Protect and Defend (Kerry Kilcannon Series #2)

Protect and Defend (Kerry Kilcannon Series #2)

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by Richard North Patterson

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On a cold day in January, President-elect Kerry Kilcannon takes the oath of office—and within days makes his first, most important move: appointing a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Kilcannon’s choice is a female judge with a brilliant record. And a secret.

While the Senate spars over Caroline Masters’s nomination, an inflammatory…  See more details below


On a cold day in January, President-elect Kerry Kilcannon takes the oath of office—and within days makes his first, most important move: appointing a new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Kilcannon’s choice is a female judge with a brilliant record. And a secret.

While the Senate spars over Caroline Masters’s nomination, an inflammatory abortion rights case is making its way toward the judge—and will explode into the headlines. Suddenly, the most divisive issue in America turns the President’s nomination into all-out war. And from Judge Masters to a conservative, war-hero senator facing a crisis of conscience and a fifteen-year-old girl battling for her future, no one will be safe.

Editorial Reviews
Our Review
Patterson Tackles Big Issues in New Political Thriller
Richard North Patterson's Protect and Defend is many things at once: a courtroom drama, a work of social criticism, an examination of the harsh realities of public life, and an evenhanded analysis of the controversial, interconnected issues of late-term abortion and parental consent. The result of all this is a compelling, hugely ambitious narrative that successfully illuminates the predatory nature of life in the corridors of power.

Protect and Defend begins, portentously, with an inauguration and a death. Kerry Kilcannon, last seen in No Safe Place, has just been elected President by the narrowest of margins. In the aftermath of his inaugural address, Roger Bannon, Chief Justice of a bitterly divided Supreme Court, suffers a fatal stroke, providing the administration with its first major challenge: finding a suitable replacement. Willfully courting controversy, Kilcannon nominates Caroline Masters -- a recurring Patterson heroine -- as the first female Chief Justice in the history of the Court.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, a potentially life-altering event gathers momentum. Mary Ann Tierney, the pregnant, 15-year-old daughter of devoutly pro-life parents, learns that her fetus, which is over five months old and legally viable, is hydrocephalic and is likely to be born without a cerebral cortex. When she also learns that the cesarean section required for the child's delivery carries a measurable risk of future infertility, she requests an abortion. Her parents, backed by a recent piece of legislation called the Protection of Life Act, predictably withhold their consent. All this sets the stage for the dramatic centerpiece of the book, as Mary Ann, aided by a gifted young lawyer named Sarah Dash, takes her case to the courts, challenging both her parents' most deep-seated beliefs and the constitutionality of the Protection of Life Act.

What follows is a rigorously constructed debate on late-term abortion that rapidly becomes a national cause celebre. As the case proceeds through the various levels of the judicial system, it begins to exert a gravitational pull that affects both the Caroline Masters confirmation hearings and the professional -- and sometimes personal -- lives of almost every major character. Many of these characters have complex personal histories, and -- in some cases -- carefully concealed secrets. Most of these secrets will be dragged into the light before the narrative ends.

Protect and Defend cogently addresses a number of troubling issues: abortion, the right to privacy, the politics of scandal, the Faustian compact between elected officials and special interest lobbies, the difficulty of making honorable choices in a world ruled by political expediency. It is, to my mind, Richard North Patterson's best, most provocative novel to date, a closely observed, brilliantly detailed portrait of the best and worst aspects of the democratic process.

--Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. His book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub, At the Foot of the Story Tree, has just been published by Subterranean Press (

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Random House Publishing Group
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Kerry Kilcannon Series , #2
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"I, Kerry Francis Kilcannon . . ."

In a high clear voice, carrying a trace of Irish lilt, Kerry Kilcannon repeated the historic phrases intoned by Chief Justice Roger Bannon.

The two men faced each other on the patio which fronted the west side of the Capitol, surrounded by guests and officeholders and watched from greater distances by thousands of well-wishers who covered the grounds below. The noonday was bright but chill; a heavy snow had fallen overnight, and the mist of Bannon's words hung in the air between them. Though Kerry wore the traditional morning coat, those around him huddled with their collars up and hands shoved in the pockets of much heavier coats. Protected only by his traditional robe, the Chief Justice looked bloodless, an old man who shivered in the cold, heightening the contrast with Kerry Kilcannon.

