Eyes of a Child (Christopher Paget Series #3)

( 22 )


A man has been found dead, a gun still wedged in his mouth. It looks like Ricardo Arias killed himself…but the physical evidence tells a different story. The police investigation turns up all sorts of troubling data--a bitter estrangement between Ricardo and his wife, Terri; an ugly custody battle over their six-year-old daughter, Elena; charges of child molestation. And before long there's a murder suspect: San Francisco defense attorney and political hopeful Christopher Paget....

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Eyes of a Child

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A man has been found dead, a gun still wedged in his mouth. It looks like Ricardo Arias killed himself…but the physical evidence tells a different story. The police investigation turns up all sorts of troubling data--a bitter estrangement between Ricardo and his wife, Terri; an ugly custody battle over their six-year-old daughter, Elena; charges of child molestation. And before long there's a murder suspect: San Francisco defense attorney and political hopeful Christopher Paget.

But where's the motive? It could be that Paget is Terri's new lover. Or that Paget's own teenage son is the one who's accused of abusing Elena. But a series of long-hidden secrets--on both sides of the case--are slowly rising to the surface…and threaten to explode in the courtroom, where the final verdict will be delivered. Where the truth about what really happened to Ricardo Arias will either be revealed--or buried for good...

Ricardo Arias is found dead. It looks like suicide, but the physical evidence strongly suggests murder. The investigation uncovers an estranged wife, heated charges of child abuse, and a murder suspect--D.A. Christopher Paget, whose son is accused of the abusing and whose political career is at stake. And revelations that threaten to explode in the courtroom may remain hidden forever.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher


“Patterson grabs the reader by the scruff of the neck and holds him until the very last page…The Spire might just be his best to date.”—Tucson Citizen

“Intriguing…we can’t read fast enough to reach the finale.” —San Francisco Chronicle

 “gripping…A page turner with multiple twists and a well-earned conclusion at once shocking and inevitable.”—Richmond Times Dispatch


“A page-turner.”—The New York Times Book Review

“Compulsively readable.”—People

“One intense courtroom clash after another...An intelligent and gripping thriller.”—The Washington Post

“Flamboyant and entertaining.”—The Boston Globe

“Electrifying.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One of the year’s best thrillers…Superb characterizations and intense dialogue make this utterly compelling reading.”—Library Journal

“Absorbing.”—Publishers Weekly


“Passionate…exciting [and] eye-opening, page by page.”Washington Post

“Compelling and credible…guaranteed to rouse you to thought.”—Richmond Times-Dispatch

“This stellar legal thriller both informs and entertains… Patterson has exerted all his considerable skill in creating a nightmare atmosphere that will cling to readers long after the last page is turned.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A satisfying fable that pits a hero who deeply believes in the rule of law against a violent, lawless regime that holds all the cards.”—Kirkus Reviews


Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Patterson has recycled some of the characters and one of the subplots from last year's hit, Degree of Guilt, into a new novel that can still be enjoyed without knowledge of the previous one. Young Latina lawyer Teresa Peralta, aide and lover to Degree hero Christopher Paget, is fighting to get away from creepy husband Richie Arias and take daughter Elena with her, when Richie is found dead, in what looks like murder disguised as suicide. Paget is the prime suspect, and most of the book is a detailed account of his trial. It's obvious he knows more about Arias's death than he's willing to tell, to the frustration of his brilliant defense lawyer (she was the judge in Degree). Local San Francisco politics and an accusation of child molestation against Paget's teenage son contribute to this complex brew, in which, as before, narrative skill and legal know-how take precedence over characterization and credibility. The court scenes are absorbing, covering such issues as jury selection, and the lawyerly give-and-take is convincing, but the romantic interludes fail to take wing (Paget remains a cipher throughout). Any seasoned reader will spot the murderer quite early. Still, it's a long, luxuriant read that is also refreshingly free of gratuitous violence. 250,000 first printing; author tour; Literary Guild selection; simultaneous release in large-print edition and as Random House Audiobook. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Aiming for another big hit after Degree of Guilt (LJ 12/92), Patterson returns to the courtroom, where an attorney fights to clear himself of the accusation that he murdered his lover's estranged husband because of an ugly custody battle. A Literary Guild main selection.
Emily Melton
Patterson's "Degree of Guilt" (1992) was a runaway best-seller, so it's a good bet his latest will generate reader enthusiasm, big sales, and media hype, too. There's no doubt it's a page-turner. Despite the shallow morality and severe case of yuppie-itis affecting the main characters, the book has all the right stuff for commercial success: illicit affairs, sex and lust, murder, child molestation, a cute kid, and a gripping courtroom scene. Terri Peralta and Richie Arias have been married for six years, but the only good thing they have to show for the union is their daughter, Elena. Now Terri has left Richie and fallen in love with her lawyer-boss, Chris Paget; meanwhile, Richie, a manipulative slimeball capable of deceptive charm, convinces the judge he's a caring father who should have custody of Elena. Terri, devastated, goes off to Italy with Chris to decide if they really love each other. When they return, Richie is dead, supposedly a suicide. Of course, the police have doubts, and the ensuing trial, where Chris must defend himself against murder charges, is the book's main event. Wicked crossfire in the courtroom and a surprise ending make this one entertaining, but by no means great literature. Of course, with a 250,000-copy first printing and a national advertising campaign, who needs literature?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312381622
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 11/2/2010
  • Series: Christopher Paget Series, #3
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 752
  • Sales rank: 675,650
  • Product dimensions: 4.20 (w) x 7.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON is the author of The Spire, Degree of Guilt, Eclipse, The Race, Exile, and more than a dozen 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 on Martha's Vineyard and in San Francisco and Cabo San Lucas with his wife, Dr. Nancy Clair.

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Read an Excerpt


Ricardo Arias’s face filled with fear and disbelief.

“If you’re going to kill yourself,” the intruder repeated softly, “you must leave a note.”

Richie’s eyes would not move from the gun. Pulled from damp and darkness, it had not been fired for years; the intruder wondered if it would fire now. But Richie Arias did not know this.

Sitting at his desk, Richie began groping for a pen.

His movements were sluggish, like those of a man struggling under water. Fixated on the gun, he seemed blind to the darkened living room: the worn couch and armchair, the cheap coffee table, the computer on the desk, the answering machine he used to screen creditors, the faded posters. A chrome standing lamp cast a pall on his skin.

His face was thin, with black eyes that shifted from softness to anger, as suited his needs, and yet never quite lost the alert, almost fevered expression of a bright graduate student running on too much coffee and too little sleep. Blood had begun to trickle from one nostril.

“I never write.” His head twitched toward the computer. “Everyone knows I use that.”

“Suicide is different.” The intruder’s voice was strained now. “The handwriting must be yours.”

Richie’s face looked drawn. Slowly, he picked up the pen, holding it gingerly.

“‘I am ending my life’”—the intruder spoke for him—“‘because I have faced what I am.’”

An instant’s pause, the instinct to resist. Then Richie’s pen began to inch across the paper. The effort was awkward and hesitant, that of a child learning to write, pausing in the middle of letters. Heavier on some than others, spidery at the end.

“‘What I am,’” the voice instructed him, “‘is selfish and pathetic.’”

Richie stopped writing. His eyes filled with resentment. “Do it,” the intruder ordered.

Wiping the blood from his nose, Richie stared at the paper. It was a moment before his hand moved, and when it did, there was a red smear on the back of his fingers. The word “pathetic” took too long to write.

“‘My only business is extortion. I have used my wife and child, out of greed and shamelessness, because I myself am nothing.’”

Richie flushed with anger. He stopped, staring at the words he had already written. His hand would not move.

The intruder hesitated, irresolute. Then saw, on the bookshelf next to Richie, a photograph.

Gun aimed at Richie, the intruder retrieved the picture and placed it carefully on the desk. A dark-haired girl, her solemn brown eyes gazing at Richie Arias.

It was far better than a note, the intruder realized: a last expression of cheap sentiment would seem so very like him. A shrine to his own suicide.

Turning from the picture, Richie’s face showed that he understood the rest.

