Murder at Black Oaks (Robin Lockwood #6), by Phillip Margolin

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Phillip Margolin, St. Martin’s Press and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

A long-time fan of Phillip Margolin and his work, I was eager to read this latest in the Robin Lockwood series. Margolin uses his strong ability with legal thriller and mixes in a murder mystery to create a doubly impressive piece for everyone. Full of great drama and some strong storytelling, Margolin impresses while never losing the momentum that this series appears to have with each new novel.

Frank Hardy was a stellar part of the DA’s office, able to push for convictions on many crimes. He even went so far as to put a man on death row for a heinous crime. After leaving for private practice, Hardy discovers that one of his clients was actually behind the murder, but knows the rules of attorney-client privilege keep anyone from being the wiser.

Years later, Hardy summons up-and-coming defence attorney, Robin Lockwood, to his palatial estate in the Oregon mountains. Hardy reveals what he knows and pushes Lockwood to see that justice is done, allowing an innocent man to go free. Lockwood does all she can, while also baffled about Hardy’s residence, the Black Oaks manor. Many a mysterious thing happened at the original manor, in the heart of England.

After Lockwood is successful in getting Jose Alvarez free from prison, they make their way to Black Oaks for a celebratory meal. Alvarez has made it clear that he holds a grudge towards Hardy for the delay in acting to set him free, even over the rational arguments made by his attorney. When Frank Hardy and others are murdered during the party, many wonder if the curse of Black Oaks has reared its ugly head. Robin finds herself scrambling to find a killer and try to piece it all together before too many others fall victim to a murderer and the curse of Black Oaks. Margolin dazzles with this piece and proves his versatile nature.

Phillip Margolin has proven his ability time and time again, luring me in with a well-developed story and a cast of characters well worth the reading time. This story moves things away from being strictly legal and into the realm of mystery, as if Robin Lockwood must temporarily resurrect a character from an Agatha Christie novel. Working on building a strong connection to the story and characters alike, Margolin proves he has what it takes to entertain the reader throughout.

Margolin develops a strong narrative and uses this to propel the story forward. With a strong foundation, the story clips along at a rapid pace, helped by short chapters and a handful of strong characters. The plot twists move the story from a legal thriller to a mystery, taking the reader along for an exciting ride. Building on a series that has already garnered a great deal of positive feedback by fans, Margolin is set to keep things flowing with ease, well into the future. I cannot wait to see what’s next for Robin and her legal team!

Kudos, Mr. Margolin, for a great piece that had me binge reading and enjoying every moment.

The Darkest Place (Robin Lockwood #5), by Phillip Margolin

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Phillip Margolin,St. Martin’s Press, and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Phillip Margolin is back with another explosive legal thriller that is sure to keep the reader on the edge of their seats. Robin Lockwood has made a name for herself since leaving the life of an MMA fighter in the past. However, it all comes tumbling down after a personal tragedy befalls her. Robin retreats back to her hometown, where she can convalesce. At the same time, a surrogacy case heats up and Robin eventually agrees to take on a client, working her magic in the courtroom. Little does Robin know, there is more to this woman than meets the eye, including some antics back in Portland that will require legal attention too! Margolin impresses and keeps the reader flipping pages well into the night.

Robin Lockwood is happy to have a successful legal practice and some strong partners to keep things going. When she agrees to take on a pro bono case as a favour, Robin case show her courtroom magic and continue to grab headlines. However, it is all forgotten when someone close to her dies in the middle of the case, leaving her distraught and not wanting to go on.

Convalescing back in her hometown, Robin cannot see any reason to continue on, though there is something about Elk Grove that keeps her waking up each morning. When she sees a local woman has been taken into custody around a surrogacy situation, Robin finds enough spark to climb back into the saddle and agrees to defend Marjorie Loman. After entering a surrogacy contract, Marjorie gives birth to a healthy baby boy and has second thoughts about returning him to his parents. What follows is a case of apparent kidnapping and assault, but Robin thinks that she can convince a jury otherwise.

It soon comes out that Marjorie has been in Elk Grove under an alias and that she faces murder charges back in Portland, where she sure to face trial. Again, Robin agrees to come to her client’s rescue and takes on the case, fuelled by a desire to help this woman who has been down on her luck. While working through the case, Robin sees that some things just don’t add up and she begins to wonder if Marjorie Loman might have another side she wishes to keep hidden from everyone. A great legal thriller that speeds along, much like many of Phillip Margolin’s novels.

It takes a great deal to put together a legal thriller that is both succinct and impactful. Phillip Margolin has done that repeatedly in the novels that I have had the pleasure of reading. He’s always working a few cases and keeping his protagonist rushing from spot to spot, but there is never a sense of superficiality to the writing or her development. This was another winner in the series and I can only hope there are more to come.

Robin Lockwood has evolved a great deal throughout the series, effectively connecting with fans as the stories progress. Here, there is a curveball tossed into the mix and the reader can see devastation flow through the veins of the protagonist, forcing her to reinvent herself. Robin Lockwood is tough, but this is perhaps too much. With much grit and determination, Robin dusts herself off and shows why she is an amazing lawyer and woman, making an impact in many ways throughout this stellar novel.

