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Sleeping Beauty (Margolin, Phillip) Hardcover – March 23, 2004

97 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The criminal at the heart of bestseller Margolin's unsatisfying 10th thriller is particularly heinous. Late one night in Portland, Ore., he assaults teenager Ashley Spencer, rapes and kills Ashley's friend Tanya, a sleepover guest, and stabs Ashley's father to death. Ashley miraculously escapes, but her brush with terror is far from over. A few months later, just as she and her mother, Terri (out of town on the night of the attack), are beginning to re-engage with the world, the killer strikes again, murdering Terri and leaving another woman, Casey Van Meter, in a coma on the grounds of Ashley's new school, the exclusive Oregon Academy. Ashley doesn't witness the crime, but she sees Joshua Maxfield, the school's writer-in-residence, at the scene, clutching a bloody knife. Wondering why her quiet, loving family has been targeted by this madman, she goes into hiding in Europe, returning to Portland years later to bear witness when Maxfield is finally apprehended and tried. But is he guilty? And what was the motive for this crime spree? The search for answers generates a modicum of suspense, but the book never really commands much interest, thanks to clumsy plotting and even clumsier prose. Much of the story is revealed in flashbacks, framed by scenes from a reading in a Seattle bookstore given by Casey's twin brother, Miles Van Meter, who has written a bestselling true-crime book about the case and his comatose sister (and yes, it's as contrived as it sounds). Margolin (The Ties That Bind, etc.) has imagined a particularly lurid and sensational crime, but he fails to realize virtually any of its inherent dramatic potential.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Ashley Spencer and her best friend, Tanya Jones, both high-school soccer superstars, had just gone to bed at Ashley's house after a postgame pizza party. Their rest was disturbed by an intruder, who slaughtered Ashley's father (her mother was out of town) and proceeded to rape Tanya. Then he inexplicably stopped for a snack, giving Ashley an unexpected opportunity to escape. Although she avoided physical assault, the haunting memory of her father's cries, Tanya's sobs, and the clinking of fork on plate as the intruder raided the family refrigerator have left Ashley emotionally numb. A transfer to a prestigious prep school with a good soccer program seems to be helping, freeing Ashley's mother, aspiring novelist Terri, to take a writing class with best-selling author Joshua Maxfield. When Maxfield's novel appears to be based on the Spencer family assault, Ashley and Terri find that their nightmare is not yet over. Margolin knows how to put together a high-concept thriller, piling plot twist upon plot twist and keeping the narrative pounding ever forward, even, on occasion, at the expense of believability. This time he pulls off a genuinely surprising ending, too, making up in part for the torment he heaps upon poor Ashley, who undergoes more trauma than any teenager should be forced to endure, even for the sake of a good story. Mary Frances Wilkens
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Series: Margolin, Phillip
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1 edition (March 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060083263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060083267
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,249 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I grew up in New York City and Levittown, New York. In 1965, I graduated from the American University in Washington, D.C., with a bachelor's degree in government. I spent 1965 to 1967 in Liberia, West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer, graduated from New York University School of Law in 1970 as a night student. I went nights and worked as a junior high teacher in the South Bronx to support myself. My first job following law school was a clerkship with Herbert M. Schwab, the chief judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals, and from 1972 until 1996, I was in private practice, specializing in criminal defense at the trial and appellate levels. As an appellate attorney I have appeared before the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Oregon Supreme Court, and the Oregon Court of Appeals. As a trial attorney, I handled all sorts of criminal cases in state and federal court, and have represented approximately thirty people charged with homicide, several of whom faced the death penalty. I was the first Oregon attorney to use battered women's syndrome to defend a woman accused of murdering her spouse.

Since 1996, I have been writing full-time. All of my novels have been bestsellers. Heartstone, my first novel, was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for an Edgar for best original paperback mystery of 1978. My second novel, The Last Innocent Man, was made into an HBO movie. Gone, But Not Forgotten has been sold to more than twenty-five foreign publishers and was made into a miniseries starring Brooke Shields. It was also the Main Selection of the Literary Guild. After Dark was a Book of the Month Club selection. The Burning Man, my fifth novel, published in August 1996, was the Main Selection of the Literary Guild and a Reader's Digest condensed book. My sixth novel, The Undertaker's Widow, was published in 1998 and was a Book of the Month Club selection. Wild Justice (HarperCollins, September 2000) was a Main Selection of the Literary Guild, a selection of the Book of the Month Club, and was nominated for an Oregon Book Award. The Associate was published by HarperCollins in August 2001, and Ties that Bind was published by HarperCollins in March 2003. My tenth novel, Sleeping Beauty, was published by HarperCollins on March 23, 2004. Lost Lake was published by HarperCollins in March 2005 and was nominated for an Oregon Book Award. Proof Positive was published by HarperCollins in July 2006. Executive Privilege was published by HarperCollins in May 2008 and in 2009 was given the Spotted Owl Award for the Best Northwest Mystery. Fugitive was published by HarperCollins on June 2, 2009. Willamette Writers gave me the 2009 Distinguished Northwest Writers Award. My latest novel, Supreme Justice, was published by HarperCollins in May 2010. My next novel, Capitol Murder, will come out in April 2012.

On October 11, 2011, HarperCollins will publish Vanishing Acts, my first Young Adult novel, which I wrote with my daughter, Ami Margolin Rome. Also in October, the short story "The Case of the Purloined Paget," which I wrote with my brother, Jerry, will be published by Random House in the anthology A Study in Sherlock.

