Murder at Black Oaks
Robin Lockwood Book 6
Nov 8th, 2022
Murder at Black Oaks by Phillip Margolin is a legal thriller that has the main character, Robin Lockwood, having to deal with a legendary curse, ancient grudges, escaped convicts, improbable masquerades, and a possible serial killer. Besides the haunted house there is also the former prosecutor, Frank Melville, who is also haunted by someone he prosecuted who turned out to be innocent.
He wanted to base a book on the famous mysterious writers. “I always have been a voracious reader. I devoured Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr. I became a lawyer because of Perry Mason, my inspiration. Ellery Queen is the reason I write mysteries with surprise endings. American Mystery Classics,published by Otto Penzler, is reissuing the mystery classics of the 1930s. After I started re-reading these “Golden Age of Mystery” classics I decided to write a story in the same mold, trying to put every cliché into this book. There is a haunted house with a werewolf curse, locked rooms, all the different suspects trapped on a mountain, a butler who might be a killer, and an escaped lunatic, like the game of Clue. I had the most fun writing it.”
Melville asks Robin Lockwood, a brilliant defense attorney, to right this long outstanding wrong and free an innocent man on death row, Jose Alvarez. Successful in their efforts, Melville invites Lockwood, her investigator, and Jose, up to Black Oaks for a celebration. Unfortunately, the celebration turns deadly after Melville is found murdered, with a knife connected to the original curse. Like the game of Clue, Robin and her investigator Ken must determine who is the suspect and how did the murder happen.
“We have set up our justice system in the late 1700s because of being victims of really mean people, the British mistreatment of colonists. There was a philosophical decision that the person arrested was arrested by mistake, a presumption of innocence. The burden shifts to the state. The focus is never on the victim until the sentencing phrase. Jose, the accused in the book, was found guilty, put-on death row, and we very quickly learn he did not do it. Jose, the accused who was wrongly found guilty is intelligent, hardworking, his family are immigrants. It is a tragedy what happened to him. He was robbed of most of the productive years of his life. He is angry, resentful, and feels the system let him down.”
This is a fun, complex plot with many twists and turns. A bonus is how the attorney-client privilege plays into the plot. Readers of his books will learn a little about the law.