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No Safe Place (Kerry Kilcannon Series #1)

No Safe Place (Kerry Kilcannon Series #1)

3.8 16
by Richard North Patterson

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In his first book since the national bestseller Silent Witness, Richard North Patterson uses his mastery of characterization and suspense to give us a story of startling realism and originality -- an extraordinary novel of presidential politics.

In the year 2000, Senator Kerry Kilcannon's insurgent campaign against Vice President Dick Mason has come down to


In his first book since the national bestseller Silent Witness, Richard North Patterson uses his mastery of characterization and suspense to give us a story of startling realism and originality -- an extraordinary novel of presidential politics.

In the year 2000, Senator Kerry Kilcannon's insurgent campaign against Vice President Dick Mason has come down to the last seven days -- the time remaining until the California Presidential primary. Whoever wins in California is likely to win the Democratic nomination, a prize that the Vice President is determined to deny Kerry at any cost. And for all the votes and enthusiasm his passion and personal magnetism have gained him, Kerry's problems are formidable.

He is haunted by the tragedy of his older brother, James, a presidential candidate who was assassinated in California 12 years earlier. Kerry has stumbled in his advocacy of abortion rights, and a right-to-life fanatic has pushed this explosive issue to the forefront by murdering three people at a women's clinic. In addition, a journalist for a national news magazine is striving to verify the lethal story that, two years ago, while still married, Kerry had a secret love affair with Lara Costello, a reporter assigned to him on Capitol Hill. And now, even more threatening, Kerry is being stalked by the abortion-clinic murderer himself.

This narrative is seamlessly interwoven with scenes from Kerry's past: his youth as the son of a drunken and abusive father; his self-image as the less-gifted younger brother of a brilliant yet distant senator; his reluctant ascension to his brother's place; his poignant romance with Lara Costello. And when Lara is ordered agains her will to cover Kerry in California, he is forced once more to evaluate his life, and the terrible cost of his ambition to become President of the United States.

With rare authenticity, Richard North Patterson depicts the world of high-stakes presidential politics on the verge of an explosion that is as dramatic as it is thought-provoking. But No Safe Place is also a story of people at their best and their worst: their passions, their ideals, their flaws. A novel that will hold the reader enthralled from the first to the last sentence.

Editorial Reviews

No Safe Place is a gripping political thriller loaded with powerful, gritty prose and plenty of heart-stopping suspense. When Senator Kerry Kilcannon decides to run for president, he's faced with a maniacal pro-life assassin who's out for his blood.
Daniel H. Pink
These are tough times for political fiction. Political reality has become so zany, it's hard for even the most inventive minds to keep pace. Imagine: A president turns the Oval Office into a love hutch for himself and a chipmunky White House intern, while a maniacal prosecutor establishes his own fourth branch of government to hunt down her presidentially embossed cocktail dress. Who can top that? To his credit, Richard North Patterson doesn't really try. In No Safe Place, he burrows into the interior world of politics rather than skimming along the increasingly gaudy exteriors. The results are as gripping as they are thoughtful.

In New Jersey Sen. Kerry Kilcannon, Patterson introduces a dream candidate. Kilcannon's an earnest but existentially scarred former prosecutor who's challenging an incumbent vice president for the Democratic Party's 2000 nomination. Unafraid to speak truth to power, Kilcannon rails against the campaign finance system, calls for compulsory national service, advocates gay rights and trashes teachers unions. Yet while he's dynamite in public, he's given to bouts of introspection and self-laceration in private. He utters what many pro-choicers believe but rarely say -- that, yeah, a fetus is sort of a life. He knows he may be killed on the campaign trail; he knows, too, there's not much he can do about it. Kilcannon is like a Frank Capra character with a little script-doctoring by Albert Camus -- a curious mix of idealism and fatalism.

