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Worthy Brown's Daughter Hardcover – January 21, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (January 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062195344
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062195340
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (117 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Based loosely on true events, the latest legal thriller from criminal defense attorney turned bestseller Margolin (Lost Lake) follows Matthew Penny, a pistol-bearing lawyer guided by his own moral compass. Portland, Ore., in the 1860s is a nest of conflict: property lawsuits stall the inevitable construction of a railroad, and a black man on trial expects a racist jury. Here, the innocent is Worthy Brown, a freed black man who asks Matthew to rescue his daughter, Roxanne, from Caleb Barbour, a crooked lawyer who illegally holds her in servitude. When Worthy is discovered standing over Caleb's dead body, and only he and Matthew know the truth, justice seems unlikely. Around this central drama, Margolin establishes characters that might have stepped out of a grainy Western, among them the evil siren Sharon Hill—a full-figured woman whose oval face was framed by ebony ringlets that were in sharp contrast to her milk-white complexion. Margolin allows passions to sway his heroes, and generates empathy toward his crooks. If only the black characters worshipped their white benefactors less, or if one female character was spared a derogatory physical description. The plot is at times frustratingly one-dimensional, but Matthew is ultimately forced to distinguish truth from justice. On the courtroom floor, where Margolin is clearly at home, the stock characters adopt roles, albeit briefly, in a satisfying, white-knuckle climax. (Feb.)

From Booklist

Margolin, author of 17 popular legal thrillers, pens a historical novel set in 1850s Portland, Oregon, based on an actual legal suit brought by a black family against a white slave owner. Free man Worthy Brown sues his former master for his daughter’s freedom. Out of sheer spite and wicked lust, Caleb Barbour refuses to release 15-year-old Roxanne to her father, despite Oregon’s law against slavery. Worthy hires down-on-his-luck lawyer Matthew Penny to bring a legal custody suit, though circumstances conspire against them. Throw in a money-grubbing beauty, a smitten judge, a few loudmouth hotheads, and at least two legal beagles willing to bend the law, and the Old West comes alive in heart-wrenching, violent, and wicked racist color. The plot is comfortably predictable, with a last-minute save by our brilliant hero, yet legal thriller and western fans will stay with it to the last page. Both a psychological western reminiscent of The Ox-Bow Incident and a sharp critique of Oregon’s early legal process, Margolin’s novel offers a compelling portrait of small town justice done right—eventually. --Jen Baker

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

This is involving historical fiction.
William Dietrich
My only problem with this book is that many of the characters felt a little too good or bad.
Darcia Helle
It is well written, smart, and well paced.
Dr. Who, What, Where?

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Aaron C. Brown TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Let's start off with two easy points. If you're a Philip Margolin fan, and I know there are many, this book delivers the goods. It's not up there with his best early work, like Gone, But Not Forgotten and After Dark, but it's got more freshness and energy than most of his stuff from the last five years.

On the other hand, if you want a historical novel, you can give this one a miss without second thoughts. The characters and situations are thoroughly modern, without even a half-hearted attempt to embed them in 1860 Oregon. The few bits of research are paraded obviously ("there were no courthouses in Oregon in 1860","the population of San Francisco in 1860 was 56,802") and anachronisms abound. The period is an uneasy conglomeration of the somewhat earlier Illinois circuit court environment of Young Mr. Lincoln with the later brawling frontier world shown in Deadwood, or perhaps the Western justice illustrated in Have Gun Will Travel. On top of that, this is a legal thriller, not a novel. There is no character development or realistic dialog. Every expression and emotion is laboriously explained to the reader. There is no sense of place or atmosphere, descriptions are superficial and clichéd.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Darcia Helle TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
With this story, Phillip Margolin takes a difficult time from our country's history and paints a vivid portrait. I could see this story playing out in the 'wild west' 150 years ago. The details are profoundly disturbing; not because Margolin overdoes it, but because he gets it just right. We're forced to take a hard look at prejudice of all sorts, as well as the (mis)treatment of women.

For readers who are longtime fans of Margolin's courtroom dramas, there is much of that here as well. This story takes place at the very beginning of courts and judges in the west, and we see the way the system worked and didn't work back then.

My only problem with this book is that many of the characters felt a little too good or bad. Few people are one way or the other in life. I wanted more depth and variation. Though I have to say that Matthew Penny's character was well done, if not a little predictable. I could feel his anguish as he struggled with the hardships of his life.

Overall, this is an interesting read and an important reminder of what we've left behind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mr. August VINE VOICE on October 7, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Phillip Margolin is a successful writer of mysteries and thrillers. He can weave a great tale with enough twists and ironies to satisfy most readers. He is a pro.

In this book, he departed from his usual setting to one in the 1860's in Oregon. Historical novels are difficult enough, I believe, because the facts are often skewed for plot enhancement. However, Margolin has captured the times with his valid descriptions of slavery and political issues, clothes, transportation and the scope of a lawyer's knowledge.

The story had many parts but the reader received a heavy dose of slavery disputes, corrupt attorneys, honest attorneys, and men who succumb to a tantalizing woman. The problem with the book was that the characters were trite. Nothing grabs my attention faster than a quirky character, an unusual plot, a new revelation, or writing that rivals our best authors.

Instead, Margolin's characters are stereotypes: the poor, widowed attorney who fights for the common man and feels guilty if he has feelings for another woman. The ultra corrupt bad guys who are usually drunk, assaulting the innocent and care about power and money. Then there is the fairly honest rich man who is romanced by the prostitute. And the prostitute herself is a gold digger who is predictable to the prosaic plot.

I can't say I didn't enjoy reading the story, but the historical period was wasted on a clichéd cast. He needed more exceptional characters to fulfill his interesting plot. Margolin gave the novel a great title, I expected more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Neal Reynolds VINE VOICE on November 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I've enjoyed a few earlier Margolin books, but this isn't him at his best. It's an attempt at a historical western, and is OK for that, but his fans will likely be disappointed. Still, it is Margolin and fans will read it. Just relax and enjoy, but you're not likely to find this to be one of his memorable books. Non-fans who pick this up hoping for a good western or historical novel set in the 1860's aren't likely to feel rewarded by it. Not really recommended, especially not for those looking for good western or historical fiction
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on September 5, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really wanted to like this one. No kidding.

I am a fan of historical fiction, especially novels pertaining to the Civil War era, so I had high hopes for "Worthy Brown's Daughter" coming in. After all, it tells the story of the young daughter of a former slave who was being held against her will by her father's former owner. The story takes place in the Oregon Territory of the late 1850s and Worthy Brown is only a free man because of being in the right place at the right time. Oregon, when it passed its state constitution, placed language in that document that freed all slaves being held in the state who were there before passage of the new law. Brown's owner was not happy about freeing him, and he decided to hold on to Brown's daughter as a bit of revenge. Brown, unexpectedly, decided to get himself a good white lawyer and meet his former owner in the court house.

That plot is what the book has going best for it. Unfortunately, there are way more negatives than positives when it comes to almost everything else about the book.

!. The characters are, for the most part, stereotypical of the times and are pretty much just cardboard cutouts. It is difficult to see all but one or two of them as anything approaching real, breathing human beings.
2. The action, and there is a whole lot of action (including murders, rapes, fights, hangings, etc.), in the book is "thriller" type action with very little meat to it. The numerous incidents approach like summer thunder storms and are done and gone just as quickly. It sort of makes the reader's head spin that things happen so quickly and are forgotten.
3. There is what should have been a subplot in the novel that comes very close to overwhelming the book's main plot.
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