By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Book: Lost Lake

Full disclosure: I interviewed Phillip Margolin in the early 1980s, a few years after his first novel was published. It was “Heartstone,” based on a murder that happened in Portland in 1960, and it was excellent.

McMinnville attorney Walt Gowell had arranged for Margolin to speak at the McMinnville Public Library, so I drove up to Margolin’s law office in Portland to write a preview of the library event.

The criminal defender-turned writer has gone on to write many, many other novels. Undoubtedly, my story about him and his appearance at the library contributed to his success. At least I’d like to think so.

“Lost Lake” is one of Phillip Margolin’s best — a well-plotted thriller that keeps readers guessing.

Throughout the book, we’re pretty sure about who’s telling the truth and who isn’t, although the liars may believe what they’re saying. Or are we taken in by the author’s subtle storytelling, so what we think is the truth may actually be a fantasy?

One thing is certain: Much of the action takes place in Portland, with locations we’ll recognize — the Justice Center, particular restaurants, the Heathman Hotel.

The home of Ami, the lawyer central to the plot, is not described specifically. But it’s certainly the type of home surrounded by trees that’s familiar to any Oregonian.

Margolin is more abstract about Ami’s cabin on the coast. Even if it existed, you’d never find it by following the directions taken by Dan Morelli, Carl Rice and Vanessa Kohler.

Kohler, nee Wingate, is the daughter of a highly respected general who’s a leading candidate for president. She claims he’s a killer — perhaps the second gunman in the Kennedy assassination and definitely the head of a secret Army unit that murdered people at home and abroad.

No one believes her, though, since she’s spent time in a mental institution. She claims that was part of her evil father’s plot — by making her look crazy, he robbed her of credibility.

Only one person can back up her allegations against her father: Rice, her high school boyfriend, who became one of her dad’s trained assassins. But he has a credibility problem, as well, thanks to General Wingate — or maybe due to battle fatigue.

It sound convoluted, but actually is complex, tightly woven and thrilling to read.

“Lost Lake,” by Phillip Margolin, 2005, HarperCollins

— Starla Pointer




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