Twelve years after fleeing a murder rap, “Satan’s Guru” turns himself over to Portland attorney Amanda Jaffe, whose father successfully defended his alleged co-conspirator.
When Charlie Marsh vanished after shooting Congressman Arnold Pope Jr., his lover Sally’s husband, he was rich and famed throughout America as the self-help guru who preached the power of Inner Light™. High-profile fugitives have to go a long way to disappear, and Charlie’s path took him to Batanga, a no-extradition African dictatorship evidently modeled stone by stone on the Uganda of The Last King of Scotland. Made first an honored visitor, then a celebrity pet by President for Life Jean-Claude Baptiste, Charlie inevitably struck up an affair with one of Batanga’s First Ladies, considerably shortening her life. Reading in her mutilated corpse his own future, “a fate too grizzly to describe,” Charlie wangles a trip back home that involves a series of exclusive interviews with callow tabloid World News reporter Dennis Levy; an agreement to smuggle diamonds for Batangan rebels; and a surrender to Portland DA Karl Burdett. Still smarting because his case against Sally Pope was dismissed with prejudice over a decade ago, Burdett greets Charlie the way a starving man greets a juicy steak. But his legal troubles may be the least of Charlie’s problems. Nathan Tuazama, Baptiste’s fearsome enforcer, has followed him from Batanga. Mickey Keys, the literary agent who sold Charlie out to the Feds, wants another piece of him. Formidable Arnold Pope Sr. is determined to avenge his son’s death. As Charlie’s leaving his bail hearing, a sniper’s bullet nearly punches his ticket. Can Amanda (Proof Positive, 2006, etc.) get her client off the hook? And does he deserve to go free?
Margolin’s mishmash of plots is as messy as ever, with everybody apparently hell-bent on harming everybody else. Readers who persevere to the last chapter, however, are in for a nifty surprise.