Cover Image: Murder at Black Oaks

Murder at Black Oaks

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This  book differs from his usual legal thrillers which was a bit of a disappointment for me.   It still had a little legal action, but not at the level as his previous books.  Overall, I would still recommend this book.
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2.5/5⭐️

My first Phillip Margolin book and 6th in the Robin Lockwood series, and unfortunately it missed the boat for me. 

Attorney Robin Lockwood is hired by Frank Melville, a wealthy retired Oregon DA, to free an innocent man who has been on death row for 30 years for a murder he didn’t commit. While visiting Melville (with the freed former inmate) at Black Oaks, his gothic-like isolated mansion, the bodies start piling up, and she works to solve who among the household is the villain.

This has all the promise of a good old-fashion locked-door classic. Gothic, enormous, cursed, isolated manor house…nearby insane asylum…freakish thunderstorm…it’s all there. But the writing itself (other than the description of the manor) was more expository (telling), and more amateurish than it should have been. It felt rushed, choppy and lacking in character depth. 

As I haven’t read the previous books, I’m hoping that they were more polished than this one. 

My thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing the free early arc of Murder at Black Oaks for review. The opinions are strictly my own.
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This is part of the Robin Lockwood series but could be read as a stand alone.  Robin has been summoned to an isolated mansion to meet with a man who has a case he wants her help with.  Just when you think you have  it figured out there is another twist.  This book will definitely keep you turning the pages to see what happens next.  Thank you to net galley for an advanced readers copy.
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This is a quick, entertaining read that you may appreciate most if you have not read other fiction by Phillip Margolin. I fit that category, having plunged into the story knowing of the author only by name and genre, legal thrillers. I chose the book partially for its settings, Portland and a secluded mansion deep in the forested Oregon mountains. Thankfully, the author gave the reader a sense of what to expect with a prologue promising a mystery paying homage to the plots and authors of the Golden Age of mystery such as Agatha Christie and Earl Stanley Gardner. So, I accepted some clumsy plotting and dialogue but enjoyed the foray into a skilled attorney’s experiences with innocent clients, cons, and killers— set mostly in a creepy Gothic mansion.
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A legal thriller master, Phillip Margolin, creates a complex story as a retired prosecutor/defense attorney requests Robin Lockwood’s expertise to help save an innocent man on death row. Not only does retired District Attorney Francis Melville seek Robin’s counsel on his error in convicting Jose Alvarez, but he also invites her to a weekend he is checking out another potential suspect in the mistaken murder conviction of someone else.

Unfortunately, Melville is murdered in his home, and searching for his killer occupies everyone’s attention. Then a young lawyer seeing Melville’s daughter, is found murdered.
Margolin writes a suspense-driven story with Robin exploring suspects, motives, and alibis before finding the answers she needs. Robin Lockwood is a fascinating character to follow, and Margolin makes sure it’s always worth the read.
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Margolin does a bit of change to his usual legal eagle Robin Lockwood's legal cases and mystery solving with the latest book in the series. First Robin is asked to take a case, by a retired DA, to help overturn the murder conviction of Jose Alvarez. Years before the DA was the lawyer that helped convict Alvarez and was later to find out the man was innocent but the manner in which he learned the truth prevented him from taking on the case. Once Jose's freedom is accomplished Robin, Jose, and associate Ken go to the spooky Black Oaks estate of the retired DA Melville for a celebration. Out in the middle of nowhere, supposedly cursed, and close to an insane asylum, the estate is the perfect place for incidents that will need Robin's lawyer skills to answer the questions arising about strange events and murder It's an interesting trip through the legal issues, the celebration, murders, and resolution. Definitely a different approach to Robin's usual legal activities but her lawyer skills and ability to walk through the issues made it an interesting read. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.
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Thanks to Netgalley for an ARC of this book, in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I've enjoyed all of the Robin Lockwood series, and this was no exception.  It is a little different from the previous books in the series - we do get the courtroom action, and a lot of clever legal action, both from Robin and her associates and from two earlier cases handled by Francis Hardy, a former prosecutor and defense attorney.  I always enjoy the legal action in these books, and this forms the back story for this book.

But, Margolin decided to have some fun with this one as well, by offering an homage to classic mystery writers - we have a locked room mystery, the setting is a creepy mansion at the top of a mountain, with secret tunnels, and it's always raining while Robin drives to the mansion.  You know that we're looking to earlier classic mysteries, when we head up the mountain and pass a creepy insane asylum along the way!  There is a curse, there are references to werewolves - it's all there!

