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Conviction: A Novelby Richard North Patterson
Synopses & Reviews
In his acclaimed career as a perennial bestselling author, Richard North Patterson has established himself as one of our most important voices in fiction and a keeper of the American conscience. He consistently writes novels that are intensely dramatic and deeply thought provoking. Now, in Conviction, Patterson tackles one of the most emotional and complex of all legal debates: When, if ever, does the state have the right to exact the ultimate punishment — and is the death penalty a crime unto itself?
Fifty-nine days. That's how long Rennell Price has to live — after spending fifteen years on death row for the horrifying sexual assault and murder of a girl whose body was found floating in San Francisco Bay. But attorney Terri Paget, who has fought her own way out of hopelessness and abuse, has dedicated her life to fighting for people like Rennell Price. This time, Terri has a client she believes may actually be innocent, which means that an unpunished killer may still be free.
"I didn't do that little girl," is all Rennell Price has ever said in his own defense. In a trial, Rennell, along with his older brother, Payton, was found guilty of the heinous crime, and the conviction has been upheld through one appeal after another. But as Terri spends time with Rennell and re-creates the events that put him on death row — beginning with the first minutes of the police investigation — she starts to understand the forces that shaped Rennell and the reason he has never been able to defend himself adequately.
As Terri prepares for a last appeal, she gets a new weapon for her battle — fresh evidence suggesting that another man, not Rennell, helped Payton commit the atrocity. But the grim machinery of capital punishment is already in motion, involving precedent and politics reaching from California to the highest court in the nation. As more people are drawn into Terri's last-ditch battle, and as agendas and personalities clash while time is running out for Rennell Price, this much is clear: The serious doubts about Rennell's guilt may not be enough to save him.
Conviction raises issues of ethics, political expediency, and personal trauma that will shake readers to their core. For here, in a novel of vivid characters on both sides of the law and profound tension on every page, Patterson illuminates the mysterious precincts between justice and truth — where the fate of one man involves not only his own life and the lives he has affected but the moral life of a nation.
"After focusing on gun control and tort reform (in Balance of Power) and late-term abortion and Supreme Court nomination (in Protect and Defend), Patterson takes on the death penalty, exploring its uncertainties and injustices from the perspective of San Francisco lawyer Christopher Paget — hero of the author's first book, The Lasko Tangent — and Paget's lawyer wife, Terri. The horrific crime on which the novel hinges is the killing of nine-year-old Thuy Sen, whose body is found in San Francisco Bay. The medical examiner quickly ascertains that the little girl did not drown but choked to death on semen. After Thuy Sen's picture is broadcast on television, an elderly eyewitness identifies her dope-dealer neighbors Payton and Rennell Price as the killers. This story is told in flashback after Terri Paget, who specializes in representing death row inmates, takes on the 15-year-old case, representing Rennell, who has 59 days before he is to die by lethal injection. Rennell is a hulking retarded black man whose sullen passivity inspires little sympathy in anyone. Over the next several months, Teresa comes to believe in Rennell as she fights not only to stop his execution but to prove him innocent. It's a compelling story, but Patterson's true interest is in the legal details. He mostly succeeds at explaining the often Orwellian legal complexities of the death penalty, but the price he pays as a novelist is high. Many readers will skip over vast sections of the book, but those who stick with it will find the ending moving and come away with a greater understanding of a controversial issue. Forecast: Patterson still carries enough reader clout to put this one on the bestseller lists, but he comes very close to presenting material too dense to hold the attention of a large popular audience." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"As with his previous novels, Patterson examines a complex issue through the lens of a compelling, gripping story. Readers familiar with his characters...and those looking for a powerful courtroom drama will not be disappointed." Booklist
"Patterson...[has] evidently never met a legal issue he couldn't turn into page-turning fiction....[O]ne of those rare thrillers whose most exciting parts — and there are plenty of them — are its most abstract legal arguments....[A] superior example of contemporary muckraking." Kirkus Reviews
"The difficulty of [trying to explain the legal situation around the death penalty] makes it forgivable that the author sometimes skimps on characterization. Guilty of a handful of misdemeanors, Patterson's work still passes the bar with sound Conviction." Rocky Mountain News
"Both transparently manipulative and genuinely moving....Conviction bogs down in descriptions of byzantine legal technicalities, but it is impossible not to keep reading — or skimming — to the last page. (Grade: B)" Entertainment Weekly
"In [Patterson's] sure hands, this fascinating and often agonizing in-depth look at the death-penalty process becomes a personal journey for the lawyers, the convicted, and the reader. Highly recommended." Library Journal
When the body of nine-year old Thuy Sen is found in the San Francisco Bay, the police quickly charge Rennell and Payton Price with her grisly murder. A twelve-person jury, abetted by an incompetent defense lawyer, is nearly as quick to find the brothers guilty, and to sentence them both to die for their crimes.
Fifteen years later, overworked pro bono laywer Teresa Peralta Paget, her husband Chris, and stepson Carlo, a recent Harvard law graduate, become convinced not only that Rennell didn't receive a fair trial but that he may well be innocent. Racing against the clock and facing enormous legal obstacles, Teresa, Chris, and Carlo desperately try to stay Rennell's execution, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court, and to an enormously moving and powerful conclusion.
From the #1 New York Times-bestselling author comes the harrowing story of a possibly innocent man, the labyrinthine politics of death row, and one lawyer's personal and professional crisis.
About the Author
Richard North Patterson is the author of twelve prior novels, including Balance of Power, Protect and Defend, and Degree of Guilt. Formerly a trial lawyer, Mr. Patterson served as the SEC's liaison to the Watergate Special Prosecutor, and is now on the boards of several Washington-based advocacy groups. He lives on Martha's Vineyard, MA.
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