Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand

3.7 43
by Phillip Margolin

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Private investigator Dana Cutler must take down a cunning psychopath before he can pull off the perfect crime, in Sleight of Hand, a novel of suspense from Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Capitol Murder and Supreme Justice.

Charles Benedict – charismatic criminal defense lawyer, amateur illusionist, and


Private investigator Dana Cutler must take down a cunning psychopath before he can pull off the perfect crime, in Sleight of Hand, a novel of suspense from Phillip Margolin, New York Times bestselling author of Capitol Murder and Supreme Justice.

Charles Benedict – charismatic criminal defense lawyer, amateur illusionist, and professional hit man – has performed his greatest sleight of hand yet: framing a millionaire for the murder of his much younger wife.

When Horace Blair married Carrie, the prosecutor in his DUI trial, he made her sign a prenuptial agreement guaranteeing her twenty million dollars if she remained faithful for the first ten years of marriage. Just one week before their tenth anniversary, Carrie disappears, and Horace is charged with her murder. Desperate to clear his name, the millionaire hires D.C.’s most ruthless defense lawyer – Charles Benedict.

P.I. Dana Cutler is in the Pacific Northwest on the trail of a stolen relic dating from the Ottoman Empire. Hitting a dead end sends her back to Virginia perplexed and disappointed – and straight into the case of Horace and Carrie Blair.

Now Dana must conjure a few tricks of her own to expose Benedict’s plot, before he can work his deadly magic on her...

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bestseller Margolin’s stylish if shallow fourth suspense novel featuring Washington, D.C., PI Dana Cutler (after 2012’s Capitol Murder) pits her against a particularly slimy and dangerous villain. Dispatched by client Margot Laurent to the Pacific Northwest in search of a golden scepter that once belonged to an Ottoman sultan, Cutler finds a connection between the valuable relic and Horace Blair, “the multimillionaire head of a conglomerate with tentacles in shipping, scrap metal, real estate, and other lucrative enterprises.” Back in D.C., defense lawyer Charles Benedict—magician, rapist, blackmailer, killer—is trying to frame Blair for the murder of his wife, Virginia prosecutor Carrie Blair, who disappeared shortly before termination of her prenup would have made her very rich. Cutler returns home in time to witness Blair’s bail hearing and discover a surprising link between Margot and Carrie. Cutler meets Benedict’s clever machinations with equally clever countermeasures, but readers should be prepared for superficial characterizations. Agents: Jean Naggar and Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Apr.)
Associated Press Staff
“Phillip Margolin’s best book in years. Deception is prominent, and the villain is truly vile.…A magician never reveals his secrets, and like the best prestidigitators, Margolin manipulates readers into believing one thing, then reveals the surprising truth..”
Kirkus Reviews
Washington, D.C. shamus Dana Cutler (Capitol Murder, 2012, etc.) goes up against an impossibly clever killer: an amateur magician who's also a member of the bar. The legal eagles who find Charles Benedict intelligent and charming would undoubtedly be surprised to know that he's also a stone-cold killer who doesn't flinch from liquidating the occasional thorn in the side of his associate Nikolai Orlansky, a pillar of the Russian Mafia. Fresh from his latest such favor for Orlansky, Benedict decides that it would be fun to have sex with Carrie Blair, a narcotics prosecutor who's having another quarrel with her much older husband, Horace, a wealthy businessman. So he drugs her, takes her home, drugs her again, has his way with her and then demands $250,000 for suppressing the evidence that she's violated her prenup. Alas, their negotiating session ends with Carrie's death, and now Benedict, who never planned this murder, realizes that he'll have to do some fancy footwork indeed if he's to avoid serious jail time. But great illusionists are also great improvisers, and soon enough, Benedict has not only framed Horace very convincingly for his wife's murder, but has also gotten Horace to hire him as his defense attorney. He'll get away with his crime scot-free unless Detective Frank Santoro, of the Lee County police, joins forces with Dana, back in town after a wild goose chase after the priceless and totally fictitious Ottoman Scepter, to take equally resourceful measures against him. They do, he's trapped, and then the tale is over. Margolin presents another triumph of inventive plotting over paper-thin characterization, flat prose and a wholesale departure from realism. The result is on a par with an especially good episode of Columbo.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sleight of Hand

By Phillip Margolin

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Phillip Margolin
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-206993-1