In April 2000, the final week of California's presidential primary, Kilcannon has to face down some internal adversaries as well as the sitting VP. For one thing, he's haunted by the memory of his older brother Jamie, who was assassinated in California during his own run for the presidency 12 years earlier. For another, a crazed anti-abortion zealot is stalking him, intent on repeating history. Finally, a newsmagazine is about to break a devastating story about his recent extramarital affair with Lara Costello, a young TV reporter who has begun covering the campaign.

Patterson packs all this into a brisk account of seven days in April. There are a few missteps here: One of the novel's major plot turns, for example, stands out like a gigantic water tower on a Midwestern prairie. You can see it about 30 miles away, but it seems like forever before you reach it. Nonetheless, Patterson -- who usually writes legal thrillers -- has done his homework. (In his acknowledgments, he thanks several dozen political and media bigwigs.) He is deadly accurate when he describes a presidential campaign as "hours of boredom punctuated by panic." His consultants and operatives are less cartoonish than in most political novels. And he includes great insidery references to countdown meetings and the color-coded symbology of Secret Service pins.

What gives No Safe Place unusual strength for a pop thriller is less its outer details than its inner subtleties. Running for president requires what Patterson rightly calls a "molten single-mindedness." But as his book demonstrates and our recent history affirms, we're probably better off with leaders who both grasp ambiguity and seek to gratify desires beyond their own. -- Salon

Chicago Tribune
Riveting...Highly entertaining....Patterson scores big.
Washington Post
The temptation to match his characters to real players is strong...He does a good job of accurately rendering the political world and fusing high drama with personal drama. . .The pages turn quickly as the moment(s) of truth approach and the madman murderer gets nearer.
Bill Kent
A remarkable coincidence of bad luck for Bill Clinton and good luck for Richard North Patterson has conferred topicality upon No Safe Place...
The New York Times Book Review
Tom DeHaven
A flawed...lawyer hero is nothing new in a Patterson novel, but what is new this time out is the hero's turf...the campaign trail....uneven, often sluggish...mechanical plotting....Everything fits, but nothing surprises....But for all its failings, No Safe Place is still uncommonly readable...
Entertainment Weekly
Wall Street Journal
Engrossing...Ambitious and well-written...[An] ethical suspense novel.
Detroit Free Press
Timely and compelling.
San Francisco Chronicle
A powerful account of how twisted the political process has become.
San Diego Union-Tribune
Not only a great read but a fine and uncannily relevant novel.
Darina Molloy
...Patterson writes entertainingly about politics [but] falls back on some very tired Irish cliches to flesh out the Kilcannon family skeletons...
Irish America Magazine
Philip J. Trounstine
I was 24 when I read Alan Drury's Advise and Consent. Although I've read a fair number of political novels in the intervening 25 years, none ever rose to the standard Drury set. Until now!
San Jose Mercury News
Library Journal
In his new novel, Patterson (Degree of Guilt) moves away from courtroom drama into the world of politics. As in his previous works, he maintains his emphasis on scandal, secrets, and controversial issues like abortion and the abuse of women and children. The main character, Kerry Kilcannon, is an Irish Catholic U.S. senator. Embroiled in a close campaign with the vice president for the Democratic Presidential nomination, Kilcannon struggles to maintain his honesty and upright values in a sleazy world where everything depends on image and the proper spin. At the same time, a militant right-to-lifer vows to kill Kilcannon for his pro-choice stance on abortion. Throughout the constant twists and turns of the plot, Patterson builds realistic supporting characters and brings to life the surrealistic world of a Presidential campaign. As in his other best sellers, Patterson excels in keeping the reader mesmerized until the final pages. -- Katherine E. A. Sorci
The Washington Post
The temptation to match his characters to real players is strong...He does a good job of accurately rendering the political world and fusing high drama with personal drama. . .The pages turn quickly as the moment(s) of truth approach and the madman murderer gets nearer.
Washington Post Book World
High drama...Emotion-rich characters...The pages turn quickly.
Kirkus Reviews
Patterson, who's made bestseller lists with legal suspensers like Degree of Guilt (1992) and Silent Witness (1997), is back to his first love, national politics, with this tale of a star-crossed senator's race for the California primary vote. The move from the courtroom to the campaign trail isn't such a big one, not only because Patterson's thrillers have always involved political figures, but because the ordeal of electoral politics; the courteous evasions, the unrelenting back-and-forth with the press, the candidates' endless triangulation of everything from who they are to which blocs of voters they need to curry, so resembles the stuff of legal intrigue that you can see why so many lawyers run for office. Here, Kerry Kilcannon, a New Jersey senator whose main claims to fame are that his brother, a highly regarded Presidential candidate 12 years ago, was gunned down minutes after winning the California primary, and that he is constitutionally incapable, it seems, of telling a lie. Like a more polished version of Warren Beatty's Bulworth, Kerry has been poking his finger in Vice President Dick Mason's eye for years, attacking the heir-presumptive's ties to special interests and in the process staking out common-sense positions on gun control, the death penalty, socialized medicine, and campaign finance. As Kerry comes down the home stretch, though, two bombs are ticking away. A news magazine has gotten hold of a devastating story about his relationship with Lara Costello, a reporter who's covering the campaign (lots of high-minded speeches on every side of the issues here); and an assassin fresh from a bloodbath at a Boston abortion clinic has come to SanFrancisco to meet the candidate. Patterson makes as much of the resulting threats as he can, but decent, haunted Kerry never seems to be in half as much trouble as some real politicians are that you can't help thinking of. The big revelation here is how easy it is to write great speeches when you're a novelist who doesn't have to pander to anybody because you're not running for election.