Kerry was forty-two, and his slight frame and thatch of chestnut hair made him seem startlingly young for the office. At his moment of accession, both humbling and exalting, the three people he loved most stood near: his mother, Mary Kilcannon; Clayton Slade, his closest friend and the new Chief of Staff; and his fiancée, Lara Costello, a broadcast journalist who enhanced the aura of youth and vitality which was central to Kerry's appeal. "When Kerry Kilcannon enters a room," a commentator had observed, "he's in Technicolor, and everyone else is in black-and-white."

Despite that, Kerry knew with regret, he came to the presidency a divisive figure. His election last November had been bitter and close: only at dawn of the next morning, when the final count in California went narrowly to Kerry, had Americans known who would lead them. Few, Kerry supposed, were more appalled than Chief Justice Roger Bannon.

It was an open secret that, at seventy-nine, Bannon had long wished to retire: for eight years under Kerry's Democratic predecessor, the Chief Justice had presided grimly over a sharply divided Court, growing so pale and desiccated that he came, in Kerry's mind, to resemble parchment. Seemingly all that had sustained him was the wish for a Republican president to appoint his successor, helping maintain Bannon's conservative legacy; in a rare moment of incaution, conveyed to the press, Bannon had opined at a dinner party that Kerry was "ruthless, intemperate, and qualified only to ruin the Court." The inaugural's crowning irony was that the Chief Justice was here, obliged by office to effect the transfer of power to another Democrat, this one the embodiment of all Bannon loathed. Whoever imagined that ours was a government of laws and not men, Kerry thought wryly, could not see Bannon's face. Yet he was here to do his job, trembling with cold, and Kerry could not help but feel sympathy and a measure of admiration.

". . . do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States . . ."

The outgoing president watched from Kerry's left, gray and worn, a cautionary portrait of the burdens awaiting him. Yet there were at least two others nearby who already hoped to take Kerry's place: his old antagonist from the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Macdonald Gage; and Senator Chad Palmer, Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, a second Republican whose rivalry with Gage and friendship with Kerry did not disguise his cheerful conviction that he would be a far better president than either. Kerry wondered which man the Chief Justice was hoping would depose him four years hence, and whether Bannon would live that long.

". . . and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Firmly, as though to override the old man's hesitance, Kerry completed the oath.

At that wondrous instant, the summit of two years of striving and resolve, Kerry Francis Kilcannon became President of the United States.

A rough celebratory chorus rose from below. Mustering a faint smile, Bannon shook his hand.

"Congratulations," the Chief Justice murmured and then, after a moment's pause, he added the words "Mr. President."

At 12:31, both sobered and elated by the challenge awaiting him, President Kerry Kilcannon concluded his inaugural address.

There was a deep momentary quiet and then a rising swell of applause, long and sustained and, to Kerry, reassuring. Turning to those nearest, he looked first toward Lara Costello. Instead, he found himself staring at Chief Justice Bannon.

Bannon raised his hand, seeming to reach out to him, a red flush staining his cheeks. One side of his face twitched, and then his eyes rolled back into his head. Knees buckling, the Chief Justice slowly collapsed.

Before Kerry could react, three Secret Service agents surrounded the new President, uncertain of what they had seen. The crowd below stilled; from those closer at hand came cries of shock and confusion.

"He's had a stroke," Kerry said quickly. "I'm fine."

After a moment, they released his arms, clearing the small crush of onlookers surrounding the fallen Chief Justice. Senator Chad Palmer had already turned Bannon over and begun mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Kneeling beside them, Kerry watched Palmer's white-blond head press against the Chief Justice's ashen face. Chad's cheeks trembled with the effort to force air down a dead man's throat.

Turning at last, Palmer murmured to Kerry, "I think he's gone."

As ever in the presence of death, Kerry experienced a frisson of horror and pity. Chad touched his arm. "They'll need to see you, Mr. President. To know that you're all right."

Belatedly, Kerry nodded. He stood, turning, and saw his mother and Lara, their stunned expressions mirroring his own. Only then did he register what Chad Palmer, whose former appellation for Kerry was "pal," had called him.

