugoni since the beginning will recognize certain similarities between the Sloane/Jenkins team and the Donley/Ross team. It’s great fun to see the differences in personalities, and how they approach the cases, as well as the impact that their backgrounds have on their behavior and life choices. Fun fact: “The 7th Canon” is set in the late 1980s, so no emails or cellphones figure into the plot.
Politics, sex, police procedure, religion, abuse, and the courtroom, make for a powerful combination, and Dugoni has woven a masterful tapestry of suspense.
“The 7th Canon” is a finalist in the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award Fiction Adult Thriller category. Well deserved!
*Note: contains adult situations/themes and sporadic adult language.
Read my review of “In the Clearing” here.
Please visit www.robertdugoni.com for information about Dugoni’s appearances, his awards, and his other terrific books. Read ‘em all, folks. 🙂