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Wild Justice (Amanda Jaffe Series #1)

Wild Justice (Amanda Jaffe Series #1)

4.0 58
by Phillip Margolin

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When the severed heads of two women are found in a cabin next to the site of a mass grave of long-missing bodies, all signs point toward one man: a surgeon with a history of violence and drug abuse. When evidence amassed against him is overturned due to procedural misconduct, the surgeon disappears and a second series of murders begins. Has the surgeon returned,


When the severed heads of two women are found in a cabin next to the site of a mass grave of long-missing bodies, all signs point toward one man: a surgeon with a history of violence and drug abuse. When evidence amassed against him is overturned due to procedural misconduct, the surgeon disappears and a second series of murders begins. Has the surgeon returned, continuing to ply his deadly trade? Is there a copycat killer? Or has the killer been someone else all along? It's up to Amanda Jaffe, junior attorney in her father's law firm, to find the truth—and not become another victim when she gets entangled in a brutal web of murder and deadly revenge.

Written with a breakneck pace and twists and turns that will leave readers gasping for breath, Wild Justice is a stunning new work from the bestselling master of electrifying suspense.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
Just when you thought that the serial killer subgenre had played itself out, something comes along to prove that maybe, just maybe, you were wrong. Wild Justice, Phillip Margolin's seventh and latest novel, is a case in point. Wild Justice is, indeed, a serial killer novel and has already begun receiving the obligatory comparisons to Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs. And though no one -- not even the most charitable reviewer -- is likely to mistake him for Thomas Harris, Margolin is a resourceful, thoroughly professional storyteller who almost always offers his readers a devious, high-adrenaline good time.

Two very different characters dominate the early sections of the narrative. One is Amanda Jaffe, daughter -- and employee -- of Frank Jaffe, Portland, Oregon's, leading criminal defense specialist. Amanda is herself a newly licensed lawyer and is about to encounter some of the grimmer realities of the defense attorney's life. Her initial encounter comes in the form of Vincent Cardoni, prominent local physician and longtime client of her father. Cardoni, clearly, is a man on the edge. He has a history of violence, is prone to erratic public outbursts, and is struggling, futilely, with his escalating addiction to cocaine.

The narrative begins in earnest when Bobby Vasquez, an overzealous Portland Narcotics detective, receives an anonymous tip directing him to Cardoni's mountain cabin where, he is told, two kilos of uncut cocaine are awaiting distribution. Violating virtually every accepted procedure, Vasquez arrives at the cabin without backup, and without a warrant. After making a clearly illegal forced entry, he discovers -- not cocaine -- but a pair of severed heads stashed away on a refrigerator shelf. Subsequent investigation leads to a shallow grave not far from the cabin. Within the grave are the decaying remains of nine adult victims, most of whom bear the visible signs of torture. The physical evidence clearly implicates Vincent Cardoni, who is arrested, indicted, and bound over for trial.

The trial takes a spectacular -- and unexpected -- turn when the father/daughter defense team of Frank and Amanda Jaffe successfully impeaches the testimony of Bobby Vasquez, the state's principal witness. With Vasquez's testimony stricken from the record, the state's case collapses, and Vincent Cardoni goes free. Immediately afterward, he disappears from view, leaving a single grisly memento -- his own severed hand -- behind.

Four years later, with Cardoni now presumed dead, a second, almost identical series of torture/murders comes to light. This time, the evidence implicates another Portland physician: Justine Castle, Vincent Cardoni's embittered ex-wife. At this point, a host of new questions arise: Was Cardoni, as he had repeatedly claimed, the innocent victim of an incredibly elaborate frame-up? Could Justine Castle, whose previous marriages all ended violently, have committed both sets of murders? Could Vincent Cardoni have survived his dismemberment and returned to Portland, ready to resume his interrupted career as a serial murderer? Or could another, unidentified killer have designed and executed the entire scenario for undisclosed reasons of his own?

Margolin drives his story forward at a furious pace, using sheer narrative momentum to offset the impact of the novel's more implausible, over-the-top moments. Unlike Thomas Harris, Margolin is neither an elegant nor a particularly subtle writer. His prose is serviceable, without being either memorable or resonant. His dialogue is occasionally stiff and unconvincing, and his characters, as a rule, are considerably less interesting than the relentlessly bizarre circumstances in which they find themselves. Despite all this, Margolin does share at least one of Harris's characteristic virtues: He can tell a story that will keep you reading until the small hours of the morning. At some point in the narrative -- I'm not sure when -- the occasional infelicities of language and character receded into the distance, and the story began to carry me away.

