Eyes of a Child

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When Terri Peralta, a bright young attorney employed by Christopher Paget, leaves her psychologically abusive husband, a nasty custody battle over six-year-old Elena ensues. The unemployed but clever husband, Ricardo “Richie” Arias, convinces a judge to award him both custody and spousal support. Still not satisfied, Richie looks for other ways to control Terri’s life.

When he discovers that Terri has found some happiness with Christopher Paget, Richie is furious. In a jealous attempt to destroy their new relationship and the budding friendship between Elena and Carlo, Chris’s teenage son, Richie concocts a tale of sexual abuse: Carlo is the accused, Elena the “victim.” These events trigger a recurring childhood nightmare for Terri, who fears that Elena has indeed been the victim of sexual abuse.

The accusations against Carlo have serious repercussions for Chris Paget beyond his concern for his son. Paget’s plan to run for state senator will be in jeopardy if Richie makes the accusations public, which he threatens to do.

Chris and Terri go to Italy for a short vacation. While they are away, they discover that Ricardo Arias has died of a gunshot wound to the head sometime during the night before they left. The death was at first determined to be a suicide, because there was a suicide note in Arias’ handwriting. Soon, however, the police and district attorney’s office become suspicious of Paget and Terri.

The mystery is clouded with subplots. Terri becomes convinced that her mother, Rosa, is shielding her from something in their past. As the story progresses, Terri’s nightmares become more and more vivid, until she is forced to remember her abusive father, long dead. The district attorney’s office has a hidden political agenda. After his death, the police discover a large sum of money in Ricardo Arias’ apartment, but the district attorney attempts to suppress this evidence during the trial because it does not serve the case against Paget. A formal trial lawyer, Patterson realistically depicts the courtroom drama. The twists and turns in EYES OF A CHILD keep readers guessing until the very end.