AFTER DARK by Phillip Margolin


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Second-novel blues for Margolin (Gone, But Not Forgotten, 1993): a murky, juiceless legal thriller in which lawyers hire lawyers when they're accused of killing other lawyers. A month after his law clerk Laura Rizzati is killed after-hours in the Portland courthouse, Oregon Supreme Court justice Robert Griffen is blown up in a bombing that looks just like the work of Charlie Deems, whose earlier conviction on homicide and drug charges Griffen himself reversed, setting Deems free. But the DA's office is looking even closer to home for Griffen's killer: They think Griffen's estranged wife, Abigail, a star county prosecutor, arranged the bombing in order to save herself $2 million in alimony and then framed Deems, whom she'd fought to put away before her almost-ex overturned the conviction. Calling on cadaverous Matthew Reynolds, unblushingly described as ""America's most famous criminal defense attorney"" -- the man she's been trying cases against until the day the police take her off in cuffs -- Abbie vows to fight the unholy alliance of Deems and her buddies at the DA's office. After all, it's her word against a convicted killer's, right? And for a while it looks as if the unexpectedly shifting patterns of alliances and betrayals -- Abbie's old gang accuses her of hiring a felon to kill the man she once loved, and she's defended by a former courtroom nemesis who seems to be sweet on her himself -- seem to promise a ripe payoff. No sooner has Margolin set up this web of ironies, though, than Reynolds's rookie clerk Tracy Cavanaugh, a friend of Laura Rizzati's, turns up some new evidence of a motive that links the two murders (or does it?); the characters get tired of stalking each other and start shooting; and it's all over but for the canned romantic fadeout. Less crudely sensationalistic than Margolin's striking, overheated debut, but also less vigorously plotted, with a dewy-eyed view of legal lust that wouldn't fool a sleepy judge.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Doubleday