While I have not read every novel his has penned, I have a good handle on the work of Phillip Margolin and can assure myself that the books keep getting better. He’s able to work with a strong narrative that builds as the story gains speed, working through plot twists and numerous character developments to culminate in a chilling ending. The pacing with short chapters is key and keeps the reader pushing forward, eager to see how things will progress throughout. I love a good legal thriller and can only hope that there are more, particularly with Robin Lockwood at the helm.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin, for another winner. You know just how to pen a great story that has me hungry for more in the genre!

A Matter of Life and Death (Robin Lockwood #4), by Phillip Margolin

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Phillip Margolin, St. Martin’s Press, and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Phillip Margolin has his newest legal mind, Robin Lockwood, in the middle of her most harrowing case yet. When a man is accused of murdering a judge’s wife, the evidence seems almost irrefutable. As the death penalty stares them in the face, Robin and her indigent client must do all they can to prove that this was not only a miscarriage of justice, but that there’s a larger scheme at play, even more dangerous than anyone might imagine. In A Case of Life and Death,, Margolin does a masterful job and keeps the reader enthralled throughout. Recommended to those who love a good legal thriller, particularly the reader who has come to enjoy the work of Phillip Margolin.

Things have not been going well for Joe Lattimore of late. Technically homeless, with a wife and little one, Joe is forced to scrounge for money wherever he can and remember his past as a boxer. When he’s offered a chance to make a quick buck, he takes it, though it’s a dubious venture. He’s told that there’s a fight club where he can make a decent amount of money, which Joe thinks might be the pot of gold for which he has long been waiting.

While he wins the fight, it’s no-holds-barred and Joe’s opponent is left clinging to life. Joe’s told the man died and is ushered away. Told that there is a video of the event, Joe knows it could be used against him should he not follow directions to the letter of the law. When Joe’s sent to a house and told to go inside, he enters, only to find the body of a woman who has been beaten to death. His prints are all over the walls as he tries to scramble away, only to be caught fleeing by the victim’s husband, Judge Anthony Carasco.

Once Joe’s been apprehended, after an anonymous tip, things go from bad to worse. The State has some damning and seemingly irrefutable evidence, pushing for the death penalty. Robin Lockwood, who knows Joe in passing, agrees to take his case, feeling that someone’s been pulling strings to frame an innocent man. However, nothing seems to add up and the evidence points strongly to Joe’s guilt. However, beneath it all, there are secrets that people are keeping, from the fight club to the victim’s suspicions about her husband, and even the judge’s alibi on the night of the crime. Robin knows that capital cases require not only dedication, but persistence in the face of adversity. She’ll need it all in this situation, as it’s the difference between a man’s life and his untimely demise.

I enjoy a well-crafted legal thriller at the best of time, something that Phillip Margolin never fails to deliver. I discovered his work primarily with the launch of the Robin Lockwood series, but have come to find that he is a master of the genre and has much to say without being overly repetitive. The plot is alluring and the writing hooks the reader from the opening pages. This is what a legal thriller should be.

Robin Lockwood does well as protagonist once again. Her presence adds something to the story and keeps the reader wanting to know even more. With a backstory as an MMA fighter, Robin knows the world of fame and glory, though is also keen to help those who cannot help themselves. Her legal acumen is second to none, as she finds one dangling thread and is apt to yank on it, hoping to unravel the truth. Gritty and all in, Robin works for her clients like no lawyer would, wanting truth to reign over the easy way out.

Margolin’s use of a handful of strong secondary characters in this piece helps to develop a great story that uses a few subplots to advance the larger narrative. There are those within the pages of this book who will impress the reader, while others will show their true mettle as the story advances. Everyone has their role, even if it does not seem apparent at the outset. Margolin’s development of these individuals helps keep the story flowing and the plot twists fresh in the reader’s mind.

The overall delivery of the piece was something I thoroughly enjoyed. I cannot say enough about Phillip Margolin or his work, both of which left me highly impressed. I like a story that is full of twists and a legal thriller that uses the law to peel back to the truth, both of which are on display here. The reader is treated to a quick narrative that pushes the story along, with some credible dialogue along the way. Short chapters force the reader to feel the momentum of the piece and get carried away as the story pushes towards a verdict where punishment is at the heart of it all. A little murder, some deception, and a handful of blackmail situations all create the needed intensity for the reader to see just how talented Margolin is with his writing. I cannot wait for what else this series has to offer.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin, for another winner. While some may need a comlex courtroom drama to appeal to them, your action-packed story has just what I needed to pass the time.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

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:

