In the high-stakes, high-pressure world of presidential politics, where predators carry microphones and one misstep can savage a lifetime of achievement, Kerry Kilcannon is the rarest player of all. Kilcannon believes he can make the system work. And he just may die trying.
Driven by the violent nightmare of his childhood, fueled by forces that few could understand, and burdened by secrets no one must know, Kilcannon is running for President—and entering the crucial battleground of California with seven days to go. But for Kilcannon, there are hurdles that his courage, charisma, and compassion may not overcome: the network correspondent he still loves; the reporter bent on their exposure; the rival who’ll do anything to win; and the fanatic who believes that he must murder Kilcannon to protect the right to life. . . .
Patterson (The Final Judgment; Silent Witness; etc.) is a skilled fabricator of courtroom dramas who here ventures well beyond his usual subject matter with mixed but still highly entertaining results. His protagonist, Kerry Kilcannon, is a young, somewhat Kennedy-esque senator whose older brother was assassinated during his campaign for the presidential nomination. Reluctantly stepping into his shoes, Kerry becomes fired by idealism and decides to seek the presidency himself. There is a dark secret in his past, however, involving an affair with Lara, a beautiful reporter for the New York Times (yes, she was named after the heroine in Dr. Zhivago). Its disclosure could sink his carefully weighed position on abortion, and his candidacy to boot. Also in his past was a boy whom Kerry, as a young lawyer, saved from a murderous father and who now, paradoxically, wants to kill candidate Kerry on behalf of the pro-lifers. These strands are all woven together in a series of flashbacks in the course of a few days during the vital California primary, and Patterson, old pro that he is, milks the tension for all it's worth. The political detail is authentic, although Kerry's positions are the kind you always hope in vain a politician will take while his smooth opponent, the vapid incumbent veep, is a thoroughly believable contemporary villain. But Patterson is really only playing with political ideas, though he does so intelligently enough. The cliched romantic writing (lobster cooked on the beach on Martha's Vineyard, many sighs and silences) and the trite melodrama of the young assassin show where the heart of the narrative really lies--not that the glossy approach will deter a large readership. 400,000 first printing; Literary Guild main selection; Random House audio and large print editions.