A Reasonable Doubt (Robin Lockwood #3), by Phillip Margolin

Eight stars

Phillip Margolin returns with another great book in his new Robin Lockwood series, where sleight of hand is not the only trick on offer. With a wonderful story, set over many years, the plot thickens as the smoke gets in the reader’s eyes. Magic can be as deceptive as it is deceitful, which defence attorney Robin Lockwood learns when she is visited by a potential client one day. Robert Chesterfield enters the firm’s offices, looking for one of Lockwood’s fellow partners, who’s completed some legal work for him years before. As Chesterfield explains that he is a magician seeking to patent one of his dazzling tricks, Lockwood is sure that she cannot help, but wants to check a few things out before giving him a final response. She discovers that Chesterfield has a long history of butting heads with the law, having been a suspect in the murders of a number of people over the years. With this long list of people who had him in their sights, Chesterfield is by no means the most popular man around these parts of Oregon, or anywhere in the sensational magic community. When Chesterfield is performing one of his dazzling illusions in Las Vegas, before a large crowd of those who disliked him, something goes horribly wrong and he is discovered stabbed in the compartment. Lockwood is as baffled as anyone else, but is sure that the killer’s rage is fuelled by something that’s happened in the past. When a fellow magician is fingered for the crime, Lockwood agrees to defend him, using her time to piece together some of the past murders and skirmishes attributed to Robert Chesterfield, pulling back the curtain on some of the investigative reasoning. Might the killer have had a long-held grudge they wanted to exact, or is this all a bunch of smoke and mirrors, so a fellow magician could rise to prominence? Margolin weaves this tale to keep the reader enthralled as the story’s momentum picks up with each page turn. Recommended to those who have come to love Phillip Margolin’s legal thrillers, as well as the reader who enjoys the magic of a well-developed story.

I knew that I would be in for a treat when I got my hands on this book, though I was not sure how Margolin’s use of magic would be such a force throughout the plot. He paces the story over the present and not so distant past to weave a great backstory together, only to dismantle it in the latter portion of the book, as the killer of the famed Robert Chesterfield comes to light. Robin Lockwood takes centre stage in the story, though her protagonist role is more one of learner than active defence attorney through most of the story. Her backstory is kept on the shelf, but there are moments of development of her character, mostly in the form of personal connections than stunning reveals. The story centres around the eventual murder victim and how he created a persona of unliked and ungrateful, offering up a handful of solid suspects to his eventual murder. While the crime took place in the latter portion of the book, the build-up is thorough and leaves the reader wondering. Perhaps the only folly of this piece is that the criminal defence is quite compacted, as Robin Lockwood rushes to tie up loose ends throughout the latter chapters, rather than be forced to work herself out of a corner and pull her own rabbit out of a hat to save the client who’s hired her. All that being said, Phillip Margolin solidified her mastery of the art for me here with another wonderful book. I can only hope others will take the time to enjoy it as well.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin, for another legal winner. I am pleased to see all the tricks you used to pull the reader into the middle of this wonderful novel.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons