October 19, 1998 12:00 PM

by Richard North Patterson

A lord of the legal thriller, Patterson (Degree of Guilt) ventures here into the down-and-dirty of a presidential campaign in the year 2000, where we find New Jersey Sen. Kerry Kilcannon in a tight race for the Democratic nomination. Handsome, liberal, haunted by his prominent brother’s Kennedyesque assassination 12 years earlier, Kilcannon is fending off a magazine investigating rumors of an affair he had two years earlier with a network news correspondent. He’s also being stalked by a pro-life gunman.

Patterson gets the nuances just right—the clubby, jaded press corps; the calculating advisers; the naive volunteers. Kilcannon, a man with conscience, libido and a bad temper, is convincingly drawn, but his ex-lover is less so, and his friendship with his black campaign manager comes off as a little too PC. Those, however, are quibbles. A primary has never been so colorful. (Knopf, $25.95)

Bottom Line: Thriller proves that politics can be pulp for great fiction

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