At once, Kerry felt the weight of his new responsibilities, both substantive and symbolic. He had asked the country to look to him, and this was no time to falter.

Kerry stepped back to the podium, glancing back as paramedics bore the Chief Justice to an ambulance. The crowd below milled in confusion.

Gazing out, Kerry paused, restoring his own equanimity. Time seemed to stop for him. It was a trick he had learned before addressing a jury and, even now, it served.

Above the confusion, Kerry's voice rang out. "The Chief Justice," he announced, "has collapsed, and is on his way to the hospital."

His words carried through the wintry air to the far edge of the crowd. "I ask for a moment of quiet," he continued, "and for your prayers for Chief Justice Bannon."

Stillness fell, a respectful silence.

But there would be little time, Kerry realized, to reflect on Roger Bannon's passing. The first days of his administration had changed abruptly, and their defining moment was already ordained: his submission to the Senate of a new Chief Justice who, if confirmed, might transform the Court. The ways in which this would change his own life--and that of others here, and elsewhere--was not yet within his contemplation.

From the Hardcover edition.

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What People are saying about this

Archibald Cox
This gripping story of an unusual but realistic law suit to establish a young woman's constitutional right to a late-term abortion without parental consent although still a minor, coupled with the related battle over confirmation of the key judge's nomination to be Chief Justice of the United States, will arouse and hold the reader's emotions while also presenting for the reader's intellect in a very human context very difficult moral and constitutional questions.
Alan M. Dershowitz
More realistic than Advise and Consent, Protect and Defend raises the political novel to a new level. This mesmerizing account of the confirmation battle over our first female Chief Justice--played out against the background of a compelling late-term abortion drama--will change the way you think about the people, the politics and the psyches of those who govern. As only Richard North Patterson could do, Protect and Defend takes us into the minds, hearts, and souls of his richly textured characters. The twists and turns of courtroom, committee room and Oval Office mirror today's headlines--only more probing, more revealing, and more fun. A riveting read that will entertain and educate you. I plan to recommend it to my students, colleagues and friends--even to my opponents, because it will totally preoccupy them.
—(Alan M. Dershowitz, professor, Harvard Law School)
Barbara Boxer
In an intimate and personal way, Protect and Defend brings the reader into he toughest and most divisive issue of our time...abortion. The brilliantly interwoven stories demonstrate how even the most powerful can be destroyed by it. Whatever your view, Richard North Patterson should be commended for his masterful work.
Mario Cuomo
I would tell people to read Protect and Defend if they like political novels. But I would add that they should buy it, study it and keep it if they want and exhaustive and gripping discussion of the powerful human realities of late-term abortion and parental consent. Through his brilliantly conceived and expertly wrought narrative of the trial, Richard North Patterson has described these issues with unequalled lucidity and vividness. It won't make decisions easier, but it's bound to make them more thoughful.