Wild Justice may not achieve the status of either literature or art, but it succeeds quite handsomely on its own, more modest terms: as a straightforward, unpretentious piece of popular entertainment. Readers in search of a gruesome good time need look no further. Wild Justice is a wild, expertly constructed ride that delivers exactly what it promises. It just might be (and I mean this respectfully) the beach book of the year.

--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press .

Detroit News
A pure rush from beginning to end.
Nelson DeMille
Wild Justice is what good storytelling is all about. Skillful plotting, good writing, an excellent cast of characters.
Michael Palmer
Wild Justice is the scariest book I've read since Red Dragon. I couldn't put it down.
Larry King
Here's a book coming this September from HarperCollins that I want to have you plan in advance to read. It's Phillip Margolin's latest, Wild Justice. The author of Gone, But Not Forgotten and other fine works outdoes himself with this terrific thriller. This page turner kept me guessing throughout, and the villain of the piece is horrific. Wild Justice is wild. —USA Today
Chicago Tribune
Twisted [And] Brilliant.
Otto Penzler
Wild Justice is one scary book.... A wild and terrifying ride until what is perhaps the most satisfying ending in mystery fiction this year.
New Orleans Times-Picayune
You'll be turning pages and keeping the lights on all the way to the end.
Chicago Sun-Times
Margolin keeps this elaborate plot hurtling along at a furious pace, pausing every so often to stir in a bit of romance, some legal gamesmanship and, for good measure, a Russian hit squad.
Columbus Dispatch
Should stir up...goose bumps almost as quickly as The Silence of the Lambs. So well-paced that he keeps readers looking around every corner.
Seattle Times
Margolin is a splendid writer.... Make no mistake: this is no Grisham cutout. Margolin's compelling writing, thoughtful plot and colorful narrative all put the best seller of the courtroom genre to shame.
San Antonio Express-News
Margolin's lucid prose and knowledge gained as a defense attorney make this a readable, informative and scary tale.
NC) Herald Sun (Durham
This mystery has a little bit of everything...All of it kept me glued to my cassettes.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Devious doctors test the ethics of ambitious attorneys in Margolin's (The Undertaker's Widow) latest speed-read, and give a plot already adrenalized by drug deals, serial murders and organized crime an added jolt of grisly medical mayhem. Novice criminal lawyer Amanda Jaffe helps her legal eagle father Frank defend Portland surgeon Vincent Cardoni against charges that the doctor conspired to sell illicitly harvested organs to support his coke habit and maintained a private torture chamber for his victims in a mountain cabin outside the city limits. Cardoni is freed on a technicality--and presumed murdered by the mob shortly afterward when his disappearance coincides with the discovery of his severed hand. Four years later, Amanda is asked to lead the defense of doctor Justine Castle, Vincent's ex-wife, when her fingerprints turn up all over another cabin slaughterhouse. Amanda worries that Justine, whose first two husbands also died suspiciously, set up Vincent, but Justine has another theory: psychopathic Vincent is still alive and doing his best to frame her. En route to a breathtaking finale in which Amanda plays bait to the true killer at yet another bloodstained hideout, Margolin buffets the reader with an endless stream of pulpy plot twists: a shamed cop's reformation, rampaging Russian hit men, creative surgery and astonishingly acrobatic feats of pursuit and escape by ordinary people. Only the hysterical pace of the adventures will prevent readers from dwelling too long on their implausibility; meanwhile, pages will turn fast enough to make the perfect breeze for chilling beachside escapists. Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild and BOMC selections; Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Quelle horreur! The pace of Margolin's (Gone, but Not Forgotten) seventh thriller is breathtakingly fast but not so fast that the engrossed (or grossed-out) reader would fail to experience the awfulness of heads in freezers, hearts in coolers, and victims in the double digits. Mayhem rules when a lunatic surgeon (but which one of three in the story?) preys on the peaceful folk of Portland, OR. A young lawyer finally gets enough of the puzzle pieces in place to guess the grim truth. The book is a selection of the Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Mystery Guild, and BOMC, so there will be lots of publicity and long wait lists. It's a stunner, a chiller, and a tour de force from an author at the top of his form. For all popular collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/00.]--Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
"The combination of mass murder, black-market organ sales, torture and a handsome physician . . . dubbed Dr. Death by the tabloids" fuels Margolin's fifth transcendently commercial two-act thriller (The Undertaker's Widow, 1998, etc.).

