The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 22, 2010

Review: Legal thriller full of plot twists


“Fugitive”

By Phillip Margolin

(Playaway MP3 audiobook)

Margolin’s latest thriller revolves around Charlie Marsh, a small-time thief and con man.

In 1997, Charlie is serving a prison sentence when he saves the warden’s life during a prison riot and becomes a national hero. He takes advantage of the situation by writing a largely fictional book about his life. The book becomes a bestseller, allowing Charlie to live the high life.

Sally Pope, wife of a prominent congressman, and Charlie have an affair. Sally’s husband, Arnold discovers evidence of the affair and confronts them at a book signing that Sally hosts for Charlie.

Arnold is shot and killed and Sally faces a murder charge, although no one saw the shooter. Charlie is charged as an accomplice.

Amanda Jaffe watches in the courtroom as her father, Frank, successfully defends Sally and gains her acquittal. Charlie flees to Batanga, Africa to avoid his own murder trial.

For twelve years, Charlie works for the Batangan dictator Jean Claude Baptiste. When the dictator discovers that Charlie has been sleeping with one of his wives, he has his wife tortured and killed.

Charlie decides that facing death row in the United States is preferable to the fate he will meet at the hands of the sadistic dictator.

Charlie calls upon Martha Brice, editor-in-chief of “World News” for help in making his escape. She provides the money and makes the plans for Charlie’s harrowing exit from Africa.

He leaves Africa entrusted with a package of diamonds for safekeeping. The diamonds are intended to fund a resistance movement against the African dictator at a future date.

So Brice hires Amanda Jaffe to defend Charlie in his murder trial. Amanda enlists her father to assist an investigation into the events surrounding the congressman’s murder twelve years ago.

Charlie and Amanda quickly discover that the African dictator has sent one of his enforcers to get the diamonds back and to deal with Charlie. Amanda faces two challenges—to clear her client and to protect him from persons that want him dead.

Margolin’s legal thriller, with its non-stop action and gripping plot twists, add suspense until you reach the surprising and shocking conclusion. Narrator Jonathan Davis engages you with his strong delivery, providing unique voices for the intriguing characters while keeping the drama high. Phillip Margolin has written yet another winner featuring Amanda Jaffe.

“Shatter”

By Michael Robotham

(Playaway MP3 audiobook)

Robotham’s protagonist is clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin, who teaches psychology at the University of Bath. He and his beautiful wife, Julianne, have been married for twenty years and have two young daughters, but he suffers from the onset of Parkinson’s disease.

Joe’s life changes unexpectedly when he is called by the police to go to the Clifton Suspension Bridge to talk down a woman who is about to jump.

He arrives at the bridge to find a woman standing in the rain sobbing into a cell phone. She is naked except for her shoes. Still on the phone, she turns to Joe and says, “You don’t understand,” and steps off the bridge.

The police rule it suicide and close the case. Joe isn’t so sure.

The sixteen-year-old daughter of Christine Wheeler, the dead woman, appears at Joe’s home a few days later. Darcy Wheeler flatly states that her mother would never commit suicide — certainly not by jumping, since she was terrified of heights.

Darcy begs Joe to find out what really caused her mother to jump. Joe’s doubts about the police’s suicide theory intensify.

Another dead woman is discovered hanging from a tree, also naked with a cell phone nearby. Joe learns that she was Christine Wheeler’s business partner. He calls upon his friend Vincent Ruiz, a retired chief inspector, to help him figure out who is manipulating these women into killing themselves, apparently from the other end of their cell phones — and why.

Joe is able to prevent a third murder victim, but then the killer strikes very close to home.

Australian author Michael Robotham’s novel “Shatter” is a compelling suspense-filled psychological thriller. Chapters written from the villain’s perspective reveal a very dark and twisted personality.

British actor Sean Barrett’s fine narration lends depth to the characters and the chilling plot twists.

Phyllis Seesengood is the technical services librarian at Joplin Public Library.