Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Approximately 30 years ago, Margolin began writing this novel inspired by a case from the 1800s in which Col. Nathaniel Ford brought a slave family from Missouri to Oregon to help him start up his farm on the condition they would be freed after it was up and running. Colonel Ford freed the parents but kept the children as indentured servants. In this fictionalized account, attorney Matthew Penny, recently located to Oregon, agrees to help freed slave Worthy Brown recover his daughter, Roxanne, from his former master Caleb Barbour, a Portland lawyer. Many twists and turns later, Brown eventually finds himself on trial for murder. Matthew seeks help from a prominent attorney in the area, Orville Mason, and finds himself immersed in a scuffle between businessman Ben Gillette, his beautiful daughter, Heather, and gold digger Sharon Hill. VERDICT With plenty of action and short chapters, this historical legal thriller is a quick read. Some of the conversation seems stilted and contrived, and certain plotlines are too easily and quickly tied up. Margolin's fans might be surprised by this one, which strays from his normal modern thrillers, but the lively narrative will keep readers engrossed. [See Prepub Alert, 8/26/13.]-Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Margolin, author of 17 popular legal thrillers, pens a historical novel set in 1850s Portland, Oregon, based on an actual legal suit brought by a black family against a white slave owner. Free man Worthy Brown sues his former master for his daughter's freedom. Out of sheer spite and wicked lust, Caleb Barbour refuses to release 15-year-old Roxanne to her father, despite Oregon's law against slavery. Worthy hires down-on-his-luck lawyer Matthew Penny to bring a legal custody suit, though circumstances conspire against them. Throw in a money-grubbing beauty, a smitten judge, a few loudmouth hotheads, and at least two legal beagles willing to bend the law, and the Old West comes alive in heart-wrenching, violent, and wicked racist color. The plot is comfortably predictable, with a last-minute save by our brilliant hero, yet legal thriller and western fans will stay with it to the last page. Both a psychological western reminiscent of The Ox-Bow Incident and a sharp critique of Oregon's early legal process, Margolin's novel offers a compelling portrait of small town justice done right eventually.--Baker, Jen Copyright 2010 Booklist
Kirkus Book Review
Legal thriller writer Margolin (Sleight of Hand, 2013, etc.) turns back the clock to confront murder, deceit and slavery in frontier Oregon. It's 1860. Matthew Penny's established a hardscrabble law practice in bustling Portland, but Matthew isn't happy. On the trail from Ohio to Oregon, his wife, Rachel, drowned during a river crossing. Haunted by her death, Matthew throws himself into cases he finds in taverns, farms and settlements, like Phoenix. Matthew's there to try a civil case against Ben Gillette, Oregon's richest man. Before that trial, however, the judge compels Matthew to defend a salesman against theft charges brought by a beautiful, mysterious traveler from San Francisco, Sharon Hill. Matthew loses, but before that trial, he had been approached by Worthy Brown, a former slave. Worthy warns him that Ben's attorney intends to fix the Gillette jury. For that information, Worthy wants Matthew's assistance in freeing his daughter from indentured servitude. Ben's attorney, Caleb Barbour, came to Oregon from the slave state of Georgia. Caleb's reneged on a promise to free the pair after arrival in Oregon. Margolin's novel draws on historical elements, but midnarrative, he strays from legal confrontations over slavery. The story becomes historical fiction encompassing murder and romance, albeit one peopled with sympathetic characters, major and minor. Margolin shines in recreating pioneer life, especially as Matthew rides the court circuit, traipses mud-bogged Portland streets and sails to gold-rushrich San Francisco. There, Matthew confronts a crooked lawyer conspiring to loot the Gillette empire. In the end, there's legal wrangling, murder and romance, set against the backdrop of race and frontier life. Margolin's dialogue is sometimes affected, sometimes faintly anachronistic, but his scene-setting, knowledge of the frontier and relating of the hard task of the law make for an appealing read that, the author says, took 30 years to write.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.