Is an innocent man’s reputation forever stained because of false criminal accusations, or did he commit the perfect crime? That is what attorney Robin Lockwood sets out to find in Phillip Margolin’s latest legal thriller.
After Randi Stark accuses Oregon football star Blaine Hastings of raping her at a college party, Hastings is subsequently tossed in jail, where he’s scheduled to spend the next decade or so of his life. The case hinges around DNA from the scene, confirming Stark’s side of the story. At least initially.
Later, while Hastings, who has proclaimed his innocence from the start, is in prison, another rape victim comes forward, claiming to have been recently assaulted. The DNA in that case matches the DNA collected from Stark, indicating that Hastings was the attacker there as well, which the court deems impossible given the fact that he was behind bars during the time of the attack. The head-scratching twist is enough to get Blaine a new trial, and he’s immediately released on bail while prosecutors work tirelessly to understand how someone could possibly be in two places at once.
Meanwhile, while Hasting’s is enjoying his time as a free man as awaits his new trial to start, members of his previous legal team begin turning up dead. Robin Lockwood, who represents Stark and is actively trying to sue Hastings in civil court, becomes paranoid, convinced the former star athlete is stalking her. A former MMA fighter who also punched her way through Yale’s prestigious legal school, Lockwood isn’t one to back down, but with a trail of dead bodies and an impossible scientific dilemma throwing a wrench in her plans, she has her work cut out of her this time around.
Without question, Lockwood, who first appeared in last year’s The Third Victim, is Margolin’s best character to date. And yet, for some inconceivable reason, she doesn’t receive the kind of screen time one might expect from the story’s protagionist. Moreover, while the setup is both juicy and compelling, Margolin strays far away from the central case presented early on involving the DNA legal conundrum, as the story suddenly becomes a murder mystery involving other characters and scenarios not related to Lockwood or her client, or the case at hand. It’s a miscalculation by Margolin, who would have been better off utilizing Lockwood’s star power and keeping his story more in line with a traditional legal thriller than a wandering whodunit.
While there are plenty of good scenes and intrigue early on in The Perfect Alibi, the story eventually loses its way and never fully recovers. Still, Margolin’s fans will likely appreciate the opportunity to spend more time with Lockwood, though many will wish she had a bigger role.
Author: Phillip Margolin
Series: Robin Lockwood #2
Pages: 330 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Book Spy Rating: 5.0/10
Praised as “one of today’s finest book reviewers” by New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds, Ryan Steck (“The Godfather of the thriller genre” — Ben Coes) has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He currently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.