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.)
“The Old West comes alive in heart-wrenching, violent, and wicked racist color…. Legal thriller and western fans will stay with it to the last page.… Margolin’s novel offers a compelling portrait of small town justice done right.”
“Worthy Brown’s Daughter reads something like Deadwood meets Twelve Years a Slave. The finale in the courtroom is as brilliant and exciting as any great legal drama…. [A] beautifully written story rooted in America’s brutal history of slavery and racism.”
“The action is brisk and the villains are shifty…[t]his energetic tale does cover interesting regional history for readers who might be averse to picking up a book of nonfiction, but who are willing to follow Margolin in his break from the regular routine.”
“Worthy Brown’s Daughteris a fast and absorbing read, and Margolin’s law expertise makes the book’s climax…an exciting moment indeed.”
“In New York Times bestselling author Phillip Margolin’s first historical, recently widowed attorney Matthew Penny has come to newly-settled Oregon to start fresh. He stumbles into the most challenging case of his career when a former slave, Worthy Brown, asks him to save his teenage daughter.”
“This departure for best-selling thriller writer Margolin might appeal to fans of the acclaimed movie 12 Years a Slave.”
“Margolin captures both the haphazard legal theater—when judges ride the circuit, Portland’s ‘courthouse’ is a loft on the third floor of the Coleman Barrel Company—and the daunting racism of the times.”
“Phillip Margolin explores intriguing new territory in Worthy Brown’s Daughter, a compelling historical drama, set in nineteenth-century Oregon, that combines a heartbreaking story of slavery and murder with classic Margolin plot twists.”
It's hardly surprising that Margolin's latest work wraps with a huge courtroom scene, but what intrigues here is the setting. Best-selling thriller author Margolin has forsaken the modern world for 19th-century Oregon, where lawyer Matthew Penny agrees to help freed slave Worthy Brown retrieve his daughter from their former master, a big-time Portland lawyer. Tragically, his efforts lead to Worthy's arrest for murder. Meanwhile, ice-cold hanging judge Jed Tyler has fallen for a gorgeous woman with money in her sights and murder in her heart. Based on a real case, which should bring out the best in former criminal defense attorney Margolin; with a 150,000-copy first printing.
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
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-rush–rich 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.