Apparently, underemployed Philadelphia lawyer Victor Carl’s first seven cases (A Killer’s Kiss, 2007, etc.) have left him sufficiently starry-eyed to be capable of rude disillusionment when he runs into a bruising congressional campaign, and vice versa.
Congressman Peter DeMathis’ usual bagman, Colin Frost, has been picked up with too much heroin for his own personal use. Although Victor’s old classmate Melanie Brooks gets Victor to take the case, and the judge is persuaded to throw out the crucial evidence by a broad hint of blackmail, Frost’s gotten enough unwanted publicity to make him anathema to DeMathis. So Melanie invites Victor to take his place and deliver a $50,000 extortion payment to inoffensive Jessica Barnes. The fallout is immediate. Very soon after their meeting, Jessica is battered to death, and the police pluck Victor from the Governor’s Ball and send him shrieking into the headlines as well. On the other hand, there’s an upside: When Victor enters his office the next day, it’s full of potential clients who assume he has a long history as a bagman and want to hire him as their own personal fixer. Seeing no reason why he shouldn’t enjoy the silver lining along with the cloud, Victor allows veteran fixer Stony Mulroney, in the tale’s most amusing episode, to initiate him into the Fellowship of the Bag, a select circle of well-connected specialists who fix each other’s problems for an undisclosed markup. But there’s no way his job for the congressman or his fling with Ossana DeMathis, the congressman’s sister, are going to come to happy ends.
Vigorous but routine, with a particularly thin set of bogeymen behind the felonies. And isn’t it about time hard-bitten Victor, who improbably turns crusader toward the end of this installment, lost his last illusions about politics, ethics and the Philadelphia bar?