Richard North Patterson, whose legal thrillers have won him legions of devoted mystery fans, shows off his superb pacing and narrative gifts as well as his ability to create vividly realized characters in this compelling novel of late-term abortion, parental consent, and the battle over a nominee for chief justice of the Supreme Court. Unlike Patterson's typical courtroom dramas, the name of this game isn't murder; it's the body politic that's bleeding. When newly elected Democratic president Kerry Kilcannon nominates appeals court judge Caroline Masters to the top spot on the court, he knows he'll have a fight on his hands. Leading the opposition is his political rival, MacDonald Gage, the GOP majority leader who owes his soul and career to the Christian right wing. They're suspicious of Masters even before a politically charged case involving a teenager whose parents refuse to allow her to terminate a disastrous pregnancy ends up in her court. More principled than Gage, but equally adamant, is Republican senator Chad Palmer, who, like Masters, harbors his own potentially career-destroying secret.
Masters is an intriguing character, a woman whose judicial integrity, personal privacy, and political ambitions collide when she casts a tie-breaking vote on the constitutionality of the recently enacted Protection of Life bill. Not only young Mary Anne Tierney's future is at stake: so are the reproductive rights of all women, the resilience of the judicial system, and the personal lives of innocent bystanders who will be sacrificed on the altar of the First Amendment--the public's right to know, and the media's right to tell. Moving swiftly between the courts of public opinion and the federal judiciary, from San Francisco to the nation's capital, Patterson tells a mesmerizing story that's been praised by political and legal luminaries such as Mario Cuomo, Barbara Boxer, and Alan Dershowitz. But don't let that stop you. This up-to-date version of Advise and Consent is a provocative read that will resonate with political junkies as well as those who've made bestsellers out of Patterson's more typical genre thrillers. --Jane Adams
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From Publishers Weekly
U.S. President Kerry Kilcannon, introduced by Patterson in 1998's No Safe Place, returns for another political dogfight in this meticulously researched, sharply observed tension builder about a Supreme Court nominee mired in the abortion debate. Kilcannon, seeking to counter the court's conservative leanings, has nominated another Patterson heroine, Caroline Masters (Degree of Guilt; The Final Judgment), an appellate court judge of impeccable legal pedigree, yet one vulnerable to attack from the right. The single San Francisco judge harbors a secret: she had a child out of wedlock 27 years ago, a painful ordeal that her critics soon uncover. Masters's struggle for confirmation by the U.S. Senate plays out against the backdrop of another court caseDthat of Mary Ann Tierney, a 15-year-old six months pregnant with a hydrocephalic baby. Citing a new federal law, Tierney's parents, both prolife activists, refuse to allow their daughter to abort. When Tierney's suit seeking to overturn the law reaches the appellate court, Masters's foes work out a backroom deal that requires Masters to hear the case and issue an opinion that could doom her nomination and possibly Kilcannon's presidency. Excelling as both a political novel and a tale of suspense, Patterson's latest takes a provocative look at the ethics of abortion and the power plays endemic to American politics, skewering the Christian Right, the gun lobby and campaign financing along the way. In lesser hands, the book's exhaustive recitation of abortion pros and cons might have spelled polemical tedium, but Patterson's strong characterizations and sensitivity to both sides (though he leans prochoice) illuminate one of society's most bitter and divisive issues. Agent, Fred Hill. (Dec.) Forecast: With the future of the Supreme Court at stake in this last election, the reach of this perfectly timed novel could extend beyond Patterson's usual fans. A 500,000-copy first printing has been announced; the book is also a dual main selection of the Literary Guild, a featured alternate selection of BOMC and a selection of the Doubleday Book Club and the Mystery Guild, and will be a simultaneous Random House Audiobook and available in a large print edition from Random. We're talking major bestseller here.
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