"The combination of mass murder, black-market organ sales, torture and a handsome physician . . . dubbed Dr. Death by the tabloids" fuels Margolin's fifth transcendently commercial two-act thriller (The Undertaker’s Widow, 1998, etc.).
Act One kicks off when Bobby Vasquez, a Portland vice cop acting on a tip that St. Francis Hospital surgeon Vincent Cardoni has just purchased two kilos of cocaine from notorious drug supplier (and organ purchaser) Martin Breach, peeks into the fridge in Dr. Cardoni's isolated cabin and discovers two severed heads. After the cops dig up nine tortured bodies on the property, Cardoni is imprisoned without bail, even though he charmlessly insists that he's innocent and that his estranged wife, St. Francis surgical resident Justine Castle, must be framing him. Veteran criminal attorney Frank Jaffe and his latest associate, his daughter Amanda, get evidence that allows them, much to their discomfort, to get the charges dismissed, and their client promptly disappears, with every indication that he's dead. Four years later, Act Two opens when Dr. Castle is lured to another farm to discover a similar scene of sadistic torture just as the Multnomah County police arrive. Stridently proclaiming her own innocence, she tells Frank and Amanda that she's being framed by her dead husband, who must not be dead after all. Meantime, the Jaffes' investigators—including Bobby Vasquez, hungry for redemption after being kicked off the Portland force—are digging up evidence that makes both husband and wife look guilty as hell. Will Amanda, as Justine's lead attorney, figure out which of them to believe before she finds herself in the killer's torture chamber?
The relentless barrage of gruesome murders and counter-accusations creates a legal thriller that's crude, grisly, horrific, and often suspenseful, though never exactly scary, except when you wonder about the citizens who are buying this stuff.