cover image After Dark

After Dark

Phillip Margolin. Doubleday, $23.95 (340pp) ISBN 978-0-385-47548-8

Margolin's last legal thriller, Gone, But Not Forgotten, shot up bestseller lists, fueled by obvious characters-including a maniacal male killer and two tough heroines-lots of melodrama and a plot with more twists than a bowl of fusilli. Perhaps it's no surprise to see that his new novel features the same ingredients, if in different proportions. Here the killer is Charlie Deems, a crazed coke dealer. It's not Deems who's on trial, though, but the woman who sent him for a time to death row. She's Portland, Ore., prosecutor Abbie Griffen, an ice-maiden whom Margolin sculpts with as heavy a hand as he does Deems-who claims that Abbie hired him to kill her husband, the Oregon Supreme Court judge who's just been blown up along with his car. Defending Abbie is heroine number two, idealistic young lawyer Tracy Cavanaugh, whose ``cheerleader'' looks belie a brilliant mind, and Matt Reynolds, ``America's most famous criminal defense attorney.'' The action is bloated with cliffhangers, overwrought villains and menacing shadows, but all this bombast is forgiven in the face of Margolin's whiplash plotting. The reversals and revelations are many and diabolically clever, with Abbie's-and others'-innocence or guilt always in doubt. No legal-thriller fan, once hooked, will wiggle free of the story line of this hammy but exciting yarn before reaching its utterly surprising, and surprisingly dark, conclusion. Major ad/promo; author tour. (July)