Review: Executive Privilege, by Phillip Margolin

With Executive Privilege, Phillip Margolin has come up with a topical, multi-faceted and racy thriller – yet again. I loved it
There has been talk recently about the thriller genre being in the doldrums, once two or three hugely selling authors are excluded. Yet Margolin has delivered a consistently high baker’s dozen of thrilling novels – like another superbly professional thriller-writer, Mary Higgins Clark, Margolin’s characters are usually decent, ordinary, capable people (often women) who have to live on their wits to survive, work out the conspiracy plot and thus (usually) best the villains. Most if not all of Margolin’s novels are set in his native Oregon, and most (but not all) are standalones, as is Executive Privilege.
As one might infer from the title, the US President is involved. What’s the hook that makes it different from all the other president-related thrillers? This president may be not only be an adulterer, but may be a murderer – or even a serial killer — and he’s losing no opportunity in closing down any witnesses.
One of the main characters in this tightly plotted narrative is Dana Cutler, an ex-cop-turned-private investigator. She’s suffered a terrible ordeal when in the police force, the details of which become evident later in the book. She’s a resourceful woman, who knows how to watch her back and has a couple of loyal friends. When she’s hired by a rich lawyer to follow a young volunteer for a  politician’s election campaign, it doesn’t take Dana long to realise she’s involved with some powerful people. Just how deep it goes, however, takes even her by surprise. Soon she’s running for her life.
Simultaneously, a young lawyer, Brad Miller, is told to take on a pro-bono case, that of a serial killer on death row. The prisoner, Clarence Little, insists that he did not kill one of his alleged victims. Brad goes to see him in jail and discovers Little’s creepy alibi, and why he hadn’t revealed it previously.
The link between the cases is FBI agent Keith Evans, who has spent years unsuccessfully tracking the killer of a series of young women. The latest victim not only provides a key to the case, but also provides some startling inconsistencies that blow several people’s worlds wide open.
Phillip Margolin is a highly experienced author who juggles these disparate themes with extreme discipline and searing pace. The characters are attractive and capable, the tension and suspense are ratcheted high, and the plotting is satisfying. At the end of the day, this book is an unpretentious thriller that isn’t going to survive the highest possible scrutiny that could be applied to it. But it’s great entertainment, it respects the reader, it’s exciting, topical, and – yes, thrilling. Anyone who thinks the thriller genre is dead in the water need only look this far.

2 thoughts on “Review: Executive Privilege, by Phillip Margolin

  1. I’m interested in thrillers, not least because I quite fancy writing one or more at some future date. So reviews like this are certainly very interesting to me.
    Meanwhile, I’m reading another American thriller so dire I am fairly sure I won’t review it….

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