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Degree of Guilt [Mass Market Paperback]

Richard North Patterson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com 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.

From 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. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92.
- Dean James, Houston Acad. of Medicine/Texas Medical Ctr. Lib.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

“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

From the Publisher

13 1.5-hour cassettes --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

Mary Carelli, one of the most powerful women in TV journalism, is charged with the murder of Mark Ransom, America's most eminent novelist. Her attorney, Christopher Paget, sets out to shock the courtroom with revelations about Ransom as a twisted sexual predator. But as the trial unfolds, it is Paget who will be surprised...by Mary's secret motive for murder...by evidence that Mary is lying...by a woman prosecutor who believes Mary invented the story of rape...and by an enigmatic judge with an agenda of her own....


From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Back Cover

“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

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.

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