Fugitive // by Phillip Margolin


//published 2009//

I’ve really enjoy the Amanda Jaffe series so far, and was looking forward to reading Fugitive.  While this one was a little more coincidence-based than the others, it was still a solid and engaging mystery.

This story centers around Charlie Marsh.  A small-time con-man, he struck it big when he capitalized on a heroic moment, turning himself into Gabriel Day and traveling about to sell his message of Inner Light – which, conveniently, lots of women liked to hear.  When one of Charlie’s lover’s husbands is shot, Charlie and the wife become the prime suspects.  Charlie flees the country and takes refuge in a small Africa country that doesn’t have extradition with the US.

All of this takes place a dozen years before our real story starts.  Unfortunately for Charlie, the ruler of the African country where Charlie is hiding is a really horrible person who rules with fear and torture.  In the present day, Charlie runs afoul of the ruler.  Knowing that he is going to be tortured and killed, Charlie arranges an escape from Africa, heading back to the States to face the music there instead.

Overall, Fugitive did a very good job tying the two timelines together.  For me, the main problem was that it was hard to really impress that twelve years had gone by.  None of the people have really changed all that much – they were adults then and are adults now, and no one’s character really seems to have undergone a big change in the intervening years.

While the thriller aspect was intense and the story was paced well, this book leaned a bit more on coincidences than some of the earlier titles in the series.  Also, Margolin enlisted the writing method of having a crucial piece of evidence that people in the story know about but the reader doesn’t, which is kind of annoying when it is super flagrant like it was in this instance.  There were multiple references to a picture, but we aren’t allowed to find out who/what is in the picture until the big reveal in the end – which makes it a little difficult to solve the mystery!

There were also two instances of someone getting a phone call in the middle of the night and then haring off to meet someone without letting anyone know where they were going!  Two!  Seriously!  You think people would learn after what happened the first time, but apparently not.  (The second time the person takes a gun as though this will automatically mean they will have no problems at the rendezvous.  Sheesh.)

All in all, I really did enjoy Fugitive, but not quite as much as the others, so I think it’s more of a 3/5.   Only one more book in the series, which makes me kind of sad.  I’m not sure if Margolin is going to continue with these characters or not – Violent Crimes was just published this year, so it’s taken him sixteen years to get these five books out.  Unfortunately for my TBR, Margolin has written several other books, all of which will need to be read eventually… oh dear.