Despite all of this, however, it's a real mystery - not played as a slapstick.  And, you still have the pleasure of figuring out who-dun-it and why, along with Robin and her investigator.  You also have the ethical issue that is troubling to the characters and to the reader - what happens when an attorney learns from a client that he actually committed a murder and framed someone else for it - and now that other person is on death row.  What does the attorney do when he knows, beyond any question, that an innocent man is on death row, and he can't figure out a way to save the man?

Well worth reading - I'm enjoying this series considerably, and am looking forward to the next book in the series.
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I received this book as an ARC and this is my review. Wow! Phillip Margolin is in top form in this incredible “locked room” mystery. The setting is an isolated, cursed mansion with characters flawed and filled with strong emotions. Margolin is the King of the twist and this story is loaded with them. I always love his books and this one does not disappoint. I totally recommend this book to readers who enjoy a psychological thriller with amazing, surprising outcomes.
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This was a quick read with several storylines.   I liked the legal ones and helping get innocent people out of prison, more than the locked room mystery.   So for me, this was a mixed bag.  If you like locked room mysteries in haunted houses, you will probably like this book.   3.5
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I liked some parts of this story with a passion. A Gothic mansion, built brick by brick to resemble a historied European castle, a curse, werewolves, legends and a lot of creepiness made me pick up this book to find… a lot of chapters devoted to a legal thriller with redundant information and endless recaps. I liked the first part, which lays the background to the story, but I’m not a fan of legal thrillers so the main chapters didn’t capture my attention as much as the locked room murder mystery. It is my fault, since this is part of a series, I should have checked the previous volumes to learn more about it. A rich retired prosecutor put a man on death row and later learned that he was innocent. After much maneuvering, Defense Attorney Robin Lockwood frees the wrongly convicted man and they all go to the titular Black Oaks, to celebrate. Instead, murder ensues. This part doesn’t happen till the middle of the novel, but then, there are more chapters afterwards with more legal shenanigans. Finally, the conclusion, which I saw coming. Fans of the series will probably enjoy it, as will readers of legal thrillers. Murder mystery fans will enjoy that part of the plot, but, in my case, it was too short and predictable. 
I chose to read this book and all opinions in this review are my own and completely unbiased. Thank you, #NetGalley/#St. Martin's Press, Minotaur Books!
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I didn't know this was part of a series, but I will definitely be looking into prior books! This had everything I wanted out of a suspense book.
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I picked up this book because I really needed something quick and easy  after a spte of longer, more challenging reads. I really like Phillip Margolin's legal thrillers includingn Gone but not Forgotten, The Associate and Wild Justice. Margolin's been writing forever and so, though I knew this book was a bit different for him, he has a really readable writing style so how bad could it be?

Oh boy. Those are famous last words. Because this one was so shockingly... not. good.

But let's start with what I liked about it.

It was propulisive in that things kept happening that made me want to find out what would happen next. That's something, right?
Also, short chapters and a sub-300 page count meant it was a fast read. That's also something. 
And, from the start I Liked the lead character, attorney Robin Lockwood. 

But then... Oh my lord. 

The writing was so painfully bad. Which, again, was surprising because I know that Phillip Margolin can write better than this. Is he going to win a Booker Prize. Not a chance, but his writing isn't laughably bad, and that's what we have in this book. It honestly felt like he asked his 17 grandkid to write a book and said he'd hand it in and they'd both have a good laugh over it.

Also, the locked room element. My Lord in Heaven. It felt like Margolin was in the middle of writing a legal thriller and someone rushed in and said "hold up, the pub wants a locked room mystery" and so he just jammed one in there. Right in the middle. 