In addition to my novels, I have published short stories and nonfiction articles in magazines and law journals. My short story "The Jailhouse Lawyer" was selected for the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 1999. The House on Pine Terrace was selected for the anthology The Best American Mystery Stories 2010.

From 1996 to 2009 I was the president and chairman of the Board of Chess for Success. I am still heavily involved in the program, and returned to the board after a one-year absence in 2010. Chess for Success is a nonprofit charity that uses chess to teach study skills to elementary- and middle-school children in Title I schools . From 2007 to the present, I have been on the Board of Literary Arts, which sponsors the Oregon Book Awards, the Writers in the Schools program, and Portland Arts and Lectures.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Bull on April 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We have read and generally enjoyed all nine of Margolin's previous outings, and find that this lawyer turned writer can craft a suspenseful story line along with the best of them. The books that have left us a little cold were ones where the author overpopulates with so many events and characters, doing justice to few of them, that hardly a reader can keep it all straight. Fortunately, in "Beauty", we have a cast of just a few main players to consider:
Ashley Spencer, a teenager who witnesses the brutal murder of her girlfriend and her father, and just narrowly escapes herself;
Joshua Maxfield, the alleged murderer who for much of the book is either a fugitive from the crime or in prison for it;
Miles Van Meter, best-selling author of a true-life account of the Spencer murders and the impact on his comatose sister;
Casey Van Meter, yet another victim who after Terri Spencer (Ashley's mother, who was away during the first attack) is killed in her sight, is struck on the head and spends years in a coma (ergo, the sleeping beauty!);
Randy Coleman, Casey's soon to be ex-husband from a mistaken quickie marriage;
and Jerry Philips, Ashley's attorney, who for a while takes almost too much personal interest in this whole matter.
Which one of these is really the killer? We're lead down many a path before all becomes clearer toward the end. Even with the big twist that gets to be a little foreseeable, a further twist right at the very end is good for a pretty shocking climax. Interesting courtroom drama helps break up the more violent action of much of the novel.
Most will find Margolin's latest a pleasing puzzler.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By W. P. Strange on April 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Take a great mystery writer, a complicated plot, engaging characters and unusual observational insights into people, places and culture and I will probably stay up all night reading. Phillip Margolin has been on my "must read" list for a half dozen years, and "Sleeping Beauty" will keep him there a bit longer.
The characters and the story move along at the usual pace, but the plot seems to develope holes and never quite satisfies in the end. Maybe I have set my "Margolin" meter too high, but I was expecting a bigger bang for the buck. That is not to say you shouldn't read this latest attempt, it deserves the attention, and I'm sure all writers stumble occasionally, so I suggest you read it, enjoy it for what it does deliver and know that the next Margolin will most likely be racheted up a few notches.
To me Phillip Margolin is still in a league with Lehane, Stephen White, Steve Martini, The Kellermans, and about a dozen others who keep me up late at night.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By John R. Linnell on April 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phillip Margolin has never disappointed me yet with his novels, and with Sleeping Beauty, his streak continues. In this novel things are seldom what they seem and it would spoil the read for me to reveal the twists and turns that this story takes. The straight forward story is that Ashley Spencer, a high school soccer star has a friend to her house for a sleep over following a big game and awakens to the most terrifying experience one can imagine. A masked stranger is in their room. He ties up Ashley and takes her friend into another room where he rapes and murders her. Returning to her room, he says, "I'll see you later" and she hears him go down to the kitchen. Her father, who is the only parent in the house that night crawls into her room suffering from multiple stab wounds and using the last of his energy frees fer from her bonds and she escapes out her window.
This appears to be a random event until Ashley's mother is taking a creative writing course at a nearby private school in which Ashley has enrolled and hears the instructor read a passage from a piece of writing that describes the event that her daughter has gone through and also includes a part of what happened that received no publicity. She eventually determines that no one in the class wrote the story and that it was drafted by the instructor, Joshua Maxwell, himself.
Her suspicions are aroused to the point where she confides them to the Dean of the school who checks out the instructor's background and calls the mother suggesting a meeting to discuss what she has found. While jogging on the school grounds near where the meeting is taking place, Ashley hears a scream and decides to investigate.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Nick G on March 25, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Ashley Spencer is your typical teenager. She has great parents, makes good grades in school and she is a star on the soccer team, but her perfect life is about to be shattered by a shocking act of violence.
While her reporter mom is on assignment, Ashley spends quality time with her father and her best friend until a stranger enters the Spencer home and changes things forever. The man stabs Ashley's father and then moves on to her friend, raping and killing her while Ashley sits tied up. As Ashley sits waiting for the killer to return her father crawls in to help her, setting her free to escape. Barely getting away alive, Ashley makes it to a neighbor's house where she calls the police. The police begin investigating the crime scene to discover a key piece of evidence left behind by the killer.
Ashley's mom returns to home to deal with the tragedy and to try to make a new start for her and her daughter. Terri Spencer finds The Oregon Academy a private school with a top notch girls soccer team. Once at the school, Ashley settles in quickly and soon has a good relationship with the Dean, Casey Van Meter.
As Terri settles into her new life she discovers a crucial piece of information that may lead to the capture of her husband's killer, a discovery that she shares with Casey Van Meter, but before anything can be done with the information she is killed and Casey is beaten into a coma, both victims to the same man who killed Ashley's father...a man who just happens to be a teacher at the school.
Things begin to spin out of control and the key to finding the identity of the killer, or killers lies in a true crime book called `Sleeping Beauty' a book written by Casey's brother Miles.
`Sleeping Beauty' is a twist filled shocker that's as smart as it is suspenseful.
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