“You see,” the intruder said softly, “I know who you are.”

As if by instinct, Richie stood, backing from the chair. “Wait,” he cried out. “No one commits suicide from across a room.”

Their eyes met. The intruder did not speak.

“You can just leave.” Richie’s tone became a shrill wheedle. “I won’t tell anyone. We just let it go, okay?”

All at once, staging a suicide did not matter. “Only you,” the intruder said quietly, “would think that I could ‘let it go.’ Only you.”

Richie’s gaze darted to the gun. Slowly, the intruder started toward him.

Five feet, then four.

Richie’s face was taut with fear and calculation. Backing toward the coffee table, he seemed to have forgotten it was there: his eyes flickered toward the bedroom hallway, searching for a way out. His throat worked. “Shoot me now, and it’s murder.”

The intruder stopped, raising the gun.

Richie’s eyes changed. In that moment, he seemed to accept—despite his deepest instincts—that one person could truly love another.

“I’ll give her up,” he whispered.

In silent answer, the intruder’s head moved from side to side.

Richie turned to run.

The gun jerked up at his first panicky step. As he stretched forward, straining for the hallway, Richie’s leg slammed into the coffee table.

There was a sharp sudden scream of pain.

The next few seconds were like freeze-frames. Richie snapping at the waist, arms flailing. Sprawling forward in a face-first dive, head bobbing like a rag doll. Temple hitting the corner of the table. Another sound: a sickening crack. And then Ricardo Arias rolled sideways, flopping onto the carpet, and was still. He lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. The lamp bathed him in a circle of light.

Gun hand trembling, the intruder knelt beside him.

There was a red gash on his temple. Blood dribbled from his nose. The luminous wristwatch on his arm read 10:36.

Tentatively, almost gently, the intruder pushed open Richie’s lips with the barrel of the gun.

It did not require much room. As the barrel slipped into his throat, Richie’s mouth clamped down, the reflex of choking. The only sounds were Richie’s shallow breathing, the whir of air-conditioning.

Eyes shut, the intruder took one breath and pulled the trigger.

A metallic snap. It was only an instant later that the intruder, forced to look at Richie’s face, knew the ancient gun had not discharged.

Richie blinked, the first tremor of consciousness. Watching him taste the black metal, then discover it in some state of half awakening, the intruder prayed that the gun would fire.

Four more bullets.

Richie’s eyes widened in terrible comprehension. His head rose, twisting feebly. His mouth opened around the barrel to form a single word.


The child shuddered.

It was dark. She was damp from the struggle to escape: her legs could not move, and her voice could not cry out. Knees drawn up tight against her stomach, she lay there, waiting.

The banging on her door grew louder.

As the door burst open, the little girl awakened with a soundless scream, torn from her nightmare.

She did not know where she was. But in her dream, she had imagined what would break down the door: a savage dog, with bright teeth and black curly hair, eyes searching the room for her.

A shadow moved toward her.

The girl shivered, stifling her scream, hugging herself so tightly that her fingers dug into her skin. And then her grandmother spoke softly, in Spanish, and Elena Arias stopped trembling.

“It was only your dream,” her grandmother repeated, and swept Elena into her arms. “You’re safe now.”

Elena held her tight, tears of relief springing to her eyes, face buried in her grandmother’s neck. She would know the smell of Grandma Rosa anywhere, sweet skin and perfume, the scent of cut flowers. As her grandmother gently lowered her head onto the pillow, Elena shut her eyes.

Elena felt Rosa’s fingertips gently touch her forehead: in her mind, she saw her grandmother’s jet-black hair, the slender face still almost as pretty as that of Elena’s own mother, Teresa, whose room this once had been. The sounds of Dolores Street came to her then: Latin voices on the sidewalk; the squeal of cars at a  stop sign. Outside, the streets were not safe, and Dolores Park, where Elena could not play, was filled with men who sold drugs at night. The window that her mother once could open wide was nailed to the frame. But here, with her grandmother, there was no black dog.

“Where is Mommy?” Elena asked.

