The hotly contested abortion rights case that snarls his first Supreme Court nomination proves to Kerry Kilcannon that running for president (No Safe Place, 1998) is a walk in the park compared to actually serving in the office.
Mary Ann Tierney, 15, comes to San Francisco attorney Sarah Dash for advice about the hydrocephalic baby she’s carrying—a baby her staunchly pro-life parents won’t let her abort even though he’s almost certain to be born without a cerebral cortex, via a Caesarian section that may prevent her from bearing further children. The controversy Sarah expects from arguing for Mary Ann’s right to an abortion suddenly multiplies exponentially when her client’s name gets leaked to the media. But there’s much more at stake than the fate of Mary Ann and her family, for among the dozens of high-placed parties it touches is Caroline Masters (The Final Judgment, 1995, etc.), President Kilcannon’s nominee to replace the Supreme Court Chief Justice who dropped dead on Inauguration Day. Despite her best attempts to remain neutral on the volatile case and the vexed questions of late-term abortion and parental consent it entails, Caroline is repeatedly trapped by her enemies into going on record in Mary Ann’s favor. When the scene shifts from the California courtroom to the Senate chambers Caroline must negotiate to win confirmation, Patterson loses some of the urgency of Mary Ann’s plight; but he compensates by a wonderfully inventive account of the infighting between the President and Caroline’s foes, all of them armed to the teeth with hardball tactical tricks dressed up in the rhetoric of moral principle.
A blissfully large-scale political thriller that’s also an unsparing examination of tough questions about abortion, by an author shrewd and generous enough to give spokespeople of every persuasion their day in court.