PRIVATE SCREENING by Richard North Patterson


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Patterson, whose most recent thriller was Escape The Night (1983), checks in this time with the turgid and contrived tale of a terrorist who kidnaps a wealthy woman and threatens to execute her live on cable television. Private Screening is really two different stories jury-rigged together. The first deals with rock-star Stacy Tarrant and her lover, the Kennedy-esque Presidential candidate, Senator James Kilcannon. Kilcannon is assassinated at a concert that Stacy gives to raise funds for the campaign; his killer is Harry Carson, a Vietnam vet who claims to have been suffering from flashbacks at the time of the murder. At his trial, Carson is represented by tough-guy defender of the downtrodden, Tony Lord, who, much to Stacy's consternation, manages to get him off on an insanity plea. The second story begins a year later. A hooded terrorist kidnaps John Damone, Stacy's longtime personal manager, and Alexis Parnell, wife of wealthy newspaper magnate, Colby Parnell. The terrorist, who calls himself, with stunning originality, Phoenix (""It's a mythic bird,"" Lord helpfully explains for those not in the know), threatens to kill both of them up close and personal on television if Stacy doesn't give a concert to raise five million for the poor, and if poor, rich Colby doesn't confess his capitalist sins in front of the world. Implausibly enough, Stacy hires Lord to advise her, and he tracks down Phoenix. Phoenix, it turns out, is really John Damone--he'd put Carson up to killing Kilcannon so he, Damone, could rip off the concert funds in the confusion and use them to finance his kidnapping of Alexis. Why kidnap Alexis? Because John Damone is really Robert Parnell, the weird, Oedipus-driven son of Alexis and Colby who had disappeared way back in 1968. Anyway, Phoenix/Damone/Robert kills Alexis and is himself killed, on his way to the police station, by his father. Who then commits suicide. Loony Vietnam vets, televised kidnappings, a rock star who could be a clone of Linda Ronstadt: Patterson throws a lot of darts at the old bestseller bulls-eye, but keeps missing by miles.

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1985
Publisher: Villard/Random House