UNDERTAKER'S WIDOW By Phillip Margolin
MY REVIEW FOUR STARS****
I just finished reading UNDERTAKER'S WIDOW last week, Margolin's 6th novel that was published in 1998, over twenty years ago. However, it was hardly the first time I had read a book by this incredibly talented author of legal thrillers. I can remember how quick I was to snatch any of his audio books off the library shelf to entertain me when my work required extensive driving on seemingly endless stretches of lonely highways.
I ran across this Kindle Selection when I was browsing on Amazon recently, and was reminded how much I enjoyed Margolin's novels in the past. True to form, this selection did not disappoint. It is compelling enough as a murder mystery, and it is a fast-paced thriller that kept me turning the pages. The protagonist is Richard Quinn, an honest, ethical, and scrupulous judge who has committed himself to the justice system for all of the right reasons. He is driven by disciplined stellar principles, and guided by a moral compass that is held in the hand of a righteous man. Early in the narrative, we learn that Quinn not only "talks the talk" but can, and does, "walk the walk" when he metes out a sentence that is surprising to the court and holds a fellow judge to a higher standard and sentences him to prison time instead of the anticipated by all probation.
Soon, it is Quinn himself who finds himself facing a conundrum due to a chink in his armor, a temporary lapse in judgment. Judge Quinn will stand at the moral crossroads, and have to live by the way he tips the scales of justice.
This crime thriller keeps the reader enthralled, while the plot twists unfold, and our idealistic hero makes one ill-fated decision after another. The puppet master behind the scenes was unexpected, and the brilliant sociopath pulling the strings does a masterful job at manipulating the judge and the court system. The author manages to create a taut narrative and credible plot that includes an epilogue that even ties up some loose ends for readers.
In the end I thought of the framed quotation from Abraham Lincoln on Quinn's wall "I'll do the very best I know how----the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said about me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference."