THE UNDERTAKER'S WIDOW by Phillip Margolin


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A tale of an ill-starred Oregon judge proves itself to be more than the sum of its parts. And there’s a lesson in that. Create a likable hero, put him on the rack, keep him there with might and main, and such flaws as wooden dialogue and gratuitous twists of plot still won—t sink your story. Like his legendary father, Richard Quinn is a state supreme court justice, and it’s almost irrelevant that he’s also sweet-natured, since what defines him is his being a man of principle and conscience. Early on, a fellow judge convicted of bribery appears before him for sentencing, and Quinn hits him hard, giving him jail time when no one, including the prosecution, would have frowned at probation. In fact, a strong argument—and one Quinn sees merit in—could be made that probation would have been the fitter punishment for the crime. Except that it’s a judge, Quinn says, and a judge must adhere to a higher standard, or what’s a courtroom for? Soon enough, however, the judge at a moral crossroads is Quinn himself. For reasons he only half understands, malign forces have suddenly focused on him. Willy-nilly, he’s being framed for murder. And blackmailed. And threatened with bodily harm. There’s a way out, of course, but it requires breaking the law. The case before him involves powerful people to whom moral codes are the stuff of farce, people who will balk at nothing. If Quinn agrees to preside dishonestly, he can save himself and those he cares for most. But if not, his ruin seems certain. Though this is Margolin’s fifth time out (The Burning Man, 1996, etc.), his prose has gotten no more elegant with practice, but, still, he—ll have you rooting for the good Richard Quinn. (Author tour)

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-385-48054-7
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1998


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