Worthy Brown's Daughter

This novel marks a departure from Philip Margolin’s normal modern courtroom dramas. The Portland, Oregon, author looks no farther than his own backyard for this period piece set in the 19th century in his home state.

Based on a true story, the frontier tale centers on a situation one wouldn’t think occurred in the far west. Worthy Brown, a slave from Georgia, has travelled west with his master, Caleb Barbour. The deal the men make is that if Worthy helps get Barbour’s homestead established, both the black man and his daughter, Roxanne, will be given their freedom.

That’s not exactly what happens, though. Worthy is eventually freed but his daughter is not. That’s when lawyer Matthew Penny enters the picture. The Portland man, who lost his wife on the trip west and is still grieving, agrees to represent Worthy Brown in a suit to get his daughter released by Caleb Brown. What ensues is a case that enflames the citizens of the city in a manner never imagined by the individuals involved.

It took Margolin reputedly over twenty years to write this novel but it was worth the effort. Not only does it illustrate how law was practiced in the 1860s in Oregon, but it also underscores that racism and deceit were as prevalent on the Pacific Coast as in the south.

This is not the usual fare Philip Margolin serves up, although it does unfold in part in a frontier courtroom, but “Worthy Brown’s Daughter” is a captivating historical novel that is as riveting as any of the author’s more contemporary works.

Book Blurb for Worthy Brown's Daughter

Known for his critically acclaimed contemporary thrillers, New York Times bestselling author Phillip Margolin explores intriguing new territory in Worthy Brown's Daughter, a compelling historical drama, set in nineteenth-century Oregon, that combines a heartbreaking story of slavery and murder with classic Margolin plot twists.

One of a handful of lawyers in the new state of Oregon, recently widowed Matthew Penny agrees to help Worthy Brown, a newly freed slave, rescue his fifteen year old daughter, Roxanne, from their former master, a powerful Portland lawyer. Worthy's lawsuit sets in motion events that lead to Worthy's arrest for murder and create an agonizing moral dilemma that could send either Worthy or Matthew to the hangman.

At the same time, hanging judge Jed Tyler, a powerful politician with a barren personal life, becomes infatuated with a beautiful gold-digger who is scheming to murder Benjamin Gillette, Oregon's wealthiest businessman. When Gillette appears to die from natural causes, Sharon Hill produces a forged contract of marriage and Tyler must decide if he will sacrifice his reputation to defend that of the woman who inspired his irrational obsession.

At Worthy's trial, Matthew saves Worthy by producing a stunning courtroom surprise and his attempt to stop the deadly fortune hunter ends in a violent climax.

Night Owl Reviews Mar, 2014 4.00