From the Publisher
"High drama . . . Emotion-rich characters . . . The pages turn quickly."
The Washington Post Book World

"Engrossing . . . Ambitious and well-written, No Safe Place is a sort of ethical suspense novel."
The Wall Street Journal

"What is striking is how exactly right Patterson gets the politics and the journalism while telling a gripping tale that intertwines abuse and betrayal, ethics and ambition, romance and dysfunction."
The San Jose Mercury News

"Prescient . . . An important and impressive work of fiction . . . An exceptionally convincing, complex, and moving love story."
The San Diego Union-Tribune

Product Details

Random House Large Print
Publication date:
Kerry Kilcannon Series , #1
Edition description:
Large Print
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.19(h) x 1.31(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Prologue: The Campaign

April, the year 2000

At eight in the morning of his last day in Boston, Sean Burke paced out tight circles on the corner of Kenmore Square, waiting for the abortionist, a nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun hidden in the inside pocket of his army jacket.

Sean knew his enemy from the demonstrations—a slight man with brown wisps of hair and hollow cheekbones, gray soulless eyes that ignored the pickets even when they cried out, "Don't kill me, Mommy and Daddy," in the imagined voice of a fetus. Part of Sean prayed for him to come; that other part, frightened and irresolute, hoped he would not. He encouraged himself by imagining the faces of the children he would save.

He passed forty minutes this way. With each moment, Sean felt more anxious.

And then the man was there, emerging from the subway.

The abortionist's hands were in his coat pockets. His eyes focused on the sidewalk, and his breaths became thin puffs in the surprising chill of a bright April day. He did not notice Sean.

Sean swallowed. His throat was dry, his mouth sour, the pit of his stomach clenched and raw. Clumsily, he reached a gloved hand into his left pocket and popped the last antacid pill into his mouth, teeth grinding it to chalk.

Dr. Bowe disappeared inside the building.

It was an old brownstone hotel, converted to offices for doctors, dentists, milliners, discount jewelers; passing through the double glass doors, a pregnant woman could be shopping for a necklace, not seeking an accomplice to help murder her unborn child. Sean knew only that the offices were on the first floor: because of a court order, picketswere required to stay outside and keep the walkway clear. The red carpet, their leader, Paul Terris, had named it. But neither Paul's exhortations nor all their protests had stopped the flow of blood.

