An inharmonious glee club warbles murderously in an off-key Margolin (The Associate, 2001, etc.).
Sing a song of wheel and deal, pockets full of dirty money. This is the dissonant theme of the Vaughn Street Glee Club, a dismal secret society composed of highly placed Portland, Oregon, low-lifes. They’ll steal anything not nailed down, corrupt anyone who breathes, and murder faster than you can say Tony Soprano. What’s more, they’ve been at it for years, ever since, as spoiled-rotten juvvies fledging wayward wings, they highjacked and slaughtered en masse a hard-bitten but overconfident gang of drug-dealers. Flash forward 30 years. Harold Travis, a Vaughn Street charter member, is suddenly in trouble—most unfortunate, since his colleagues viewed him as the odds-on favorite to become president of the US. But Harold, a confirmed womanizer, has been unduly enthusiastic with a call girl, taking her permanently out of service. Before this problem can be “managed” in the vaunted Vaughn Street manner, Harold, too, experiences an abrupt and mysterious demise. And now insider Jon Dupre, pimp to the powerful (Vaughn Streeters have long employed him), is on trial for Harold’s murder, a circumstance obviously fraught with danger. So, send in the hit men. Enter, too, as court-appointed defense counsel, the brave and brilliant—not too bad-looking, either—attorney Amanda Jaffe, who soon finds herself facing a sort of extralegal double jeopardy: the need to avoid death for both herself and her client. Not easy. “Superior men play by their own rules” is a bedrock Vaughn aphorism, in keeping with which poor Amanda is beaten, shot at, nearly raped, and otherwise discomfited. But, at last, the evil choristers, richly deserving discordant ends, stumble and are caught off-base.
Earlier in his career, Margolin was a robust if rough-around-the-edges storyteller; lately, however, pulpish characters and porous plotting have become his characteristics.