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Murder at Black Oaks: A Robin Lockwood Novel

Review

Murder at Black Oaks: A Robin Lockwood Novel

Defense attorney Robin Lockwood has become something of a celebrity in Portland, Oregon legal circles. And now she has landed her toughest case yet: overturn the murder conviction of a man on Death Row.

Many years ago, then-Multnomah County District Attorney Francis Melville worked hard to convict Jose Alvarez of killing his girlfriend. As a prosecutor, he believed in his job, justice and, most importantly, the death penalty. The evidence against Alvarez was overwhelming, so Melville fought for the harshest punishment the law allowed. And he got it. Alvarez now sits on Death Row.

"Phillip Margolin writes an authentic legal thriller, not only because he was a successful attorney but because he has a clever mind that knows how to take a plot and twist it into knots."

Long after the trial, though, when Melville had turned to private practice, one of his clients boasted that he had killed Alvarez’s girlfriend. Melville is horrified. But what can he do? His hands are tied; he can’t tell anyone. When he finally sees a chance to get around the attorney/client privilege, he hires Robin Lockwood. She is invited to Black Oaks, his massive rural estate perched high atop Solitude Mountain. A few years back, Melville was in a tragic auto accident that left him paralyzed, so travel no longer comes easy for him.

Robin schedules a time, packs an overnight bag (having been warned about the weather and the treacherous roads), and makes the journey to Black Oaks. Her first impression of the mansion is that the stories about it, and the curse attached to it, may actually be true. Still, after talking with Melville, she agrees to take on the case.

Surprisingly, Alvarez wants none of what Melville is offering. He harbors little of anything but anger toward the ex-DA. Robin can’t really blame him but tries to explain the predicament the prosecutor was facing when his client confessed. Against big odds, Robin pulls off a win, and once again Melville invites her up to Black Oaks, this time to celebrate.

There is a motley mix of others who have been asked to partake in the festivities. Besides Alvarez, Melville has invited a washed-up actor who seems to be under the impression that the retired prosecutor wants to finance a movie staring him. (Rumor has it that Melville has acquired a taste for exonerating wrongly imprisoned people, so it sort of rings true.) Also on the guest list are his personal attorney; his daughter, Nelly, who lives at Black Oaks; and his fiancé.

A freak storm strands the caterers there for the night, along with the guests and the houseman. So when their host is murdered, the suspect list is a long one. Fortunately, a sheriff’s deputy shows up, seeking shelter after his car slid off the road in the storm. He was part of a search team dispatched to capture an escapee from a nearby mental hospital. With all that’s going on, everyone at Black Oaks welcomes the deputy, feeling relief and comfort in his presence. But should they?

Phillip Margolin writes an authentic legal thriller, not only because he was a successful attorney but because he has a clever mind that knows how to take a plot and twist it into knots. MURDER AT BLACK OAKS is a great addition to this series. Margolin takes the chill of a spooky mansion on a remote hilltop, the thrill of a nasty storm, an escaped madman, and a murder or two --- the most exciting ingredients for a blockbuster suspense story. Lock the doors and, whatever you do, don’t answer if someone comes knocking.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on November 23, 2022

Murder at Black Oaks: A Robin Lockwood Novel
by Phillip Margolin

  • Publication Date: November 8, 2022
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 1250258464
  • ISBN-13: 9781250258465