Chapter One
The American Bar Association decided to hold its
annual convention at the Theodore Roosevelt Hotel
in downtown Washington, D.C. On Wednesday
evening, a who's who of the most powerful men
and women in the country circulated at a cocktail
party hosted by Rankin, Lusk, Carstairs and White.
Charles Benedict was a minor leaguer in the power
and influence department but even in this elite com-
pany he stood out because he was strikingly hand-
some and charismatic, the person toward whom the
eyes of not only women but men were drawn when
he entered a room.
Benedict was six feet two inches tall, with a culti-
vated tan. His salt- and- pepper hair was cut short and
his trim, athletic build, ramrod posture, and chiseled
features brought to mind the Special Forces heroes
in action movies. When Benedict moved, it was easy
to imagine a field of force emanating from him, and
there was no question that his physical presence con-
tributed to his success as a trial attorney, although
more sinister factors sometimes came into play.

4 Phillip Margolin
Benedict was charming a partner from a Chicago
firm when he was distracted by Carrie and Horace
Blair, who were carrying on a whispered argument
in a corner of the ballroom. It was rare to see the
Blairs together, but Rankin, Lusk handled Horace's
legal work, and that was an obvious explanation for
the presence of the businessman, who was not a
member of the bar.
Carrie Blair was wearing a charcoal- black Gucci
suit, and her natural honey- blond hair flowed over
its shoulders. She had translucent gray- green eyes
that could paralyze the most misogynist male, her
nose was the type all the dissatisfied society women
begged their plastic surgeons to copy, and her skin
was tan and smooth. If someone were to ask what
Carrie Blair did for a living, many people would
guess that she was a television news anchor and
none would peg her as the prosecutor in charge of
the Narcotics Unit in one of Virginia's most popu-
lous counties.
Carrie's millionaire husband looked every bit the
southern gentleman, but he was many years older
than his wife, and a stranger would not be faulted
for assuming that he was Carrie's father. Horace
was gripping Carrie's arm. His face, red from anger,
contrasted sharply with his snowy white hair. Carrie
wrenched her arm from her husband's grasp and
walked out of the ballroom just as Charles Bene-
dict's cell phone vibrated.
“I've got to take this,” Benedict said, abruptly

Sleight of Hand 5
ending the conversation with the Chicago attor-
ney. Her expectant smile changed to a frown. She
was attractive, rich, and powerful, and was not used
to being dismissed like some hired hand. Had she
known more about Benedict, she would have un-
derstood why he'd ditched her without so much as
an apology. The woman was just another potential
notch on Benedict's gun, whereas the caller was
going to pay an excessive fee for a highly specialized
ser vice that Benedict provided.
“Yes,” Benedict said when he was alone in a
side hall.
“He's at the tavern,” the caller said.
Benedict left the hotel and jogged to a parking
garage a few blocks away. He'd boosted a dull- green
Chevrolet earlier in the evening. After switch-
ing the plates, Benedict had stashed the car on the
third floor of the garage. The attorney got into the
backseat and took off his yellow- and- blue- striped
Hermàs tie, his gray Armani suit, and his silk shirt.
Then he pulled sneakers, a hooded sweatshirt, and
a pair of faded jeans out of a duffel bag. As soon as
he'd changed clothes, Benedict drove out of the lot
toward Virginia.
Norman Krueger's life, which had been on a down-
ward spiral since birth, had recently gotten worse,
something that hardly seemed possible. Norman
had been born to a drug- addicted prostitute who

6 Phillip Margolin
had no clue as to the identity of Norman's father.
His childhood had ricocheted between physical
abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect. The lessons in
school, when he attended, were incomprehensible to
someone with Norman's limited IQ and attention
span. Gangs were not the answer, because he was
too puny and frightened to be of use where violence
was involved, and too stupid to be trusted with any
task that might require guile.
Norman got by on a combination of public as-
sistance and low- paying jobs, from which he was
frequently fired for incompetence or absenteeism.
Recently, much of his pay had gone toward support-
ing a drug habit. The origins of his addiction were
confusing to Norman. They had sneaked up on him
like some sort of controlled- substance ninja, but
drugs were now the focus of his miserable life.
Norman's girlfriend, Vera Petrov, was as ugly
and hapless as Norman, but she was capable of
maintaining steady employment. She was also a
second cousin of Nikolai Orlansky, a major player
in the Russian Mafia, whom she'd prevailed upon to
give Norman a job sweeping up in one of his many
Norman was the type of person no one noticed,
the human equivalent of a sagging armchair that has
been stored in a dusty corner of a side room. Evil
things happened around Norman all the time and
no one seemed to care that Norman had witnessed
them. But Norman had eyes and ears and a memory,

