Woman with a Gun, by Phillip Margolin

Four stars (of five)

Margolin’s latest crime novel branches into some interesting directions to keep the reader highly entertained. Stacey Kim seeks inspiration for her next writing project, seeking to find the ‘next great novel’. On her lunch break, Stacey visits MoMA and stumbles upon a photo exhibit featuring Kathy Moran’s “Woman with a Gun”. The highly provocative photo portrays a woman in a wedding dress, staring out on a beach with an antique pistol behind her back. While Kim begins to dig around into the real story behind the photo, the reader is taken into a flashback to discover that the woman is Megan Cahill, whom Moran found on the beach. Cahill, unable to remember how she got there, becomes a prime suspect in her husband’s murder, when Raymond’s body is found in their home. Megan’s amnesia keeps her from presenting a thorough alibi, though the authorities feel she may have planned the event with an accomplice. In addition to the murder, some antique collectables are missing, one of which ends up being the murder weapon, a pistol purported to have been owned by Wyatt Earp. While Raymond Cahill had a large fortune and made many enemies in his time, the authorities are unable to solve the crime, as the bodies of other potential suspects begin turning up, their murders equally baffling. Moran has her own troubled past before she discovered photography, which becomes the focus of another flashback. Now Kim seeks to go further than the authorities could a decade before while she compiles information for her next fictional classic. However, someone seeks to shut down her investigation before she discovers too much and unravels the mystery to its core. Margolin tells a great story with a wonderful twist, all while keeping the reader wondering how a single photo might hold the key to a number of murders.

Since discovering Margolin and his writing style, I have been highly entertained and thoroughly pleased. His legal style and ability to take the reader down a path of high excitement does not wane from beginning to end. While this novel had a slight matryoshka doll feel, a story within a mystery within a criminal tale, I was able to peel back the three time periods and piece it all together to tell the larger story. Margolin keeps the characters constantly developing and the plot line ever-evolving. By the end, the reader is fully ensconced in the story and is surely looking for more.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin for this interesting story and highly unique approach.