Ties That Bind // by Phillip Margolin


//published 2003//

A couple of weeks ago I read the first book in Margolin’s Amanda Jaffe series, Wild Justice.  It was a very solid outing and I was excited/a little scared about reading the second.  But there was no need to fear – Ties That Bind was another gripping tale that had me flying through the pages.

It’s been around a year since the events from Wild Justice. Since then, Amanda has had some trouble readjusting.  Suffering from PTSD, Amanda hasn’t taken on any other cases centered on violent crimes since the Cardoni case.  When the story opens, she is beginning to realize that she needs to start dealing with her fears instead of just hiding from them.  Little does she know that she is going to get a boost back into the saddle in a big way…

Jon Dupre is a pretty scuzzy guy.  He runs what is basically an upscale brothel.  He’s been in and out of the judicial system for years, usually managing to stay just as far into the gray as he can without actually getting sent to prison.  But this time is different – this time, he’s been accused of murdering a state senator.  When Amanda ends up on Dupre’s case, he tells her a story that she struggles to believe – a story about a group of powerful, secretive men who basically do whatever they want, including buying political offices, dealing drugs, and illegal trading activities.  Amanda is skeptical at first, but when the evidence starts to pile up, she finds herself wondering if – for once – Dupre may be telling the truth.

The whole deal with this secret gang of men who are completely respectable on the outside lend a great layer of tension to this story, because you have no idea who you can trust.  I was constantly waiting for betrayal from…  well, basically everyone.  Margolin builds it all in a very plausible way, and his bad guys are really just fantastic.  The twists were completely believable.

I would venture that there are really two main characters to this book.  While we’re following Amanda throughout, we already know a lot of her background and baggage from the first book, so a lot of the beginning of the book deals with Tim Kerrigan, a county prosecutor.  Kerrigan ended up being a really interesting character.  He had a lot of demons, but it never felt over-the-top.

A couple of things keep this book at a 4/5 level for me.  This book did manage to avoid gratuitous violence, for which I am extremely grateful; however, there was a lot of more sex than I like.  It wasn’t really graphic, but there were just a lot (lot) of sentences like, “he found himself growing hard as he watched her breasts” and shizznizz like that that I’m basically like, Please just stop.  I guess the fact that we were dealing with prostitutes probably had something to do with it, but still.  Although in fairness, like I said, the violence was fairly minimal for this type of book, and the language is actually pretty clean, which I think is great.  I don’t mind some swearing when it fits into the story, but some authors seem to think that the only way they can portray “gritty” is by having their characters f*** everything.  Show some creativity, people.  Sheesh.

Anyway, the only other thing about this book was just the sheer volume of names to track.  I actually started a list on a blank sheet in the back of the book, and ended up with 24 names.  The thing is, I don’t know if these people are going to be important.  Margolin casually mentions a name, and then four chapters later is like, “Richard Curtis walked into the room.”  And I have no idea who Richard Curtis is because I haven’t seen him in four chapters.  Writing them down did help, because then when I thought I remembered who someone was, I could confirm it.  Some of the people I wrote down we never heard from again, because Margolin also has a habit of telling the reader the names of everyone, including people that I am only going to hear from for about three paragraphs.

But if I’m honest, these are picky things.  On the whole, this book kept me 100% engaged.  I was so intrigued to see how things were going to unwind.  I really like Amanda, and Kerrigan was also a great character.  I’m quite interested to see where this series goes next.