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Balance of Power    by Richard North Patterson order for
Balance of Power
by Richard North Patterson
Order:  USA  Can
Ballantine, 2004 (2003)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

Former trial lawyer Richard North Patterson is known for his crime-fiction novels. In this latest political drama, Kerry Kilcannon (featured in Patterson's previous Protect and Defend) is the newly-elected United States President. Within days of their marriage, former journalist Lara Costello and Kilcannon face the controversial issue of gun control. The First Lady's sister, Joan Bowden, her six-year old daughter Marie Bowden, and mother Inez Costello are brutally shot. After a prior arrest and release for domestic violence, Joan's husband John Bowden illegally acquired a Lexington P-2 firearm, and Eagle Claw ammo. John shot his family as well as himself in an act of vengeance against Kilcannon and sister-in-law Lara for interfering in his family life.

The shootings prompt Kilcannon to place the issue of gun control as number one on his agenda. Kilcannon battles the most powerful lobby in Washington - the Sons of the Second Amendment (resembling the National Rifle Association, NRA) - and his rival, Senate Majority Leader Frank Fasano. Fasano supports the SSA with money, intimidation, and secret maneuverings within the government administration. The President is resolute to win this game of high-stakes politics and legalese in the Senate, the courtroom, and the country. However, the price may run high for himself, Lara, and her grieving sister Mary, who presses a wrongful death lawsuit against the gun manufacturer.

The SSA pushes for a bill to pass through the Senate and the House, shielding gun companies from such lawsuits. The plot also involves an ambitious defense attorney, the CEO of the gun manufacturer, and the head of the SSA. Notable is Patterson's rendition of a presidential public address, as Kilcannon says, 'Let me be clear ... I do not accept that violence in America is caused by guns alone. I support the right of all law-abiding citizens to own a gun for any lawful purpose. ... and gun owners can share a common dream: to someday make deaths like these so rare that our grandchildren will learn of them with disbelief and wonder.'

As noted in his Afterword, Patterson currently serves on the boards of several Washington advocacy groups including gun violence, political reform, and reproductive rights. Whether or not you agree with the author's view on the gun-control vs. gun-rights issue, Patterson's character development, and his knowledge of Washington and its politics, are worthy of attention. Unfortunately, a repetition of text, predictability of outcomes, and heft in dialogue drags out and slows the momentum of an otherwise engaging story.

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