The Darkest Place
reviewed by Carolyn Scott
The fifth book of this popular legal drama series opens with an explosive courtroom scene that changes the life of Portland defense attorney Robin Lockwood. She takes some leave and heads home to the small town of Elk Grove in the mid-west to recover from the traumatic event.
While there she is asked by a local lawyer Stan McDermott if she’d be interested in assisting him on a tricky case he has been asked to defend, that of Marjorie Loman, a surrogate mother who kidnapped the baby from his new parents after giving him up for adoption. Not only is it a messy surrogacy case but Marjorie is accused of hurting the baby. Defending Marjorie helps Robin put herself back together and be the top lawyer she is.
Robin soon discovers there is more to Marjorie’s story than at first appears. Hiding out in the town under a false name, Marjorie is wanted by the police in Portland for questioning over the murder of her husband. So after her trial in Elk Grove, she will ask Robin to defend her in a murder trial. This results in two back-to-back trials involving the same defendant and although the novel may have worked just as well with two separate perpetrators defended by Robin, it does result in encouraging Robin to return to her practice in Portland to defend Marjorie for a second time.
Margolin’s legal dramas are always very sharp and to the point, while at the same time being eloquent and easy to follow. He writes in short, punchy chapters that flow well together with the legal arguments presented succinctly in an engaging manner. Robin is an interesting character – an ex-MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter, who is tough, resilient and smart. She is renowned for her innovative defense strategies and it’s great to watch her in action. I did feel that Marjorie’s character could also have been developed a bit more as I never got to see inside her head and to find out what makes her tick. Without a sense of what she was feeling it was difficult to find any empathy for her or have any emotional investment in the outcome of the trials. Nevertheless, the intriguing cases and the nicely drawn courtroom scenes do pull the reader right into the novel. As well as some good twists that you don’t see coming and a cracker of an ending that is especially gratifying.
With thanks to Minotaur Books for a copy to read. Publication March 8, 2022.