To night, before bedtime, her grandmother had taken her mother’s old world globe and traced a line with her finger from San Francisco, showing the route that her mother would fly tomorrow. But now Rosa repeated the words like a favorite story.

“Your mother is still here, at her house. Tomorrow she’s flying to a place called Italy. But she’ll be back in ten more days. And in the morning, when you get up, we’ll find Italy on the map again.”

Elena was silent for a moment. “But Daddy’s not with her, is he? Mommy’s going with Chris.”

“Yes.” Her grandmother’s voice was quieter still. “Mommy’s going with Chris.”

Elena opened her eyes. In the faint glow of the night-light, her grandmother’s gaze looked tired and sad.

Turning to the window, Elena listened for the sounds of the world outside. “Will I see Daddy tomorrow?” she asked in a tentative voice. “After Chris and Mommy leave?”

Her grandmother watched her, fingers still resting on her forehead. “No, Elena. Not tomorrow.”

Tomorrow was as far ahead as Elena wished to think. She turned back to Rosa. “Please, Grandma, sleep with me. I’m afraid of being alone.”

In the dim light, her grandmother started to shake her head and then stopped at the look in Elena’s eyes.

“Remember what I told you, Grandma? About being scared?”

Her grandmother looked into her eyes. “Yes,” she said gently. “I remember.”

Neither spoke again. Her grandmother rose slowly from the bed and then, pulling her dress over her head, slid into the bed next to Elena, wearing only her slip.

Nestled in her grandmother’s arms, Elena felt the rise and fall of Rosa’s wakeful breathing as the caress of love and safety, until she fell asleep.

EYES OF A CHILD Copyright © 1998 by Richard North Patterson.

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Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 22 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 22 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2001

    First Time RNP Reader

    This is the first book I have read from RNP. This book is for you, if you like court room drama with a lot of suspense. I can't wait to read more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 9, 2011

    Hjj O

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  • Posted July 14, 2011


    Definitely a page turner. Another hit by Patterson.

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  • Posted June 13, 2009

    I love court cases and this is the best.

    This story by North Patterson is by far one of my favorites. A little politics and much courtroom drama. Made me actully hate the character, Ricardo. Wish he would still write.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2006

    Over-written legal thriller

    Having read the first two books in RNP's Chistopher Paget series (Lasko Tangent and Degree of Guilt) I decided to finish the series by reading its conclusion, Eyes of a Child. I was impressed by Lasko because the author threw in a couple of twists that kept me reading, his characters were somewhat believable and they had witty dialogue to boot. Degree of Guilt had a better storyline, but the dialogue had slipped: suddenly characters were pondering on and on about their feelings (for pages and pages!), an example of the author telling you the story instead of showing it to you. Eyes of a Child is worse all around -- the plot is not as strong as Degree of Guilt (I guessed all the major plot twists in advance, some as early as the first 25 pages!) and the characters drone on and on and on about their feelings like a cheap Harlequin romance novel. If I had friends that talked like this I would have to ditch them before I became the suspect in a murder case. The courtroom scenes are actually the best part of the case, so ignore what the previous reader says about reading only the first and last part of the book -- in fact, it's just the opposite: you should skim those parts and focus on meat of the story which is the investigation and subsequent courtroom drama. I don't have the stomach for this so I'm going to give RNP one more chance before I leave him behind. Of course, if you're used to reading Grisham, then RNP will probably read like Tolstoy in comparison.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2004

    Too Much!

    Save yourself some time. Read the first 100 pages and the last 50 pages. The amount of detail is overwhelming and just plain boring. If you can't guess the ending then you're just nothing thinking ahead. I really wanted to like this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 25, 2004

    real page turner

    This was a great book. Lots of drama, suspense, and romance...what more could you ask for?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2000


    This book was outstanding. It had a lot of suspense to it. Not knowing what would be the out come. I really enjoyed this book. I hope to read more books by Richard North Patterson, he is an awesome writer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2000

    Patterson does it again!

    Again, I could not put this book down. Patterson has a way of putting the reader in the midst of the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2000


    Love the book. I hadn't heard of this author and just chanced across it in the library. I will follow up this one by taking a stab at his other works. Riveting, a first class novel.

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