Phillip Margolin has been writing legal thrillers for quite a few years now. His latest novel, Worthy Brown's Daughter, is a little bit of a change of pace for him. Although it is still a legal thriller, this one takes place in the 1800's when slavery was still an issue and the West still had the justifiable reputation of being wild.
Into Oregon comes attorney Matthew Penny. He has made the long trek west but at a severe cost. His beloved wife Rachel was drowned as they attempted a river crossing Matthew made his way safely to Oregon but he is heartsick at what price he paid.
He throws himself into his work and manages to earn a living practicing law. In a short time he is involved in a case concerning theft. The case turns on the word of a business man who had some money and a beautiful woman who claims he stole it from her. It is "he said" versus "she said" and when the woman is as beautiful as Sharon Hill it is obvious whose word the court is going to believe. Still Matthew perseveres to get the best result he can for his businessman client,
This case creates an enemy for Matthew in the person of the opposing attorney Caleb Barbour. After this case is over his and Barbour's paths cross again. This time it is in regard to a black man named Worthy Brown. Worthy came from Georgia with Barbour who promised him his freedom in Oregon. He also promised the freedom of Brown's daughter Roxanne. Worthy got his freedom but when it came time for Roxanne to be free Barbour reneged on his promise.
All of these circumstances come to a head in the climax of the story which involves a trial for murder. The result will affect Matthew, Worthy and Roxanne. In order to keep Worthy from hanging, Matthew may have to sacrifice his own life.
Margolin weaves the facts of this story into a compelling tale of justice for sale. He creates vibrant characters who help to bring the West to life and to make the issue of slavery one that dominates all else. It is a fictional story based on some true facts. The fiction enhances the facts and makes the story move quickly from incident to incident.
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.
Worthy Brown's Daughter is published by Harper. It contains 352 pages and sells for $26.99.
Jackie K Cooper