Sleight of Hand 7
which, weak as it was, still retained the sights and
sounds of startling events involving murder and tor-
ture, especially when he was the person assigned to
clean up the gore.
Never in a million years would Norman have
considered informing on his employer. He had seen
what happened to those who crossed the Russian.
Then he came to the attention of an undercover
federal agent who befriended Norman and listened
intently to everything Norman said when he was
under the influence of

Excerpted from Sleight of Hand by Phillip Margolin. Copyright © 2013 Phillip Margolin. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Phillip Margolin has written nineteen novels, many of them New York Times bestsellers, including his latest novels Woman with a Gun, Worthy Brown’s Daughter, Sleight of Hand, and the Washington trilogy. Each displays a unique, compelling insider’s view of criminal behavior, which comes from his long background as a criminal defense attorney who has handled thirty murder cases. Winner of the Distinguished Northwest Writer Award, he lives in Portland, Oregon.

Brief Biography

Place of Birth:
New York, New York
B.A. in Government, American University, 1965; New York University School of Law, 1970

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Sleight of Hand 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It's fun to read a story in which the villain is known. The author then must weave in the details in a way that keeps the reader involved. Phillip Margolin does this. One thing that impressed me: In his acknowledgments, Margolin recognizes his copy editor by name. It's easy to see why. This is one of those rare books in which I found no glaring grammar or spelling errors. Kudos to Margolin and to his editors.
Joey44 More than 1 year ago
I love Phillip Margolin’s books and can’t resist his Dana Cutler stories. This book starts out with what seems to be two separate, unrelated stories. Although both were interesting, I kept wondering how they would come together. One story involves Dana Cutler who is a private investigator hired to track down a stolen relic that turns out to be a dead end. When she returns to Virginia, Dana becomes involved in the second story that involves the murder of Carrie Blair just days before she would receive millions of dollars from her husband Horace according to the terms of their prenuptual agreement and he is charged with her murder. In a series of twists and turns, Margolin pulls the two seemingly unrelated incidences together. The two cases turn out to have a common thread and Dana is pitted against Horace Blair's defense attorney Charles Benedict. Dana uncovers evidence that Horace may have been framed for the murder, but Benedict blocks her attempts to get the answers she needs. This story gets really suspenseful when Dana becomes a target of the real killer as she hunts for the truth. Margolin creates a masterful book and captivates readers from the first page. This novel was very well written and the storyline was intricately put together. The character development in this story is quite in depth. You get to know a great deal about the main characters, their lives, and their histories. Sleight of Hand is very well set up. It progresses in a logical fashion from beginning to end while keeping the reader completely captivated with the many different twists found in the story. As usual, I was impressed with Margolin’s ability to take multiple storylines and complex characters and bring them together in a way that held my attention.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Couldn't put it down.Rate five stars
quimbey More than 1 year ago
I'd never read this author before Sleight of Hand. I loved this book and read it all in one day. The story thread just pulled me right through with interesting characters and twists and turns and a great ending. Charles is the perfect criminal. He is a genius, a magician, a killer and a lawyer. What a combination!!! I'll get more books by this author.
spm3sons More than 1 year ago
I thought "Phillip Margolin IS BACK"!! I loved it!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Right up there wirh Margolin's top ones. If your a fan you won't be disappointed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Most of Margolin's books are the best! Always keeps me on my toes and guessing, the suspense drives me crazy. This particular one was not one of my favorites, sorry to say, but still an exciting and good read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Another Dana Cutler novel. I love this author's works. The book is worth your time. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suspenful and complicated plot fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A little all over the place in the beginning, but keeps your attention and great ending
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You already who killed Carrie and the best part was how the policeand the detective came togather. Loved it. The bad part was it was only 252 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The_occasional_blonde More than 1 year ago
Fun read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For me its a little slow to start.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Not an especially great read. I certainly have read many more exciting crime stories but this definitely was not one of them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I quit reading this when the multi millionaire (or billionaire) called an attorney who had admitted to having an affair with his wife. Said attorney is a professional hit man who panics and shoots said wife, then proceeds to blame millionaire husband. I would think the husband, being a millionaire, would have an army of legal counsel on retainer. But to choose the man who admits to cheating with your wife? I'm sure I would have many more complaints, but that was as far as I got in the book. I won't even mention when Benedict switched evidence in the courtroom. Please! people are paying good money to read a good book. This book is totally unbelievable. If you must read it, get it from the library.