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Degree of Guilt [NOOK Book]


“One intense courtroom clash after another...
An intelligent and gripping thriller.”

The Washington Post

 TV journalist Mary Carelli admits that she shot and killed Mark Ransom, one of the world’s most famous authors. She claims it was self-defense. She swears he tried to rape her. Now she has to ...

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Degree of Guilt

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“One intense courtroom clash after another...
An intelligent and gripping thriller.”

The Washington Post

 TV journalist Mary Carelli admits that she shot and killed Mark Ransom, one of the world’s most famous authors. She claims it was self-defense. She swears he tried to rape her. Now she has to prove it in a court of law—with her former lover acting as her attorney…

“Compulsively readable.”—People

Christopher Paget is one of the top lawyers in the country. But defending the mother of his son
in the trial of the decade, he begins to have doubts. Is Mary telling the truth? Did she invent her story about the rape? What is she hiding? With each shocking revelation, Paget is forced to question his defense, his ethics, and the whole legal system. Because no one, not even the judge, is completely innocent. And guilt is a matter of degree…

“Electrifying.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

An eminent novelist is killed by a woman who claims he tried to rape her. Now a defense attorney with dark secrets must try to keep the trial of the century from turning into a travesty of justice.

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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.

John Mort
A beautiful TV journalist, Mary Carelli, murders a famous novelist in his hotel room. She claims it was because of an attempted rape, and, since she is a well-known feminist and the novelist had a dubious reputation with women, her case could become a cause celebre. But problems surface -- why did Mary close the blinds after the novelist's death, why did she take so long to call 911, and what are those strange, bloodless marks on his skin? Enter Christopher Paget, the lawyer who brought down a President, who as it happens is also Mary's estranged lover, and who has custody of their son, Carlo. His only interest in Mary is that, in defending her, he protects his son. A murky background story emerges, about a well-regarded senator's messy affair with an actress rather like -- not again! -- Marilyn Monroe. Subplot: Paget has a sweet assistant named Teresa, married to a lout who, after much soul-searching, she's forced to jettison. Shades of Scott Turow here, and in his layering of guilt and complex plotting Patterson does indeed rival him. His characters are less attractive and their perfect political correctness is often labored. Too long by far, but Paget's fumbling about for the meaning of fatherhood, and, oddly, Patterson's dour moralizing are appealing. Demand is assured.
Washington Post
One intense courtroom clash after another...An intelligent and gripping thriller.
People Magazine
The most compulsively readable courtroom thriller since Presumed Innocent.
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.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429955669
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/2/2010
  • Series: Christopher Paget Series , #2
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 720
  • Sales rank: 64,156
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON is the author of The Spire, Eclipse and fourteen other bestselling and critically acclaimed novels. Formerly a trial lawyer, he was the SEC liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor and has served on the boards of several Washington advocacy groups. He lives in San Francisco and on Martha’s Vineyard with his wife, Dr. Nancy Clair.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Keep reading, it will be worth it

    Christopher Paget is San Francisco attorney who is compelled to defend Mary Carelli the estranged mother of his live-in son for the murder of a famous writer she accuses of trying to rape her. For the sake of his son Chris tries his best to defend her as he searches for the truth about what really happened in that hotel room. But as the courtroom drama unfolds Marnie Sharpe, the prosecutor, skillfully exposes the lies in Mary's story portraying her as a pre-meditated murder rather than a victim. And everyone is searching for missing audio tapes between Mary and her psychologist that can potentially end Mary's chance of an acquittal and reveal truths about Chris and their son that could end his career and turn his life upside-down.

    This book was originally published in 1993. It's re-release in paperback form 17 years later is curious. Although a courtroom thriller built around the murder of rapist by one his victims it is at least as much about the psychology of the criminal and the victim. And while this may sound macabre Patterson's story unfolds in way that is both revealing and captivating. However, this is very much an adult book with a candid expose' of a sociopath that can leave the reader grimacing. Tedious at first it becomes a compelling read. Highly recommend.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    Second Time Around

    When I started this book, I realized I had read it before -- five years ago. However, I enjoyed it as much in rereading and recalled only a few major details.

    A great escape/rainy day read when you can curl up with your favorite beverage, a purring cat, and a few hours to yourself.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 3, 2013

    Recommend this book

    This book is a fast read and I could not put it down. The interpretation of the law
    and the twists and turns kept me wanting to find out what happened. The main
    character, Chris Paget, is a complex person who makes the storyline even
    more interesting. After reading this author,I would want to read more of his books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2005

    Solid but not great

    I picked up Richard North Patterson's first novel The Lasko Tangent at a used bookstore one day, just on a whim. My wife read it, recommended it to me, and I enjoyed it also. I thought the plot and pacing lurched around too much, and some of the dialog was painfully stilted, but the characters were more fleshed out than those of most bestsellers, and some of the dialog was actually pretty funny. I decided to read Lasko's sequel, Degree of Guilt, and I am glad I did. In the years between Lasko and Degree, RNP has sharpened his craft, specifically with regard to plot. Lasko's protagonist (and likely alter-ego) Christopher Paget returns, having relocated to San Francisco, where he finds himself defending his previous lover (and mother of his son) Mary Carelli from a murder charge. She claims to have been assualted in an attempted rape, but the eveidence seems to suggest otherwise. I found myself eager to find out what surprises awaited me around each corner and although some plot twists were predictable, others were not. Unfortunately, Patterson has not improved his dialog one iota; the witticisms have been trimmed back and there is nary a page without at least one cringe-worthy line solemnly delivered. Still, Degree of Guilt was a big step in the right direction for Patterson, and I look forward to reading the third installment in the series, Eyes of a Child.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 30, 2002



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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2002


    I love RNP and this is one of the books in which he really is at his vintage best. RNP really knows how to get reader hooked, the book runs like motion picture in your mind. Christopher Paget is the protagonist.The lady who is the mother of his only son, the lady who once tried to murder him is forced to re-enter his life. The reason - the death; or rather murder of an eminent American novelist Mark Ransom.Mary says that she had gone to the hotel room in San Fransisco to interview Mark Ransom and to gain some information on the death of a famous actress, connected with a senator. She claims that he had tried to rape her and in the process killed him in self defense.Chris is to defend Mary Carelli in one of the best and exemplarily written courtroom dramas I have ever read. A few tapes of evidence and other evidence make it a tough courtroom war. Mark Ransom's obsession to the dead actress, evidence that show Mary is capable of murder and Chris forced to face a complex past are all part of this intense thriller.The book after some time moves at an electrifying pace and certain surprises really sting you. A definite worthwile and amazing read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2001

    not just on the surface

    I can't agree with the previous review. May be it is obvious to some how the trial will end, but even so, the book is not about it. I greatly enjoyed the intricate relationships between characters and the careful portrayal of their inner selves. To me, 'degree of guilt' is the book about real people with their not-so-perfect personalities. I turn pages just to find out that the author lives in my world as well.

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    Posted April 9, 2010

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