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Protect and Defend 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is my first Patterson book, so I have no history of his work to bias my opinion. I am a Republican, but I am also pro-Choice, so I believe I can provide a unique insight. The book has a strong liberal bias. Even the liberal policies of the book with which I agree made me wince in their disparate treatment toward traditional conservative values. The ¿good guys¿ were liberals and Democrats, while conservatives and Republicans were portrayed as evil, save one ¿Maverick¿ Republican who tilted strongly liberal. I have a certain animosity for the theocratic wing of the conservative movement, and I still found the book uncomfortable. The twists and turns that change the political field are fascinating, and I found myself less at odds with the author in the abortion segment - probably because am pro-choice. The author sets a stage where political forces deftly juxtapose to create unusual obstacles for a new President. The political intrigue is suitable for a real political junkie. The environment was no less convoluted than the California Recall! There were at least two occasions when conservatives (one a legislator, the other a Supreme Court justice) referred to our form of government as a 'democracy.' NO respectable conservative would refer to the United States as anything but a 'representative republic.' It was obvious this book was not subject to conservative review. It was also interesting that Republicans were engaging in political obstruction to placate special interests. Clearly, Democrats typically fill that political mold. With the exception of the errors in accuracy, and the serious liberal bend, I finished the book without noticing any glaring holes. This was an interesting and complex scenario, and things went into place and resolved logically. I listened to the book on CD, and the reader was fabulous!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best books I have ever read. The characters are well developed and interesting. Patterson presents both sides of an extremely volatile issue with clarity and compassion. I also enjoyed the intertwining plot lines and legal arguments. Can't wait for the next one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is wonderful. I love the way it brings you in and challenges your own views. This book takes religion and politics and inter-twines them together. The characters come to life. I enjoyed every word.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I bought this book at the station to read on a 3 hour train ride: I thought it'd be an easy read that I could then leave on the train when I arrived. Instead, I was so completely caught up in the story and the presentation of the different facets of the abortion debate, that I raced to the end and have since re-read it more slowly at home. I thought it was very even-handed, showing that a solution for one person is NOT a solution for another person and presenting different lines of thinking and constantly raising new questions. The political and government parts of the story were disgusting of course but did give some grounds for hope - perhaps one can be a politician and still have some humanity left. I really enjoyed the book and have lent it to several people in hopes of stimulating discussions in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While this book was very well written, it troubled me that the author portrayed ALL Democrats as pro-choice and ALL Republicans as pro-life. He made Republicans seem callous and rigid, while making Democrats seem caring and flexible. It was NOT a fair portrayal of either. I found it very disturbing....and I'M a Democrat. I'm also Pro-life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Richard North Patterson still remains one of my favorite authors even though I feel this book was a little too predictable with all those 'greedy' Republicans being supported by the 'noncompassionate, narrow minded' pro-lifers. The book was a little too one-sided for me. But even so, I still couldn't put the book down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not so much a political thriller as a 'rah, rah' for Abortion Rights. Comes off as trite and very manipulative. I prefer Margaret Truman...a true political thriller author, with no axe to grind. I expected more from Patterson.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A new president of the United States takes office after a close election victory. Early in his term, he faces the opportunity to make a key appointment. Circumstances arise in a perverse way to make what would normally be a routine decision into a very tricky and challenging one for all involved. Every law student is familiar with the Socratic technique of the professor starting with one set of facts, and then beginning to alter them to see how it affects the result. By testing a full range of situations, the true legal principles begin to emerge. Protect and Defend does the best job I have ever seen of taking this method and using it to develop complex questions in a novel. Anyone who likes reading about the law will enjoy this aspect of the book. Unlike most books about legal issues, this one also fully develops many characters. As I read the book, I was also reminded of the excitement I felt as I read Advise and Consent. The reason for this is that you (if you are like me) will probably identify with several of the characters and care about what happens to them and to the country, as you care about others and the country in real life. The primary focus of this book is on abortion as a legal and political issue. Most people do not like to read about this subject, but this book is vastly more interesting than most by shedding new light on the many complex perspectives that come into play. On the other hand, the most gross details of abortion are fully exposed here, and will upset many readers. Constructively, the book fairly and positively portrays many ranges of pro-choice opinion. Unfortunately, those who come to a pro-life point of view from religious or moral scruples make out very poorly here. Typically, they are portrayed in an unfavorable light. This is a serious weakness of the book. Had it been more balanced in its portrayal of the two viewpoints, Protect and Defend could have been a landmark novel about how America is dealing with abortion today. If you are pro-life, you may find this book offensive. For you, this could be a one-star book. Mr. Patterson points out that he sought help from pro-life advocates, and received very little. He notes that this probably affected the quality of his story. If he had not provided that explanation, I would have graded the book down at least one more star. The legal hypotheticals usually come up in the context of courtroom examinations, and are very interesting. They certainly added to my thinking and understanding. I suspect that they will to yours too. The book also presents a cautious case for a possible way out of the political cannibalism that affects both major parties, so that few candidates for important offices are 'pure' enough to hold them. I encourage you to be sure that you understand all of the perspectives involved in abortion. I suspect that most of us (and certainly me) have views that are uninformed in many ways. I hope that pro-life advocates will take the time to further inform Mr. Patterson and that he will write another fine book on this subject in the future. That would be a benefit to us all. Look at all dimensions of important issues before drawing your conclusions. Then check your thinking before acting. Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing look at a very difficult issue. Very accurate from the view of someone who has been pro choice for over 50 years -- ;long before Roe. Thanks to the author for exploring both the political and personal aspects of the abortion issue. Sadly, the maneuvering of the right when the book was written has only worsened.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the most gripping, compelling, riveting, sensational book I have ever read. It became impossible to put down. I would recommend having a dictionary nearby. There were so many words I had never heard of, much less know the meaning of. The only character that I disliked was caroline Masters. What an egotistical, over ambitious, greedy person. To give up her child over her ambitions and then to lie about it later on. I was hoping she would not get the nomination. Mr. Patterson did a wonderful job writing this book. It makes me think that maybe at one time he had been a medical doctor, or a lawyer, or a politician. It also makes me wonder, if the events in this book are realistic. Is this real life in the world of politics. Betrayal, lies, greed, distrust, enemies, misuse of power. That with one phone call, even the most powerful can be brought down. Read this book, you will enjoy it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This is high class stuff. Compelling, informative,accurate and brillantly written. I can certainly recommend this first class read to anyone. Thanks RNP for producing such a fine piece of work which I could not put down. I don't normally re-read books, but I will certainly make an exception for this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have read most of Richard North Patterson's books and enjoyed them greatly. This one is equally as well written but I can't get past the obvious pro-choice slant, to the point where I can't finish the book. That he voices his opinions is fine, but I feel as though I have been beaten over the head by his villification of the pro-life movement. I feel also that I have been misled, as the previous Kerry Kilcannon book did not have such an obvious slant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I've read lots of books this year, but nothing compares to Protect and Defend. Although abortion is at the core of the story, no matter where you stand on the issue, you'll give thought to your beliefs. If the Senate really operates the way it's described in this book, I'm not sure the United States way of government is the way to go. A great lessen in government and Supreme Court practice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
From the time I read his first book, I have been a huge Richard North Patterson fan. I found that he always delivered excellent writing, well-crafted stories, and suspenseful plots - that is,until now. In Protect and Defend, the writing is still first-class, but the suspense is non-existent. I didn't even finish the book, which is most unusual for me. The problem is that the book is simply a treatise on the abortion issue. There is nothing about this story that would accurately classify it as a mystery, thriller, or suspense novel. Even the descriptions of the political process, which I usually find fascinating, are rendered boring by the excrutiatingly detailed coverage of the abortion debate. If abortion fascinates you to the extent that you want to read about it for 582 pages, then you will probably love Protect and Defend - but if not, then your reaction may mirror mine. By all means, if you enjoy suspense and politics, buy any of Patterson's previous books - but skip this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I can¿t remember the last time a book has stirred my emotions as the one has. Mr. Patterson¿s latest work is a heart wrenching, gut wrenching story that grabs you and doesn¿t let go. It makes you think about life, politics, difficult issues that foster difficult decisions and leaves you wondering about the human beings who shape our future. This book, the product of Mr. Patterson¿s extensive research, is an eye opener, and for me personally, a signpost for deep reflection. A novel that will not be forgotten soon.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As familiar as I am with Richard North Patterson, this book was a revelation. A coherent plot with sidebars galore, tightly woven into a tapestry of remarkable and educational grist for the mill, if you enjoy this genre, and fail to read this book, you are doing yourself(ves) a great injustice. President Kerry Kilcannon nominates a judge with a secret to become Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Caroline Masters, the jurist he selects has a secret that if made public, could jeopardize her chances for nomination to the country's highest court. Yet, others have secrets too, and the suspense builds as it appears that everyone, including the President has vestiges of skeletons in their closets. The unravelling and then retying of the yarns making up each of the subplots of this book is nothing less than spectacular. The only downside to this thoroughly enjoyable book is that if you are not careful, you'll read it too fast: from first page to last, it is one of the best books of its type I have read in a long long time. Characterizations are up there with those of Scott Turow. I just can't provide enough encomiums about this novel. Regardless of what side of the abortion issue you are on...oh, did I mention that this is one of the major subplots?, if you have a moderately open mind you'll find this book rewarding and pause for some deep thought. A first rate novel by a first rate novelist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
In trying to deliver both sides of the abortion issue, the author's requests for interviews from the Christian Coalition were denied. However, I believe he successfully delivers both sides of the coin - prochoice and prolife, in this extremely time-appropriate novel. Those people who are prolife would do well to consider reading this book, if only to explore the potential ramifications of their position, albeit in a novel form.