All The President's Men

An ambitious tale of politics and long-buried secrets.

Richard North Patterson's never been known for shying away from hot-button issues in his books...but in "Protect And Defend", he seems to have taken on more than his fair share. Abortion, presidential politics, the religious right, campaign finance and the right to privacy are just some of the things you'll find in this ambitious tale of politics and long-buried secrets.

In "Protect And Defend", Kerry Kilcannon had just been elected President, having scraped through the election with a narrow victory. Ironically, though, the first challenge of Kilcannon's administration comes at the inauguration itself, when Chief Justice Bannon keels over of a heart attack, leaving the Supreme Court rudderless. Forced to move quickly, Kilcannon identifies Caroline Masters as a possible nominee, unaware of the secrets buried deep in her past.

At the same time, in San Francisco, a young attorney named Sarah Dash takes on a case that will have a far-reaching impact on abortion rights in America. Defending a pregnant fifteen-year-old girl, Mary-Ann Tieney, Dash goes to court against the recently-passed Protection Of Life Act, which forbids minors from getting an abortion without the consent of their parents. In this case, Tierney's parents are hard-core Catholics with religious beliefs against abortion, and her father, Martin Tierney, is an well-known crusader against abortion rights. "Father Against Daughter" scream the headlines, and before long, the Tierney case is fodder for the press, abortion activists on both sides of the fence, and households throughout America.

As the Tierney case moves through the lower courts, Dash's fate becomes inextricably entangled with that of Caroline Masters, now a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals...and Kilcannon's enemies immediately spy an opportunity to torpedo his Supreme Court candidate through the Tierney appeal. In an increasingly dangerous situation, Kilcannon will have to use all his charisma and power to protect those nearest to him, while simultaneously ensuring Masters' ascension to the Court...

A well-written tale of politics and legal drama, "protect and defend" smoothly moves from the courtrooms of San Francisco to the corridors of power in Washington. Kilcannon, last seen in "No Safe Place", is an inspired creation, constantly maneuvering to outwit his political opponents while protecting his own secrets, and Caroline Masters makes a welcome reappearance in a story that will test her courage to its limits. Sarah Dash, the brilliant young attorney whose case has the potential to reshape the United States Constitution, is a well fleshed-out character, as is Macdonald Gage, Kilcannon's chief opponent, and Senator Chad Palmer, the man most likely to challenge Kilcannon for the presidency.

In a novel seething with buried resentments, burning ambition and the pursuit of power, anything can happen...and frequently does. Every chapter brings some new surprise, some new secret, and before you know it, you're staying up all night to find out what happens at the conclusion of this chess game of legal maneuvers, political machinations and unexpected deceptions. Definitely one of Patterson's best efforts, and highly recommended.

This article was first published on28 Feb 2001.