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Amanda Jaffe Series , #1
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

A lightning flash illuminated the Learjet that waited on the runway of the private airstrip moments before a thunderclap startled Dr. Clifford Grant. Grant scanned the darkness for signs of life, but there were no other cars in the lot and no one moving on the tarmac. When he checked his watch his hand trembled. It was 11:35. Breach's man was five minutes late. The surgeon stared at the glove compartment. A sip from his flask would steady his nerves, but he knew where that would lead. He had to be thinking clearly when they brought the money.

Large drops fell with increasing speed. Grant turned on his wipers at the same moment a huge fist rapped on his passenger door. The doctor jerked back and stared. For an instant he thought the rain was distorting his vision; but the man glaring at him through the window was really that big, a monster with a massive, shaved skull and a black knee-length leather coat.

“Open the door,” the giant commanded, his voice harsh and frightening.

Grant obeyed instantly. A chill wind blew a fine spray into the car.

“Where is it?”

“In the trunk,” Grant said, the words catching in his throat as he jerked his thumb backward. The man tossed an attaché case into the car and slammed the door shut. Water beaded the smooth sides of the briefcase and made the brass locks glisten. The money! Grant wondered how much the recipient was going to pay for the heart, if he and his partner were receiving a quarter of a million dollars.

Two rapid thumps brought Grant around. The giant was pounding on the trunk. He had forgotten to pop the release. As Grant reached for the latch another lightningflash lit the view through his rear window'and the cars that had appeared from nowhere. Without thinking, he floored the accelerator and cranked the wheel. The giant dove away with amazing agility as the sedan careened across the asphalt, leaving the smell of burning rubber. Grant was vaguely aware of the screech of metal on metal as he blasted past one of the police cars and took out part of a chain-link fence. Shots were fired, glass shattered and the car tipped briefly on two wheels before righting itself and speeding into the night.

The next thing Clifford Grant remembered clearly was banging frantically on his partner's back door. A light came on, a curtain moved and his partner glared at him in disbelief before opening the door.

“What are you doing here?”

“The police,” Grant gasped. “A raid.”

“At the airfield?”

“Let me in, for God's sake. I've got to get in.”

Grant stumbled inside.

“Is that the money?”

Grant nodded and staggered to a seat at the kitchen table.

“Let me have it.”

The doctor pushed the briefcase across the table. It opened with a clatter of latches, revealing stacks of soiled and crumpled hundred-dollar bills bound by rubber bands. The lid slammed shut.

“What happened?”

“Wait. Got to . . . catch my breath.”

“Of course. And relax. You're safe now.”

Grant hunched over, his head between his knees.

“I didn't make the delivery.”


“One of Breach's men put the money on the front seat. The heart was in the trunk. He was about to open it when I saw police cars. I panicked. I ran.”

“And the heart is . . . ?”

“Still in the trunk.”

“Are you telling me that you stiffed Martin Breach?”

“We'll call him,” Grant said. “We'll explain what happened.”

A harsh laugh answered him. “Clifford, you don't explain something like this to Breach. Do you understand what you've done?”

“You have nothing to worry about,” Grant answered bitterly. “Martin has no idea who you are. I'm the one who has to worry. We'll just have to return the money. We didn't do anything wrong. The police were there.”

“You're certain he doesn't know who I am?”

“I never mentioned your name.”

Grant's head dropped into his hands and he began to tremble. “He'll come after me. Oh, God.”

“You don't know that for sure,” his partner answered in a soothing tone. “You're just frightened. Your imagination is running wild.”

The shaking grew worse. “I don't know what to do.”

Strong fingers kneaded the tense muscles of Grant's neck and shoulders.

“The first thing you've got to do is get hold of yourself.”

The hands felt so comforting. It was what Grant needed, the touch and concern of another human being.

“Breach won't bother you, Clifford. Trust me, I'll take care of everything.”

Grant looked up hopefully.

“I know some people,” the voice assured him calmly.

“People who can talk to Breach?”

“Yes. So relax.”

Grant's head fell forward from relief and fatigue. The adrenaline that had powered him through the past hour was wearing off.

“You're still tense. What you need is a drink. Some ice-cold Chivas. What do you say?”