Yet Sean stood there, still afraid. The chalk in his mouth tasted bitter.

If Sean acted, he would have to leave all he knew behind: the comfort of the church where he served as caretaker; the room above the parish offices, his home for three years now; the compassion of Father Brian Shaw, who praised his work and worried, in his soft-voiced way, about Sean's "intensity." In the newspapers and on television, in the streets and the bars of Charlestown, they would call Sean a murderer.

Let God be his judge, then. God and the children.

But Sean stood frozen, a slender man, with lank black hair and pale-blue eyes. Alone, as he had felt almost all his life, Sean watched the random pageant of the city pass him by: tardy workers rushing from the subway; cars honking; students heading for Boston University; an Asian nanny with a plaid wool scarf at her throat, pushing a baby in a blue carriage. They did not notice him and would not have understood had they known.

Then he saw her—a young woman in a wool coat, knit cap pulled tight over her curly red hair, her face more Irish than Sean's own. He could imagine her sitting next to him in school.

Pausing on the sidewalk, she gazed at the double glass doors beneath the letters that spelled "Kenmore Building." Sean could feel her reluctance as intensely as he felt his own.

She was there for the abortionist, Sean was certain. Her back to Sean, she seemed barely to move. In his mind they were coupled: if she did not enter, perhaps Sean would grant the clinic a reprieve. Just for today.

Please, he murmured, save your baby. He prayed she was not one of them.

With a shrug, so small that Sean perhaps imagined it, the young woman walked toward the door.

Sean felt the anger come. If she was not worthy of the life she bore, then he must be.

Oblivious to traffic, Sean crossed the street. As he touched it, the gun in his pocket reassured him.

On the Saturday before last, he had driven to New Hampshire and bought the weapon at a package store: the same model, the owner informed him, that the Turkish guy had used to shoot the Pope—small, light, easy to conceal. Sean stifled his dislike. "God bless the Holy Father," he said simply.

In the woods nearby, Sean had practiced.

Aiming the gun, he had imagined looking into his victim's face, blocking out all doubt, all fears. His aim had been good—first trees, then rocks, then a careless squirrel which had almost vanished in a single shot. But now Sean's hand shook.

He was five feet from the door, then four feet. Each step felt leaden.

He must remember the lessons of history, Sean told himself. If he could have murdered Hitler, the Nazis would have called him a criminal, reviled the name Sean Burke. Perhaps Göring and the others would have hung him on a meat hook. And, perhaps, millions of others would have lived—Jews and Slavs, Gypsies and children . . .

Damp with sweat, Sean paused in front of the door, taking a last deep breath of morning air.

He walked into the dim hallway, looking to both sides. He saw a travel agency, an accountant's office. And then he found it.

A green laminate door with metal letters: "The Boston Women's Clinic." Since the demonstrations had failed, the abortionists in their arrogance no longer had a guard there.

Sean took the wool cap from his inside pocket and pulled it over his head.

For a last moment, his left hand rested on the doorknob. He made himself imagine the red-haired girl, nervously waiting for the abortionist to put a plastic tube between her legs and suck the life from her womb.

Sean murmured a final prayer and opened the door.

The girl was there. She gazed up at him from behind her magazine, as if surprised. With her cap off, her hair was a riot of red curls.

"Yes?" the receptionist asked.

Sean turned to her—a vulpine older woman with hair dyed a frightening black and lipstick as red as blood.

Softly, he said, "I'm here for Dr. Bowe."

The skin of her face was pale as parchment. She stared up at him from her swivel chair, still but for her left hand. There was a panic button beneath her desk, someone had told him; the day the others had occupied the waiting room, she had used it to call security.

"Don't." Sean's voice was harsh now. The red-haired girl dropped her magazine.

The receptionist's throat moved in a convulsive swallow, choking her words. "What do you want?"

