Worthy Brown’s Daughter

Phillip Margolin, Author
Phillip Margolin. Harper, $26.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-06-219534-0
Reviewed on: 09/02/2013
Release date: 01/01/2014
Mass Market Paperbound - 384 pages - 978-0-06-219535-7
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-06-236940-6
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Based loosely on true events, the latest legal thriller from criminal defense attorney turned bestseller Margolin (Lost Lake) follows Matthew Penny, a pistol-bearing lawyer guided by his own moral compass. Portland, Ore., in the 1860s is a nest of conflict: property lawsuits stall the inevitable construction of a railroad, and a black man on trial expects a racist jury. Here, the innocent is Worthy Brown, a freed black man who asks Matthew to rescue his daughter, Roxanne, from Caleb Barbour, a crooked lawyer who illegally holds her in servitude. When Worthy is discovered standing over Caleb’s dead body, and only he and Matthew know the truth, justice seems unlikely. Around this central drama, Margolin establishes characters that might have stepped out of a grainy Western, among them the evil siren Sharon Hill—“a full-figured woman whose oval face was framed by ebony ringlets that were in sharp contrast to her milk-white complexion.” Margolin allows passions to sway his heroes, and generates empathy toward his crooks. If only the black characters worshipped their white benefactors less, or if one female character was spared a derogatory physical description. The plot is at times frustratingly one-dimensional, but Matthew is ultimately forced to distinguish truth from justice. On the courtroom floor, where Margolin is clearly at home, the stock characters adopt roles, albeit briefly, in a satisfying, white-knuckle climax. (Feb.)
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