Worthy Brown's Daughter
Phillip Margolin, 2014
Known for his contemporary thrillers, 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.
One of a handful of lawyers in the new state of Oregon, recently widowed Matthew Penny agrees to help Worthy Brown, a newly freed slave, rescue his fifteen year old daughter, Roxanne, from their former master, a powerful Portland lawyer. Worthy's lawsuit sets in motion events that lead to Worthy's arrest for murder and create an agonizing moral dilemma that could send either Worthy or Matthew to the hangman.
At the same time, hanging judge Jed Tyler, a powerful politician with a barren personal life, becomes infatuated with a beautiful gold-digger who is scheming to murder Benjamin Gillette, Oregon's wealthiest businessman. When Gillette appears to die from natural causes, Sharon Hill produces a forged contract of marriage and Tyler must decide if he will sacrifice his reputation to defend that of the woman who inspired his irrational obsession.
At Worthy's trial, Matthew reveals a stunning courtroom surprise and his attempt to stop the deadly fortune hunter ends in a violent climax. (From the publisher.)
• Where—New York, New York, USA
• Education—B.A., American University; J.D., New York
• Currently—lives in Portland, Oregon
Phillip Margolin is a writer of legal thrillers. After receiving a B.A. in Government in 1965, from American University in Washington, D.C., he worked for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia. In 1970 he graduated from the New York University School of Law, spending 25 years as a criminal defense attorney in the Oregon Court of Appeals. It was an occupation, he said, inspired by his love of Perry Mason books.
In 1974 he published his first short story, "The Girl in the Yellow Bikini," and by 1996 became a full-time writer, penning 20 books, including a collection of short stories. He lists as his favourite writer Joseph Conrad, and Tolstoy's War and Peace among his favorite books, along with Mitchell Smith's Stone City.
Margolin was married to Doreen Stamm in 1968. They had two children, Ami and Daniel. Doreen, also a defense attorney, died from cancer in January 2007.
Margolin is also the president of Chess for Success, a non-profit organisation "dedicated to helping children develop skills necessary for success in school and life by learning chess." (From Wikipedia.)
Worthy Brown’s Daughter is a fast and absorbing read, and Margolin’s law expertise makes the book’s climax…an exciting moment indeed.
It is rare that we get a good western adventure but Margolin has the right stuff to make this one a classic. He takes us back to that time in our country's history when men were quick to fight for the dreams of wealth, a woman's love, or a matter of honor. If you like westerns or legal thrillers you will get both in Worthy Brown's Daughter.
He 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.
The author has done some homework when it comes to recreating 19th century scenes, from the informal courtrooms to the makeshift jail to the streets of Portland and San Francisco. Still, Margolin apparently has never met an adjective he didn't love and want to bring home. One of the most striking examples from this book is his description of Matthew as—"gaunt," "unwell," "always exhausted" and "morose"—all in one sentence! [Despite a] careless use of language...this energetic tale does cover interesting regional history.
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.
Iron Mountain News
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.
Portland, Ore., in the 1860s...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.... On the courtroom floor...the stock characters adopt roles, albeit briefly, in a satisfying, white-knuckle climax.
[I]nspired 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.... With plenty of action and short chapters, this historical legal thriller is a quick read. Some...plotlines are too easily and quickly tied up. ...but the lively narrative will keep readers engrossed. —Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN
Legal thriller writer Margolin turns back the clock to confront murder, deceit and slavery in frontier Oregon. It's 1860... [T]here'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.
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