Worthy Brown's Daughter

Behold the historical legal thriller. Author Phillip Margolin, popular for his contemporary legal thrillers, has written a new novel and this one, while featuring all the legal twists and turns his work is so famous for, features something new: it is set in the 19th-century.

Margolin actually began writing this novel over twenty years ago while still a practicing attorney in the 1980s. While performing legal research, he stumbled across an old historical case from the 1800s, Holmes v. Ford, in which a man brought a family of slaves with him when he moved to Pacific Northwest promising them he would free them after he established his farm in Oregon, a state that while prohibiting slavery was also quite hostile towards blacks at the time. But Mr. Holmes didn't entirely keep his promise and only freed a portion of his family of slaves, keeping some of the children, one of whom died under his dubious care.  If the family wanted their remaining children back, they needed a lawyer and a damned good one. And he needed to be white. 

Historical tidbits like these create great novels and that is just what Margolin did with Worthy Brown's Daughter. He fictionalizes this riveting case, but includes so many real characters - including the only United States Supreme Court Justice to be arrested for murder while sitting on the bench - that it reads like a taut true-crime book. Perhaps most disturbing is the sharp reminder of our own country's path towards civil rights, most of which we associate with the Southern states and rarely give a thought to its evolution in the West.

For those accustomed to Margolin's thrillers, there are plenty of good guys and bad guys to go around. And our brilliant attorney who comes to the aid of the dispossessed ex-slaves is, of course, utterly brilliant. Do the good guys win? Well, as with anything to do with slavery and civil rights, the answer is somewhat murky. You can win a battle, but that doesn't mean you've won the war. Nevertheless, Margolin's novel is inspiring and a rollicking good read.

Title: Worthy Brown's Daughter
Author: Phillip Margolin
Publisher: Harper
Date: January 21, 2014
Pages: 352
Source: Publisher


  1. Some of the best crime stuff out there is based on cases that actually happened. You are not good for my TBR list.

  2. Now, I just might like that kind of historical fiction.

  3. Well, damn. I was going to read it last month and ran out of time so passed. I knew I was going to regret it.

  4. *I really love reading through this blog.Thanks a lot.

  5. Thanks for writing in such an encouraging post. I had a glimpse of it and couldn’t stop reading till I finished. I have already bookmarked you.
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