A witty morality tale about the depraved events that can influence a controversial Supreme Court nomination is, wonderfully, about character. How can we know who is right for any job in Washington when everyone has a skeleton in the closet? Sleazy criminal lawyer John Harrington, who had unsuccessfully defended repulsively fat Colombian druglord Ernesto Vicaro, warns Gus Parnham, the federal judge who sent Vicaro to prison, that if Parnham accepts a nomination to the Supreme Court, terrible things might happen to the daughter Parnham never knew he had. It seems that when Parnham was attending Harvard Law, Michelle, the girl he eventually married, became pregnant with his child. Without telling him, Michelle chose adoption instead of an abortion. As far-fetched as this sounds, veteran thriller writer Mills (Haywire, 1995, etc. ) makes it work by reminding us that sometimes love means believing only what you want to—and forgiving anything else. It takes Parnham's law enforcement buddy Carl Falco only a few days, ten thousand frequent flyer miles, and some comic viciousness to find the girl's nasty stepmother Doreen in Wisconsin and then to locate her kinder, gentler stepfather Larry Young, a cocktail pianist at a swank Saint-Tropez nightclub. Gus and Michelle successfully manage a teary reunion in France with biological daughter Samantha. Come what may, Gus accepts the nomination. Meanwhile, Harrington, aided by a murderous assassin supplied by Vicaro, the ruthless confirmation committee chairman Senator Eric Taeger (a live ringer for Bob Packwood), and the depraved "subviolent" spin doctors of the Freedom Federation, an utterly immoral "social activist" lobbying group, go after Parnham and company in public and in private. The story suffers credibility when an assassin's bomb almost blows up the Parnhams, but Samantha's testimony to defend her father brings it to a rousing climax. That innocence ultimately triumphs over guile is, perhaps, the only unbelievable element in this cooly constructed, smartly plotted Washington-insider novel.
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