Protect and Defend

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In 1979, Richard North Patterson began a unique series of novels with The Lasko Tangent, featuring prosecutor Christopher Paget. The series stands apart from others because Patterson refrains from employing the same names as chief protagonist. Thus, he creates greater latitude regarding what he does with his characters and their stories. Protect and Defend revisits Caroline Masters, the judge who hears Paget argue for the defense in Degree of Guilt (1992).

In Protect and Defend, Chief Justice Roger Bannon collapses and dies upon swearing in newly elected President Kerry Kilcannon. Kilcannon nominates Caroline Masters to replace him. Masters is a legal prominence but a personal enigma, whose anxious reasons for keeping a low profile were first detailed in The Final Judgment (1995), in which Masters steps down from the bench to defend a loved one against a murder charge. Congressional opposition, led by Senator MacDonald Gage and special interest lobbyist Mace Taylor, quickly sets out to unveil her private life.

Meanwhile, a hotly debated abortion verdict comes before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Masters’ legal address before the nomination. It will be the first public glimpse of her views on abortion. Gage and Taylor array their formidable powers against her once she renders her opinion, leading to painful personal revelations and tragedy for Masters and her supporters.

Some of the courtroom interaction may seem a stretch to acclimated readers. Nonetheless, Patterson overcomes potential brow knitting through skillful construction of compelling characters. The story offers a manifestly redeeming conclusion, and a brilliant continuation of the series.