The true extent of Grant's terror could be measured by the fact that he had not even thought of taking a drink since he saw the police through his rear window. Suddenly every cell in his body screamed for alcohol. The fingers lifted; a cupboard door closed; Grant heard the friendly clink of ice bouncing against glass. Then a drink was in his hand. He gulped a quarter of the contents and felt the burn. Grant closed his eyes and raised the cold glass to his feverish forehead.

“There, there,” his partner said as a hand slapped smartly against the base of Grant's neck. Grant jerked upright, confused by the sharp sting of the ice pick as it passed through his brain stem with textbook precision.

The doctor's head hit the tabletop with a thud. Grant's partner smiled with satisfaction. Grant had to die. Even thinking about returning a quarter of a million dollars was ridiculous. What to do with the heart, though? The surgeon sighed. The procedure to remove it had been performed flawlessly, but it was all for nothing. Now the organ would have to be cut up, pureed and disposed of as soon as Grant took its place in the trunk.

Wild Justice. Copyright © by Phillip Margolin. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Nelson Demille
Wild Justice is what good storytelling is all about. Skillful plotting, good writing, an excellent cast of characters.
—(Nelson Demille, author of The Lions Game)
Michael Palmer
The scariest book I've read since Red Dragon

Meet the Author

Phillip Margolin is the Edgar Award-nominated author of Gone, but not Forgotten; The Undertaker's Widow; The Burning Man; After Dark; Hearstone; and The Last Innocent Man. He and his wife lived in Portland, Oregan, where for twenty years he was a practicing criminal defense attorney.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A. in Government, American University, 1965; New York University School of Law, 1970

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Wild Justice 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
MsTiptress More than 1 year ago
The front cover says it all "twisted and brilliant". I absolutely loved it. Believe me I had my jaw dropped a couple of times.. It was.. Nasty, Gross, Scary and everything else. not for people afriad of blood. It was so real, and real creepy... 00000 Oh and the ending will leave you SHOCKED beyond belief. I just knew I knew who killed those people in that horrible way, but when things got tied up in the end I just could not believe it! I stood with my mouth wide open and book in hand almost letting out a scream in my throat.. And to think that.. (wait can't say anymore) This is a read that will keep you up all night untill every single last word is read.
HarleyMom More than 1 year ago
This is the second book I have read by Philip Margolin & it definitely won't be my last! I am hooked & plan on reading all of his books. This book is non-stop action with many twists and turns. It kept me guessing to the end who the killer was. I even started reading it out loud to my husband and kids (with some parts omitted) & they loved it. They wouldn't let me read it without them!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the only book I've ever finished in one day. I literally could not put it down! I can't remember being so engrossed by a book since The Day After Tomorrow. Wild Justice was scary, suspenseful and exciting. I've read every book Philip Margolin has written, and I always eagerly await his next book. Wild Justice was certainly worth the wait. I'd say it's his best one yet. If they keep getting better, I can't wait for his next one!
c185me More than 1 year ago
Well written; believable characters (except for Cardoni) ... you won' know "who done it" wil the end .... kept me turning pages!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Phillip Margolin is one of my favorite writers since I read "Gone But Not Forgotten". Read him and he will be one of yours too.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is about the 4th book i have read from Phillip Margolin. I love the twists throughout the book. I had an idea of who the serial killer was, but i wanted to know how he managed to commit the murders. I read this book while working out at the gym, and could not stop walking because i didn't want to stop reading! Very good book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my second one I've read of Phillip Margolin and I am defenitly going to read another one right away!!!!!!! VERY VERY SUSPENSEFUL AND SO MAY TWISITS
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great, it keeps you guessing the whole way. And you never know what is going to happen next! It kept me turning the pages and I was happy with how everything was brought together!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is the kind of book that kept my nerves on edge. I wanted to put the book down so I could go to sleep but everytime I was about to close it for night something else impale me to consciously read on and on. I read the book in 2 nights after work.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Have read all of Margolin's books and this best one yet! If you read this book, get ready to hold your breath and sit on the edge of your seat until the last page is turned. Can't decide who was scarier, the serial killer or the guys after him.. Enjoy!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I would recomend this book to friends and family who enjoy Coben and Patterson
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mr. Margolin knows how to "reel" you in! Always keeps you "hooked" till the last word is written! Leaves you waiting on his next novel with much anticipation!
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Very exciting. Love his books. A real thrill ride!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written but I guessed the killer about half way through.
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Unbelievably short.
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