Monday, March 20, 2023

Review: Murder at Black Oaks by Phillip Margolin

by Phillip Margolin
Release Date: November 8, 2022
2022 Minotaur Books
Kindle Edition; 288 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250258465
Audiobook: B09Q767L58
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

2.5 / 5 Stars

Defense Attorney Robin Lockwood is summoned by retired District Attorney Francis Hardy to meet with him at Black Oaks, the manor he owns up in the Oregon mountains.  Hardy wants Lockwood's help in a legal matter - righting a wrongful conviction from his days as a DA. 

Successful in their efforts, Hardy invites Lockwood up to Black Oaks for a celebration. Lockwood finds herself among an odd group of invitees - including the bitter, newly released, Alvarez. When Hardy is found murdered, with a knife connected to the original curse, Lockwood finds herself faced with a conundrum - who is the murderer among them and how to stop them before there's another victim.
My Thoughts
Murder at Black Oaks, the sixth entry in the Robin Lockwood series, was supposed to be an homage to Agatha Christie's locked room mysteries, but definitely fell short in my opinion.  While the actual material of the book was interesting, the execution was lacking and all over the place, from courtroom drama to Gothic elements that were not really convincing nor did they seem to fit the spirit of the story. And some of it was not believable, including the courtroom stuff. 
First of all, while I don't have an issue with multiple plot lines in a story, I do have an issue when they are not cohesive.  I actually felt like I was reading a series of short stories that the author decided at the last minute to tie together into one larger plot. As a result, the overall plot didn't flow very well and was jarring in quite a few places, but, I thought, maybe I could overlook all of that.  Nope, as suddenly, there was mention of a curse, a legend, and suddenly, I was in the middle of a Gothic novel.  Throw in a thunderstorm and no electricity, and yes, you can see where I am going with all of this.  It wouldn't have surprised me if someone was actually bitten by a werewolf and turned.  And trust me, I love Gothic and horror as it's my preferred genre to read, but not like this. Unfortunately, the plot was sort of painful to get through, and there were quite a few instances where I just rolled my eyes and thought about how short this book was and how easy it is to read, so I just powered through it.  

If I had not read the previous novels, I would not have any knowledge of any of the main characters. The character development was not that great and if you changed the names of any of the people, it wouldn't have mattered as no one, not even Robin, had distinct personalities.  I was really disappointed in Robin's character as she seemed so different compared to previous novels, this one almost making her seem silly and out of sync with what is happening. 

Murder at Black Oaks is definitely not one of my favourite novels by this author.  Lack of plot and character development interfered in what could have been an intriguing locked room drama in a spooky mansion. The author did not make use of of his characters nor was there an intertwined plot that was intriguing or interesting.  Unfortunately, this one failed on a multitude of levels.  However, as the previous novels were half-decent, I'm not quite ready to give up on this series yet. I do recommend that if you haven't read anything by this author, you do not start with this novel, but start with the first one in the series.