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The year is 1860, months before the outbreak of the U.S. Civil War. Officially, slavery does not exist in Oregon, but the brand-new U.S. state has no compunction about driving most African-Americans out of its territory and violating the civil rights of the few permitted to remain. Worthy Brown, once a slave, has followed his master from Georgia on the understanding that he and his daughter will receive their freedom in return for helping their master establish his homestead near Portland. Indeed, the master, Caleb Barbour, does emancipate Worthy Brown as agreed. But he refuses to let go of Worthy’s fifteen-year-old daughter.
Worthy’s options for securing his daughter’s release are limited, but he obtains support from Matthew Penny, a recently widowed young lawyer just arrived from Ohio. Alas, Caleb Barbour is also a lawyer, wealthier and better connected than Matthew, and their clash of personalities unleashes a series of events that threatens not only their own lives but those of Worthy and his daughter. In 1860, Oregon is, after all, a state where even the local circuit judge relies on his pistol as much as or more than his law books.
Phillip Margolin, a former criminal defense lawyer, turns his attention to the past in Worthy Brown’s Daughter (Harper, 2014). Although the story is loosely based on an actual law case from the Oregon Territory, the twists in the plot are Margolin’s own—and, as one would expect from the author of numerous bestselling contemporary literary thrillers, those twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your seat.