Sean took out his gun. "To stop you," he answered, and pulled the trigger.

It was a kind of magic. As her head snapped back, a hole opened in her forehead. There was a soft concussive sound, like a melon hitting cement, almost lost in the red-haired girl's cry.

Sean stared in stupefaction as the woman died in front of him, blood trickling from her forehead. Only when she hit the carpet did Sean turn to the girl.

"Don't move." His voice came out panicky, too high. Gun in hand, he stumbled down the hallway.

The abortionist was in the room where he did his work, bent over a metal cabinet in the corner. Sean stared at him, then at the table covered in white paper, the altar where women sacrificed the innocent. His hand trembled as he raised the gun.

Dr. Bowe barely had time to peer sideways before Sean shot at his temple.

The red stain appeared. Sean watched in near astonishment as the abortionist fell to his knees, face pitching forward into the files of his victims. Only then did Sean register the melon sound again.

With a rush of anger, Sean lifted Bowe's warm twitching body and threw him onto the table, wrenching his legs open in the spraddle of all the women whose children he had murdered. The abortionist's eyes were glazed, his mouth agape, as if protesting this indignity.

Sean heard a gasp behind him.

A nurse stood in the door, a stethoscope around her neck, mouth forming words that would not come. Sean did not want to kill her; she was a tool, like the receptionist. But he had no choice.

"I'm sorry," he murmured, and shot her in the chest. The nurse crumpled in the doorway, then was still.

Sean stepped across her body, looking down at her. At least her family, if she had one, could gaze into her face without flinching. Sean walked down the hallway in a trance.

The red-haired young woman shivered on the couch, staring at the dead receptionist, too frightened to move. Tears streamed down her face. Sean could not bring himself to kill the life inside her.

Sean knelt in front of her, giving comfort, seeking it. "I had to stop him. Your sympathy should be with your baby, the life I came to save."

Comprehension filled her eyes. "I'm not pregnant," she stammered.

Sean felt the blood rush to his face. He stood, humiliated and confused, blood pounding like a trip-hammer in his temples. His finger squeezed the trigger.

"Please. I only came here for an IUD . . ."

Sean dropped his gun and ran from the building.

There was a subway station at the corner.

Sean rushed down the stairs and through the turnstile. Some vestige of discipline made him find the men's room, leave his jacket, gloves, and wool cap in a stall, and walk to the platform with a numb unhurried stride, a young man in a Holy Cross sweatshirt.

Take the green line to Court Street, then transfer to blue. He recited this like a rosary as the subway stopped and he boarded the half-empty car. No one looked at him.

She was lying. Sean had saved her baby, and she had lied to save herself, believing he would think it less damning to thwart life with a piece of plastic. Perhaps Sean had taught her better.

Dazed, he imagined the sirens screaming as the cars arrived at Kenmore Square.

At Court Street, the subway doors hissed open. Arms folded, head bowed, Sean walked out and waited in the dingy tunnel, a portrait of urban anonymity.

He had asked Father Brian if he could take a week's vacation in New Hampshire. "Surely," the priest had answered in his mild way, "but is early April a good time? The mud season, they call it in New England."

Within minutes, the subway for Logan Airport came.

Sean's suitcase was in a locker at the airport.

He pulled it out. If his plan worked, the last trace of him found in Boston would be the jacket, the hat, the gloves. Remorse mingled with relief now at the lifting of his burden: he no longer stood watch, armed only with signs and slogans, while children died.

Face pinched, he went through security at Gateway C.

No one stopped him. He headed for the gate with his scuffed black suitcase, surrounded by vacationers, students on spring break, commercial travelers leaving their homes. But the only person in line was a black woman with glasses and a briefcase. Uncomfortable, Sean hung back until she was finished.

The blond ticket agent raised her eyebrows. "Next?"

There was a hint of challenge, Sean thought. This might be the end: the red-haired woman could describe him, and he was certain that the police kept files on Operation Life.