And then the ... well, I can't say, but there's a large piece of the plot that is just so laughable that I literally threw my head back and cackled when I read it. I mean COME ON.
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Murder at Black Oaks is a clever whodunnit. It is full of surprises so I won't summarize it here. Suffice it to say that author Phillip Margolin has accomplished his task. I recommend the novel.
Thanks NetGalley for the ARC.
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Murder at Black Oaks, by Phillip Margolin, is a great book for a reader looking for something that's not challenging and that will hold their attention. As someone who usually enjoys gothic style locked room mysteries, it was compelling enough for me to want to finish. However I found the characters all too flat, the plot improbable, and a lack of subtlety in both characterization and prose. There were also a few plot devices used that just plain didn't make sense. That being, said, I still wanted to finish the book to find out what happened. A good title for a time when you need to be distracted but can't think too hard.
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This was a really well written book. The twists and turns in this book were amazing and there were several stories going on within this one book which made you want to keep reading to find out what happened. There are a few typo errors but nothing serious.
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A strong start, that I felt dropped off pretty rapidly. I am interested to read Margolin's other works and see how I feel about those in comparison.
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Murder at Black Oaks was a quick and easy legal thriller.  It is centered around Robin Lockwood an attorney that is called into help a man who has been in prison for a crime that he didn't commit.  Now I know many novels have been written with the same premise.  Yet Murder at Black Oaks has a twist to it.  First off there was not just one murder committed at the so called '" cursed " house, but there were numerous ones. Once Robin proves Jose Alvarez is innocent she then embarks on a crazy series of events.  One with the murder of Mr. Melville the man who worked the original case that put Jose in jail.  When Mr. Melville finds himself in a tight situation years after Jose's imprisonment , that he is able to as Robin for her help.  The same weekend that Jose and many are at Black Oaks to celebrate his release another murder is committed., and more clues to the history of this house is revealed.  Is this house really cursed?  Is there a werewolf roaming the property:, and why did Frank Melville really want Robin Lockwood there?.

First off I loved the clues that Phillip Margolin provides withing the story.  How the case of Jose Alvarez led into the murder case of another guest that was at Black Oaks.  Which gave us another clue as to why the  deaths that weekend occurred.  It made me want to keep reading to find out who did it.  I was totally wrong about who committed  these killings and was surprised at who did commit them.

Robin was my favorite character.  I liked the way she was written.  A strong professional women, who over came a harsh ordeal but pushed herself to get past her pain and move on. The description of Black Oaks reminded of Werewolf of London.  The stormy rainy weather, the legend of the werewolf and the mysterious murder weapon.  

I realized this was number six of the series and since Mr. Margolin is a new author for me I will surly look into the other five books.  Read this in two days because I had to know how it ended. 

Thank you NetGally and the publishers for the advanced copy, and Mr. Margolin for a very enjoyable read.  I would recommend it to anyone who likes a mystery and thriller like I do.
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Thank you NetGalley for a copy of this book. I didn't realize this was part of a series, but I don't think it matter at all. It read like a stand alone book. Imagine being put in jail for a crime you did not commit and not being bitter after at those who put you there. Would you be able to forgive before it to late?
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Phillip Margolin’s latest Robin Lockwood book is riveting as well as quite different from what I expected or had read in the past. Robin is a successful attorney who works tirelessly until she finds a solution and the truth. In this book, the setting of an old home in the backwoods of Oregon is personified and is a big part of the book, thus accounting for the significant difference that I noted in this book as opposed to other Lockwood novels. The setting is a main characters, overshadowed only by Robin Lockwood and her tenacity to overcome and reveal its secrets. Owned by a former DA named Francis Hardy, Black Oaks has a legend and supposedly a curse, but that does not stop Robin from taking a case that Hardy desperately wants her to pursue, that of proving that a man he put into prison is innocent. There are a lot of twists in this novel as well as an unexpected murder (in spite of the title, the murder was surprising to me), and characters that are credible if somewhat secretive. The secrets are the key to the story and the truth that Robin has to unravel. Her methodical exploration of the case and all that was happening had me captivated, as she and her investigator Ken try to get to the truth of who is who as well as the how and the why of the crimes committed. This is a legal thriller, wrapped up in atmosphere and just enough creepiness that gives it a tone of darkness and evil that is ever present. I enjoyed getting to know how Robin would handle a case that is completely different than what she usually takes on as well as getting to know how skilled Ken is at assisting her. Robin Lockwood does not change her tactics, but she is great at adapting to the challenges of this case. The action is fast-paced and the characterization is layered and dynamic. Fans of legal thrillers will enjoy this book and Margolin’s journey into an Alfred Hitchcock-like world. 
Disclaimer
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255, “Guidelines Concerning the Use of Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”
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Murder at Black Oaks by Phillip Margolin was a good, entertaining, quick read. It stars Robin Lockwood as the legal heroine in a multi-storyline mystery. 

I’m rating at three (would do 3.5 if I could)  stars since I thought some of the storylines aren’t brought to conclusion, some storylines leap around a bit awkwardly and the characters aren’t deeply developed. The setting is well-described and contributes to the spooky entertainment factor.  This book is part of an ongoing mystery series but can easily be read as a standalone. 

Many thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me the opportunity to read this ARC.
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