Patterson, who's made bestseller lists with legal suspensers like Degree of Guilt (1992) and Silent Witness (1997), is back...



Patterson, who's made bestseller lists with legal suspensers like Degree of Guilt (1992) and Silent Witness (1997), is back to his first love, national politics, with this tale of a star-crossed senator's race for the California primary vote. The move from the courtroom to the campaign trail isn't such a big one, not only because Patterson's thrillers have always involved political figures, but because the ordeal of electoral politics--the courteous evasions, the unrelenting back-and-forth with the press, the candidates' endless triangulation of everything from who they are to which blocs of voters they need to curry--so resembles the stuff of legal intrigue that you can see why so many lawyers run for office. Here, Kerry Kilcannon, a New Jersey senator whose main claims to fame are that his brother, a highly regarded presidential candidate 12 years ago, was gunned down, like Bobby Kennedy, minutes after winning the California primary, and that he is constitutionally incapable-it seems-of telling a lie. Like a more polished version of Warren Beatty's Bulworth, Kerry has been poking his finger in Vice President Dick Mason's eye for years, attacking the heir-presumptive's ties to special interests and in the process staking out common-sense positions on gun control, the death penalty, socialized medicine, and campaign finance. As Kerry comes down the home stretch, though, two bombs are ticking away. A news magazine has gotten hold of a devastating story about his relationship with Lava Costello, a reporter who's covering the campaign (lots of high-minded speeches on every side of the issues here); and an assassin fresh from a bloodbath at a Boston abortion clinic has come to San Francisco to meet the candidate. Patterson makes as much of the resulting threats as he can, but decent, haunted Kerry never seems to be in half as much trouble as some real politicians are that you can't help thinking of. The big revelation here is how easy it is to write great speeches when you're a novelist who doesn't have to pander to anybody because you're not running for election.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 1998


Page Count: 512

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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