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Degree of Guilt Mass Market Paperback – February 2, 2010

108 customer reviews
Book 2 of 4 in the Christopher Paget Series

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Editorial Reviews Review

The core of Richard North Patterson's legal thrillers is characterization, and Degree of Guilt, the novel that relaunched his career in 1993, features two captivating individuals: Christopher Paget and Mary Carelli. Paget, the upstart hero of Patterson's 1979 Edgar-winning The Lasko Tangent, is now a sophisticated trial lawyer doing his best to raise a teenage son in San Francisco. He's a man to be admired: famous for bringing down the president in a financial scandal, he has settled into the comfortable life of a successful attorney. His life is transformed, however, when his former lover (and mother of his son), Mary Carelli, pays a visit.

The novel begins in a San Francisco hotel room as Mary, now an NBC journalist, surveys the torn landscape of author Mark Ransom's apartment. Ransom is, or was, America's most eminent writer. As she tells the police, Ransom had uncovered new recorded evidence of an affair between a long-dead starlet and a now-sainted senator (shades of Marilyn Monroe and JFK). While Ransom and Mary were listening to the tapes, she claims, he tried to rape her and she killed him in self-defense. Mary turns to Paget to defend her in what becomes a complex case of missing and conflicting evidence. Old emotions are stirred between the two just as Paget begins to doubt Mary's innocence.

The suspense of Degree of Guilt is grounded in the twists and turns of the trial at the novel's center, but just as compelling is the emerging history of Mary and Paget, and Paget's struggles to keep his son out of the media frenzy surrounding his mother's case. As well, Patterson addresses the deeper ethical questions that face many lawyers as they decide which cases to take and which evidence to use. Capturing archetypal characters and situations, Degree of Guilt becomes a parable of American law. --Patrick O'Kelley --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers 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. 250,000 first printing; BOMC main selection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks; Reissue edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312381611
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312381615
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,180 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About 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.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Edwards VINE VOICE on November 15, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
My first outing with Richard North Patterson, and still ranks as one of my favorite of the genre. Once you get into it, and I understand this great story isn't a locomotive with no brakes at the beginning...but BELIEVE ME, it DOES get there. Our characters are likeable, but not without their faults. Christopher Paget is called to defend his former 'girlfriend' and Mother to his son in a murder charge which has just a ton of evidence that SHOWS us that she actually DID it...but if you are a reader of legal-thrillers, you KNOW that what the author wants you to know about and what actually happens at the end of the book are two entirely different things, right? 'Degree of Guilt' is NO exception here. Everything ISN'T as it seems--at first. But even as new evidence is unearthed that helps the defendant, she STILL looks guilty. IS she? I'm gonna let you find out the answer for that one yourself. 'Degree of Guilt' has some of THE BEST courtroom scenes I've read to date. It's obvious that Mr. Patterson was an honest-to-goodness lawyer, and he uses his skills very well here. I'll warn you of a BIG bombshell that Mary reveals to Christopher that kinda took me by surprise, it doesn't affect the outcome of the trial, but let's just say it gives the story a different twist. Also, this novel is a great lead-in for Patterson's next FANTASTIC courtroom whodunnit: 'Eyes Of A Child' a partial sequel to this book, and in MY opinion even BETTER. Legal thrillers can be some of the most compelling books out there, because let's face it: NOTHING could be more dramatic than one person fighting for their life in a murder trial. Patterson truly IS one of the better writers of this particular genre out there and 'Degree of Guilt' is one of his very best books. VERY worthwhile.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Reading the title of the book, we know that the defendant is guilty, it is to what degree of guilt the story takes us. Mr. Patterson writes believable, even likable, characters. They are not perfect, but nor are they caricatures. I was particularly intrigued by the courtroom manueverings. While they are believable, they are certainly fiction. The plot line was solid, with no real glowing inconsistancies. I agree that Mr. Patterson's books rise above John Grishams. They are not read as quickly & easily, but the extra work is worth it. I will read more from Mr. Patterson.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Linda B Estes on March 22, 2001
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The way I came to try a Richard North Patterson book is perhaps odd to some, perhaps not. I was reading the Stephen King book covered a few weeks back and his main character was a writer. In the book, more than a few titles and authors were mentioned, as was the author of this week's "Degree of Guilt." If one of my favorite authors admires a writer, guess it follows in my mind that I'll enjoy reading that writer too. In this case, I was right!
A writer with the mind of an attorney, Richard North Patterson conveys the courtroom environment very well, from the witness chair to the opposing side's tables and everyone seated in and at them. This novel, "Degree of Guilt" brings a female character, Mary Carelli, to the forefront who is very hard to like. She does indeed kill a man, and the degree of guilt is exactly what the book is about. Great title choice! The male characters are much more interesting and very, very easy to like.
From the beginning to the end, the relationship between the male protagonist, Chris Paget (an attorney for the defendant) and his son, Carlo, is evidenced by humor and love and a certain care placed around both elements. A pleasure to read, and to get to know them both.
Several topics are covered in this novel -- rape, murder, and self defense are the primary ones that move the plot smoothly along the pages. A determined prosecutor and interesting judge also add to the strength of the novel.
Overall, I'm not sure I'll read this one again, but for some escapism into the world of a one parent family and the legal system, it's just fine.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Chris P on July 17, 2002
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Patterson is the thinking man's Grisham. His characters take on a life of their own, and Degree of Guilt doesn't disappoint. RNB is really the best of his genre, as his books are fast-paced, intelligently written, and are plausible.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kristi Ahlers on August 13, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was a page turning legal thriller from the very beginning. Mr. Patterson manages to weave legal procedures into a gripping story that does not leave the reader neither confused nor bored. This was a first time read for me by this author and I was thrilled to find it very entertaining. This book had it all, suspense, romance (only a little and very back burner), me pick this book up you won't be able to put it down. This will be an author that I will read again.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Thriller Lover VINE VOICE on March 8, 2009
Format: Mass Market Paperback
DEGREE OF GUILT was Richard North Patterson's "breakout" novel, written all the way back to 1992. I can see why -- this is a very impressive courtroom thriller.

I'm not a huge fan of Patterson's more recent novels, which seem more interested in politics than good characterization. However, in DEGREE OF GUILT, Patterson does an excellent job fleshing out his characters, and also crafts a highly entertaining, suspenseful plot. While the storyline is rather lurid, somewhat convoluted, and highly unrealistic in spots, it is always riveting to read.

DEGREE OF GUILT centers around the crimes of rape and sexual assault, and it can be a difficult read for those who are uncomfortable with such subjects. A lot of this book deals with sexual politics, but Patterson treats the subject in a largely tasteful manner. Still, be aware that this novel is highly graphic in its descriptions, and is therefore not for everyone.

Overall, DEGREE OF GUILT is a fine effort by Patterson, and is much better than your typical John Grisham or Steve Martini legal thriller. Of the four Patterson novels I have read, this is easily the best one.
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