Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Murder at Black Oaks by Phillip Margolin Book Review

About the Book:

Defense Attorney Robin Lockwood is summoned by retired District Attorney Francis Melville to meet with him at Black Oaks, the manor he owns up in the Oregon mountains. The manor has an interesting history - originally built in 1628 in England, there's a murderous legend and curse attached to the mansion. Melville, however, wants Lockwood's help in a legal matter - righting a wrongful conviction from his days as a DA. A young man, Jose Alvarez, was convicted of murdering his girlfriend only for Melville, years later when in private practice, to have a client of his admit to the murder and to framing the man Melville convicted. Unable to reveal what he knew due to attorney client confidence, Melville now wants Lockwood's help in getting that conviction overturned.

Successful in their efforts, Melville invites Lockwood up to Black Oaks for a celebration. Lockwood finds herself among an odd group of invitees - including the bitter, newly released, Alvarez. When Melville is found murdered, with a knife connected to the original curse, Lockwood finds herself faced with a conundrum - who is the murder among them and how to stop them before there's another victim.

My Review:

This is an entertaining novel that, besides a couple of murder mysteries, explores the ethical aspects of attorneys, both prosecutors and those on the defense. Client attorney privilege is a big factor. While that may sound boring, the novel was really interesting. It read quickly and generally held my interest. After the first murders, I felt the plot lagged a bit. It picked up again near the end. The villain identification included the revelation of information readers did not know ahead of time. I did feel cheated out of trying to solve the crime as Robin knew things we readers did not.

I found there was some repetition as Melville receives a confession from a client and then retells it twice, verbatim. We readers know what was said the first time so don't need to hear it again. Something else Margolin did was start a chapter with a nightmare without telling readers. I don't like that technique of inciting suspense. Also, the setting was perhaps a bit unrealistic but I guess wealth has its architectural privileges.

This is a good exploration of the mind of an attorney when he finds he has sent the wrong man to prison and perhaps execution. While this is part of a series, I have not read any others and I thought it read fine on its own. I liked it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Phillip Margolin
has written over twenty novels, most of them 
New York Times bestsellers, including Gone But Not ForgottenLost Lake, and Violent Crimes. In addition to being a novelist, he was a long time criminal defense attorney with decades of trial experience, including a large number of capital cases. Margolin lives in Portland, Oregon. Photo credit: Anthony Georgis 

Minotaur Books, 288 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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