By Phillip Margolin
HarperLuxe Large Print Edition, 2009, 480 pages
Genre: Legal Thriller
Reviewed by Israel Drazin - July 17, 2009
Courage, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote, is the golden mean between cowardly and a foolhardy behavior. Courageous soldiers do not rush pell-mell unprotected against machine gun fire or slink back fearfully behind tall safe rocks; they move forward cautiously to destroy the machine gun fire.
This definition is certainly philosophically correct, but it is frequently untrue in real life, as shown in Phillip Margolin's excellent legal thriller Fugitive, because the "hero" client in a nationally-publicized murder case is a coward. He had saved a prison warden twelve years earlier from being killed and he had persuaded a crazed killer to release his hostages, but he only did so because of his faint-hearted fear of how he might be hurt. People viewing his act, but not reading his mind, thought he acted courageously.
Charlie Marsh is an attractive con man. He took advantage of his new-found fame to bilk thousands of people out of their hard earned cash. He was enormously successful – leading seminars, having a seven figure book deal and a movie of his life – until he formed a foolhardy liaison with the wife of a congressman, the son of a multi-millionaire with wide political connections. The congressman discovered what his wife was doing, confronted her in front of Charlie, and was shot.
Two hardened criminals were present during the shooting. One of them committed vicious crimes that Charlie said he committed in order to enhance his image of a hardened criminal converted into a saintly hero. The criminal insisted that Charlie pay him a percentage of the money he made off of his, the criminal's, reputation.
Who shot the congressman? Why was he shot? Was Charlie, who had used others, now being used by the congressman's wife? What revenge will her father-in-law let loose? Should Charlie stay and be tried or should he run?
The lead character in this novel, as in three of Margolin's previous thirteen books, is Amanda Jaffe, a very resourceful and competent defense attorney. There is a single plot in Fugitive, but it has several interesting developments.
Amanda's father represented Charlie's lover when Charlie ran to an African nation to escape being tried for the congressman's murder. The congressman's father, seeking revenge, persuaded the district attorney to try her for complicity in the murder.
Aristotle, the Greek philosopher who is not mentioned in this novel, also advised people to develop proper habits. People, he taught, act according to the habits they made part of their nature. Con man Charlie, who used his skills to manipulate others, never learnt to control himself. True to form, he developed a sexual relation with the madman African dictator's wife, who like the congressman's father now seeks to kill him. After being in Africa for a dozen years, Charlie escapes the dictator's wrath and returns to the US, preferring to be tried for murder than facing the tortures that the dictator wants to inflict upon him.
Now back in the US, Charlie faces three people trying to kill him for revenge: the congressman's father, the criminal whose life he plagiarized and the crazy African dictator.
Phillip Margolin interweaves the three attempts at revenge and Charlie's trial masterfully, making this thirteenth novel a very enjoyable reading.
Dr. Israel Drazin is the author of a series of books on Maimonides, a twelfth century rational philosopher, and the co-author of a series of books on Targum Onkelos, the earliest existing translation of the Hebrew Bible. Both are published by Gefen Publishing House, www.israelbooks.com.