The Perfect Alibi (Robin Lockwood #2), by Phillip Margolin

Eight stars

Philip Margolin brings Robin Lockwood back for another legal thriller set in Oregon. Lockwood, a former MMA star, is ready to do battle when she is approached by a young woman who confides that she’s been raped. Robin explains that she cannot prosecute a criminal case, but is willing to help with any civil matter that might be needed. Listening to her client,  Robin learns that a football player, Blaine Hastings, turned a booze-fuelled lustful encounter into something violent that led to a sexual assault. Hastings has a much different tale, though he cannot explain the semen left in and around the victim. At trial, Hastings is less than happy with his legal representation and is sent away. However, things take a definite turn when another woman is raped, identifying a different man, but Hastings’ DNA is left inside her. As Hastings was incarcerated at the time, he could not have committed the crime, but what’s happened? Robin is baffled and unsure how to help her client, but the local authorities are sure there is some scientific explanation. Hastings is released on bail but soon disappears, just as his lawyer’s legal partner is slain. Robin is hired to defend the man accused of the murder, though no one believes that he could be involved. Working both mind-blowing cases, Robin watches as the D.A. lands himself in some hot water and turns the local legal community on its head. With time running out and answers scarce, Robin will have to act to get answers, while still keeping an eye out for Blaine Hastings, who’s sure to have a bone to pick with her. A well-crafted novel with layered sub-plots that all link together, Margolin shows why he is the master of his genre. Perfect for fans of legal thrillers full of twists and those whose search for justice is unending.

I usually enjoy Phillip Margolin and his novels, which mix the law with dramatic developments throughout. This was no exception, as the story twisted and turned from one part to the next. Robin Lockwood remains a wonderful protagonist, able to tear down anything put before her, be it a charging body or legal argument. Her attentiveness shows that she has the makings of a sensational legal mind and she surrounds herself with those who are able to help her excel. Juggling a seemingly impossible workload, Lockwood finds enough time to locate her fair share of trouble. Others in the book prove quite effective at advancing the plot and creating a niche for themselves. As Margolin creates a smaller story within each part, there are characters who shine in parts of the book, backing off in other domains. The story was strong and its scientific element did not drown out the effectiveness of the legal arguments. The reader is in for a treat, offered nuances of many aspects of the law, jammed into this mid-length novel. With fresh ideas and ever evolving themes (as well as a cameo by one of Margolin’s long-time stars), this is another book worthy of its fair share of praise. A mix of chapter lengths serves a great purpose while always leaving the reader to wonder what awaits. Perfect for a single-day reading, should time permit.

Kudos, Mr. Margolin, on another success. I am pleased to have discovered your work and cannot wait to see what else you have in store!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge:

The Third Victim, by Phillip Margolin

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Phillip Margolin and Minotaur Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Phillip Margolin is back with another explosive legal thriller that will keep the reader pushing through until the very end to see that justice is served. Regina Barrister has made a name for herself in the Oregon legal community, defending those who have the money and need her legal prowess. Not only are clients aware of Barrister’s capabilities, but one law student has made the ultimate sacrifice to work alongside her. Robin Lockwood has done everyone in her power and when the opportunity arises, she’s keen to take an associate position with Barrister. Meanwhile, Meredith Fenner appears on a rural road, burns across her torso with obvious signs of having been held captive, claiming that she’s just escaped her kidnapper. After the Portland Police become involved, they notice her injuries are similar to those of two prostitutes who have recently been murdered. As the evidence rolls in and Fenner makes an identification of the house where she was held, attorney Alex Mason is arrested for the crime. His wife admits that Mason is quite the control freak and likes his sex kinky and a little violent, including tying her up and burning her with a cigarette. Regina Barrister accepts the case and begins defending Mason, bringing young associate Robin Lockwood along, as this is set to be a capital murder case. The evidence all points to Mason, but there is something that just does not seem right with the evidence as it has been presented pre-trial. Additionally, Regina seems to be keeping a secret that could turn this case on its head, though Robin is not entirely sure what to do. With a man’s life on the line, there is no room for error, but the evidence does not seem to lie, even if Regina refuses to see the larger picture. Margolin delivers a sensational novel that keeps pace throughout. Perfect for fans of legal dramas and who enjoy a twisted tale throughout.

I have admired Phillip Margolin’s work for a long time and find that he is usually quite on the ball with what he has to say. While one person I know strongly panned the book, I felt nothing but a strong connection to the characters and story, perhaps one of the best pieces of Margolin’s work that I have read. There were a number of characters to juggle throughout, but the central few (namely, Regina Barrister and Robin Lockwood) were strong and kept things moving effectively. Sprinkling some backstory in with character development helped to connect the reader with these two legal protagonists. Many of the others, including the third victim, Meredith Fenner, helped to up the dramatic effect of the case as things progressed and the trial opened with a bang. Of course, the secret Regina keeps throughout the novel cannot be discounted, though it would be too much of a spoiler to mention it here.The story was fairly well presented, with a strong lead-up and segments of the trial, in which Barrister and Lockwood do what they can to keep Alex Mason from facing death row, but cannot discount the evidence. While things did go well, as I mentioned above, the vast array of characters served sometimes to dilute the effectiveness of the story, as the reader is forced to recollect who belongs where and what they have said up to this point. That being said, things did all fall into place at just the right moment and Margolin shows how effective he can be in his writing.

Kudos, Mr Margolin, for another wonderful legal thriller. I love the move away from the bright lights of big city stories and hope Oregon will remain where you set future stories.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: