“The Third Victim” by Phillip Margolin is the first in a new series. Margolin is back with his expertise of legal suspense crime novels. What makes his books interesting is the ability to intertwine facts about the justice system within a riveting plot.
The book begins with a horrific scene of a girl stumbling out of the woods and collapsing on the highway. She has been badly burned, beaten and tortured. The investigation would later show that this woman was the third victim of a sadistic killer. Luckily she was able to escape before he finished the job.
Persons of interest pile up: Alex Mason, a prominent defense attorney who owns the cabin where the torture takes place; Arnold Prater, a rogue police officer, and a drug-dealing pimp, Jackson Wright. Readers enter the courtroom with the defense attorneys, Regina Barrister and Robin Lockwood, as they try to figure out who is the real torturer.
“I pioneered the battered woman defense back in Oregon in 1979,” Margolin said. “No one understood the dynamics of wife beating and why they stayed with their abuser. That year I represented a woman who murdered her husband with a hammer after he passed out drunk. During the course of my investigation I found out she was beaten by him for 14 years, and he also pushed her down a flight of stairs. She got probation. After that, I lectured and wrote articles on how to use it as a defense.”
As with all of his novels, Margolin explores societal issues, with this book being no different. Alzheimer’s is dealt with in a very understanding manner. Regina, a high-powered defense attorney, in the midst of a very serious case of murder and torture is starting to forget important information and is not able to hide it from the rest of the team that includes her newly-hired associate Robin Lockwood.
Since Regina is known for her quick wit, sharp mind and immaculate research, Robin thought this would be her dream job, having a great mentor. Yet, she now must decide what to do, weighing her desire to continue working with Regina against her moral compass. Does she approach her or some of the trusted friends, and if so, how to avoid confrontation since Regina is obviously in denial?
Using this disease as an inspiration for the story, “I read this article in the Oregon State Bar Journal that examines what should be done when a senior partner in a big law firm, a rainmaker, starts showing signs of dementia,” Margolin said. “This made me think about a young lawyer who starts working with her idol on a death penalty case and realizes something is wrong. It is also personal since my grandmother, mother-in-law and my aunt had Alzheimer’s. I think it is worse for people who are around them.
“I remember when I went back to New York and called my aunt to get together for lunch. After lunch, we were sitting in the park and she did not know where was her apartment. Five minutes later she asked the question again. My father and brother flew out and we took her back to Oregon.”
Margolin never disappoints readers with his legal thrillers. He chooses an issue relevant to today and encases it in a story involving some crime. This book is really two plots in one, a murder mystery and an examination of the impact of Alzheimer’s.