"Next?" she repeated, impatient now, studying his face.

Sean pulled the ticket from his back pocket and placed it on the counter.

She flipped it open. "Mr. Burke," she said. "Photo ID, please."

Sean took out his wallet. To his own eyes, the photo on his driver's license looked furtive. For a long moment, the ticket agent looked from Sean to his photo and back again.

One call, he thought. The airport swarmed with cops and blue-uniformed security officers. His palms felt moist.

"Did you pack your luggage yourself?" she asked.


"One bag?"


"Did someone you did not know give you anything to carry?"

Sean drew a breath. "I wouldn't do that," he said.

The ticket agent hesitated, watching him. "Zone C," she told him. "Seat twenty-five B. They board about one-fifteen."

Once on the plane, Sean realized, he would be trapped. He did not board until the final call.

At two o'clock, the plane had not taken off.

A mechanical problem, the pilot explained in his John Wayne voice—a systems light that won't come on, probably just an electrical short. Sit tight and I'll keep you posted.

Sean bowed his head. They were holding him, Sean thought. At any moment, they would evacuate the plane and clap handcuffs on his wrists. The feeling came to him again: he was a small and lonely boy, terrified of his father, despairing for his mother's blank indifference. There was no safe place for him.

Sean stood abruptly. He reeled to the rear bathroom, past the other passengers, their faces weary, trapped, indifferent.

His own face in the mirror was white. When the retching started, racking his body, all he saw in the basin was saliva and traces of blood. The bathroom felt like a closet.

Sean opened the door, gulping for breath.

Slowly, he returned to his seat. He kept his eyes averted from the woman sitting next to him.

Ten minutes later, the pilot made his final announcement. Then the plane lifted into the air, vibrating with power, and Sean Burke left Boston forever.

From the Audio Cassette edition.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
"High drama . . . Emotion-rich characters . . . The pages turn quickly."
The Washington Post Book World

"Engrossing . . . Ambitious and well-written, No Safe Place is a sort of ethical suspense novel."
The Wall Street Journal

"What is striking is how exactly right Patterson gets the politics and the journalism while telling a gripping tale that intertwines abuse and betrayal, ethics and ambition, romance and dysfunction."
The San Jose Mercury News

"Prescient . . . An important and impressive work of fiction . . . An exceptionally convincing, complex, and moving love story."
The San Diego Union-Tribune

Meet the Author

Richard North Patterson studied fiction writing with Jesse Hill Ford at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has written nine novels, including the international bestsellers Degree of Guilt, Eyes of a Child, The Final Judgment, and Silent Witness. Patterson lives with his wife, Laurie, and their family in San Francisco and on Martha's Vineyard.

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No Safe Place (Kerry Kilcannon Series #1) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great story deserves a great reader. Patricia Kalember does a wonderful job of pulling you into the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A great story using past to show significance of present; real flesh and blood characters that are neither good nor bad but human; a page turner from start to finish. This man had become one of my favorite authors. Try him!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
My first RNP. The book made that made me a fan of Richard N Patterson. After No Safe Place, Silent Witness,Escape the Night and Degree of Guilt Richard North Patterson proved to be my most favourite author, even over John Grisham and Steve Martini. This novel has politics and romance. The campaign trail is amazing, the romance touching and the way RNP takes us to the past of the protagonist Kerry Kilcannon is just great. His feelings and character are well written. Kerry Kilcannon is a lawyer mostly dealing with cases of domestic violence. He then enters politics and runs for president. His brother James was assasinated in a campaign. Past memories,his love and emotions make a great read; u gotcha read this book, you'll surely get hooked.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MaryBNC More than 1 year ago
This book starts out really good but half-way thru it it's like the author lost his train of thought and it becomes very boring! I would not really recommend this book as a good read unless you want to be put to sleep!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
" stay safe" i whisper then run off
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The bloody tom pads in. "Spottedkit!" He yowled several times.
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