Degree of Guilt (Christopher Paget Series #2)

Degree of Guilt (Christopher Paget Series #2)

3.5 21
by Richard North Patterson

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A shocking death. A claim of attempted rape. A tale of sexual pathology. These are the elements of Degree of Guilt, Richard North Patterson's stunning courtroom novel. Christopher Paget is a trial lawyer with a famous past: as a young investigator in Washington, he unearthed a scandal that brought ruin to a President -- and an abrupt end to Paget's affair with Mary… See more details below


A shocking death. A claim of attempted rape. A tale of sexual pathology. These are the elements of Degree of Guilt, Richard North Patterson's stunning courtroom novel. Christopher Paget is a trial lawyer with a famous past: as a young investigator in Washington, he unearthed a scandal that brought ruin to a President -- and an abrupt end to Paget's affair with Mary Carelli. Now, fifteen years later, they are estranged. Carelli is a well-known television journalist based in New York; Paget lives quietly in San Francisco, raising their teenage son and preserving what privacy he can. Until a charge of murder changes everything. The victim is America's most eminent novelist, Mark Ransom. The accused is Mary Carelli. Her defense is attempted rape. The man she chooses to defend her is Christopher Paget. Carelli does not deny that she killed Ransom, but a fateful question remains to be answered: Was it self-defense or was it murder? In preparation for a trial, Paget sets out to establish that Mark Ransom was the twisted man Carelli claims he was. With the help of an associate, Teresa Peralta, Paget uncovers compelling evidence that presents a complex and disturbing picture of Ransom as a sexual predator. But this evidence may not be admissible in court. And there are other unsettling surprises: a secret in Carelli's past that provides her with a powerful motive for murder; facts that suggest she has been lying; a woman prosecutor who firmly believes that Carelli is using the issue of rape to conceal murder; and an enigmatic judge who may very well have an agenda of her own. With the odds against Carelli's acquittal quickly rising, Christopher Paget is faced with a risky legal decision that leads to an explosive convergence of public trial and private conflict - a decision that threatens not only Mary Carelli's future, but his own, and their son's, as well. From first to last, Degree of Guilt holds us galvanized by its masterful storytelling, its complexity of motive an

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This big courtroom thriller, which comes garlanded with hefty foreign sales and a huge first printing, is being touted as the best of its kind since Scott Turow's fiction debut. It does not survive such a comparison well, having none of the density, psychological acuity or sense of place and character of Turow's two bestsellers. It is an agreeable, overstuffed and creakily plotted but absorbing piece of work that passes the time well enough and leaves no aftertaste whatsoever.

The hero is Christopher Paget, who had an affair with TV newswoman Mary Carelli many years ago when both were involved in a Washington scandal; he is now an ace defense attorney in San Francisco. Carelli has killed obnoxious, world-famous novelist Mark Ransom in a hotel room, claiming that he tried to rape her. Can Paget defend her, in view of their shared past, and the fact that she seems to be the mother of his only son? And why is so much of what she says about the would-be rape so plainly untrue? Patterson takes more than 500 pages -- including often skillfully handled court scenes before a nicely characterized woman judge, and the discoveries of a lot of highly emotional old tapes, all involving the same Beverly Hills psychiatrist with several principal characters -- before the issue is resolved. Along the way there are subplots galore, involving an evil Kennedy-type senator with a Monroe look-alike ; a tragic lesbian movie queen ; Paget's pretty assistant's unhappy home life ; a shamelessly hokey climactic basketball game ; and ultimate political skulduggery by the DA. Patterson does his best to keep it all moving, and some court scenes tingle. But the characters, and many situations, are pure California cardboard.

Library Journal
Former Edgar-winner Patterson (for The Lasko Tangent , Norton, 1979) offers what will surely be one of the year's best thrillers.

TV journalist Mary Carelli shoots and kills famous writer Mark Ransom in his hotel room, claiming that Ransom tried to rape her. The man she asks to defend her is Christopher Paget, with whom she has had a complicated relationship: Paget is the father of Mary's son, who lives with Paget and whom Mary has not seen for eight years. Paget agrees to defend Mary to protect his son. The puzzle that lies at the heart of this courtroom thriller is the character of Mary Carelli. Is she telling the truth about Mark Ransom? What is she hiding, and who will be hurt most?

Superb characterizations and intense dialog make this utterly compelling reading. Patterson also manages to offer a stinging criticism of the way female rape victims are treated by the law and the legal system. Highly recommended.
-- Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Medical Ctr. Lib.

Kirkus Reviews
Finally, a courtroom drama to rival Presumed Innocent: The scandal-strewn, hugely entertaining story of what happens after a glamorous TV reporter shoots America's most famous writer in his San Francisco hotel room.

As soon as the police take Mary Carelli in after her 911 call, she admits killing Mark Ransom but insists she was defending herself against a rapist who was so obsessed with the story of movie-star Laura Chase—who shot herself 20 years ago after a devastating weekend (never before made public) in which Senator James Colt and two friends repeatedly assaulted her—that he could perform sexually only to the accompaniment of an audiotape of that weekend he'd secretly obtained. Now that James Colt, Jr., is running for governor, the D.A.'s office is under pressure to keep that tape under wraps. Meanwhile, another tape of Ransom forces Mary to confront ugly secrets about her own meteoric rise through her testimony 15 years ago against Presidential staffer Jack Woods—testimony that helped Woods's subordinate, rising star Christopher Paget, bring charges of corruption that destroyed both Woods and the President (as detailed in Patterson's first novel, The Lasko Tangent). Predicting the traumatic impact of these revelations on Paget's beloved son Carlo, whom she's never acknowledged as her own, Mary pressures Paget to defend her on the murder charge. When Mary's account of sexual assault begins to unravel, she seems dead in the water—until Paget uncovers evidence that Ransom had a long history of S/M fantasies with his wife, with an actress whose credits are just like Jane Fonda's, and with a New Yorker writer, whom he assaulted in exactly the samecircumstances Mary describes. But there are dozens of fireworks, both in and out of the courtroom, left to come. Juicy hints of Washington secrets, agonizing decisions about professional and family loyalties, a backstory that plugs into all your most paranoid fantasies connecting the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, and Watergate—and all this on top of a polished tale of courtroom intrigue.

Patterson's target audience seems to be everybody who's ever read a book—and most of them will consider it money well-spent.

The New York Times Book Review
A page-turner.
Compulsively readable.
The Washington Post
One intense courtroom clash after another...An intelligent and gripping thriller.
The Boston Globe
Flamboyant and entertaining.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Product Details

Random House Large Print
Publication date:
Christopher Paget Series, #2

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