Smokey the Cat
Phillip Margolin

Sixty seconds with Phillip Margolin...

I grew up in Manhattan and Levittown, Long Island. After graduating from the American University in Washington, D.C., I spent two years in Liberia, West Africa in the Peace Corps. Then I worked my way through NYU law school at night while teaching junior high school in the Bronx. I moved to Oregon after law school and clerked for the Chief Judge of the Oregon Court of Appeals. During a 25-year career as a criminal defense attorney, I argued at the United States Supreme Court, handled 30 homicide cases including 12 death penalty cases and pioneered the Battered Woman’s Syndrome Defense for battered women who had killed abusive spouses. Since 1996, I have been writing legal thrillers full-time. Most of my 27 books have been bestsellers.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Margolin: I am curious and I love to learn, travel and challenge myself.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Margolin: The Eagles Greatest Hits.

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Margolin: As a result of an overdose of Perry Mason novels, at the age of twelve, I decided that I would be an attorney who tried murder cases when I grew up.

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December 10, 2022

We've come to the last RTE for 2022. It's been a difficult year for us as it has been for so many, but we have survived and hope to continue to in the coming year. In the meantime, let's look at what books we've been reading. Some of them will certainly serve as presents for readers who are looking for suggestions.

If our count is correct A CHRISTMAS DELIVERANCE is Anne Perry's 20th Christmas offering (and number twenty-one, with a rather foreboding title, is already in the works,). We're happy to report that Lourdes Venard, who's reviewed quite a lot of these, can report that this is one of the stronger entries in the group.

The run-up to the holidays is a time when publishers tend to bring out their heavy hitters and this year is no exception. Louise Penny's long-running Inspector Gamache series, set in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, is the source for the Three Pines series now streaming on Prime. I haven't read the latest entry, A WORLD OF CURIOSITIES, but Anne Corey has and based on what she has to say, I think I'll stick with the books in future.

John Rebus has grown too old to remain in the police force and he's not feeling all that well either. In Ian Rankin's latest report, A HEART FULL OF HEADSTONES, his life is growing more difficult as he finds himself in the dock, accused of murder, a charge based on his early days on the force. Rebus may be in it up to his knees, but Jim Napier is happy to report that any Rankin book is a joy and this one is no exception.

Someone able to read LADY JOKER by Kaoru Takamura in its original Japanese could have done so in 1997, but it has taken until now for both volumes of this epic novel to appear in English translation. Rebecca Nesvet is delighted now to be able to read this work that was received as both a "riveting suspense novel and a national moral reckoning" but laments how long it has taken for her to be able to do so.

While Canadian Anne Emery is not a household name among US crime fiction readers, Jim Napier believes her to be"one of the strongest and most original crime writers at work today." She sets her Collins-Burke series sometimes in Nova Scotia, sometimes in Ireland, sometimes in various places around the world. Her latest, FENIAN STREET, is laid in Belfast and Jim concludes that "with engaging characters set against a troubled past it is a fine addition to an already-strong series."

When Graeme Macrae Burnet's CASE STUDY made this summer's Booker Prize long-list, the jury asked (among other things) "Is this a mystery?" Having read it, I am unable to answer the question confidently, but I did enjoy the attempt, finding the book frequently very funny and sometimes distinctly unsettling. One of the characters is the editor, one GMB. That sounds like the actual author, but isn't. Anthony Horowitz, the author of THE TWIST OF THE KNIFE, appears under his full name in that book, where he is accused of murdering a critic. He must turn to his fictional detective for help. The bickering that goes on between the two characters is very funny and Rebecca finds it one of the greater strengths of the series.

BEFORE YOU KNEW MY NAME, by New Zealand author Jacqueline Bublitz, a debut, is narrated from beyond the grave by the murder victim who had gone to New York from her small Wisconsin town. Rebecca thought the narration was remarkably compelling without giving too much away and that this was a far better book than LOVELY BONES, which it might seem to resemble.

HOW TO SURVIVE EVERYTHING by Ewan Morrison is presented as a dystopian survivalist account but is really a book about family, in this case a father determined to protect his son, daughter, and divorced wife from the pandemic and subsequent social breakdown which he is convinced is about to occur if it hasn't started already. I found it on the whole disappointing as it never seemed to come to terms with the question of what in fact was happening in the wider world. Likewise it seemed to avoid any judgement of the father who, if wrong, was inflicting serious harm on his children. Amber Garza's A MOTHER WOULD KNOW raises questions similar to Lionel Shriver's famous book about Kevin concerning the moral responsibility of a mother for her son. Rebecca found the resolution unsatisfying though certainly one that left the reader with plenty to think about.

We did read our share of crime fiction that did not try to subvert the genre, but simply to do it very well. Ruth Castleberry found ON SPINE OF DEATH, by Tamara Berry, a good and wily mystery, with lots of red herrings, misdirections, and fascinating surprises. She says that this second in the By the Book series is intricately plotted and quite thrilling.

P.J. Coldren looks at the ever-popular set of cozies this month and finds it a somewhat mixed bag. Dependable Donna Andrews offers a Christmas-themed bird-titled entry in her Meg Langslow series with DASHING THROUGH THE SNOWBIRDS that P.J. says works very well as a standalone. But she recommends reading the whole lot if you haven't already. The title character of ISABEL PUDDLES ABROAD by M.V. Byrne finally has left small town Michigan for her first trip abroad. She goes to Cornwall, England and loves it. This is the third in the series; Isabel's love relationship has still not been clarified, so P.J. is hoping for number four. Finally, the fifth in the Literary Pub series, THROUGH THE LIQUOR GLASS by Sarah Fox, was not really P.J.'s cup of tea, let alone glass of wine. She felt that the author did not play fair and that of course is always disappointing.

Our guest this week in the "Sixty Seconds With..." spot is Phillip Margolin. Do pay him a visit while you're here,

Our friends across the sea have been keeping up with what is going on in British crime. You can find out what they thought of it at CRIMEREVIEW.

Our apologies for the lateness of this issue. A combination of things, including a brush with Covid19, interfered. We'll try to do better at the end of January. In the meantime we wish all those celebrating a holiday much joy and a very happy New Year to one and all.
BR>The Editors:

Yvonne Klein

Rebecca Nesvet

P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Publishers or authors wishing to submit books for review should contact the editors. Please note, before approaching us, that the publishing house must be a print publisher, pay advances and issue royalty statements, edit books, create covers, neither solicit nor accept financial payments from its authors, never copyright an author's title under the publisher's name, and never expect or ask authors to buy a certain number of copies of the author's books. As a general rule we will only consider books for review which have been published by publishers listed on the Mystery Writers of America approved list. We can never guarantee that a review will appear. And our reviewers are given a free rein to express their opinions constructively and honestly.

Please note that we review crime fiction and selected science fiction and horror. We have a policy of not accepting any religious books—and that includes religious crime fiction. We are unable to review any ebooks, unbound galleys, PODs, or PDF files.


Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

Contact: Yvonne Klein (

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