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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons

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

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: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons