Review: The Third Victim by Phillip Margolin

Format: hardcover
Pub Date: March 2018
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Length: 319 pages
POV: 3rd, past
FTC: ARC provided by the publisher free of charge

I've been avoiding ARC reviews for about a year now,  after the reading slump of doom. The cure for me turned out to be going back to reading mostly print, and switching it up with more mysteries and urban fantasy. So...I decided to accept a few advance readers copies of mysteries. Although I'm a mystery reader,  I've never read Phillip Margolin before, and I'm not usually a legal thriller reader. My cuppa runs more to historical mystery and the funnier caper style stories.

The Third Victim reads more like a drama than a mystery. We get little vignettes from a handful of characters, but the main mystery surrounds the defense of an accused serial killer and his lead defense attorney. The drama is that the attorney is experiencing early onset dementia and in denial about it. Her recent hire, Robin, isn't familiar enough with her to be 100% sure her boss is having issues, but grows increasingly worried as the case moves on. The huge ethical issues about whether the defense is compromised are complicated by the worry that their client is really guilty.

I'm a character reader, so I was a bit disappointed we didn't get more time with Robin and some of the supporting characters. And what we got of Regina as she struggles with denial about the early onset dementia symptoms is oddly detached. I wanted more emotion. More guilt. More...something.

As for the mystery itself, I had it figured out halfway through. Since I haven't read Margolin before, I'm not sure if we were supposed to be stumped. The foreshadowing is extremely heavy handed, so maybe whodunnit isn't supposed to be a plot twist. I hope that's the case, because it definitely isn't surprising in the least.

Even with all of that, I kept reading because it was a unique take on a legal thriller about issues that are profoundly important. It was also a little alarming, because I had never considered how vulnerable people are to counsel who are experiencing some kind of cognitive issue, or how dependent we are on them self-reporting any conflicts.

My Grade: B-

The Blurb:
A woman stumbles onto a dark road in rural Oregon—tortured, battered, and bound. She tells a horrific story about being kidnapped, then tortured, until she finally managed to escape. She was the lucky one—two other women, with similar burns and bruises, were found dead.
The surviving victim identifies the house where she was held captive and the owner, Alex Mason—a prominent local attorney—is arrested. Although he loudly insists upon his innocence, his wife’s statements about his sexual sadism and the physical evidence found at the scene, his summer home, is damning.

Regina Barrister is a legendary criminal defense attorney, known as “The Sorceress” for her courtroom victories. But she’s got a secret, one that threatens her skill, her reputation, and, most of all, her clients. And she’s agreed to take on the seemingly impossible task of defending Alex Mason.
Robin Lockwood, a young lawyer and former MMA fighter, has just left a clerkship at the Oregon Supreme Court to work for Regina Barrister. The Alex Mason trial is her first big one, a likely death penalty case, and she’s second chair to Regina. Increasingly, she’s worried her boss’s behavior and the details in the case against their client don’t quite add up.

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