A young man has been murdered. His girlfriend, twenty-two-year-old Brett Allen, is found at the scene of the crime. She claims she is innocent―even though she's dripping in blood, the murder weapon covered with her fingerprints. Enter attorney Caroline Masters, Brett's estranged aunt. She's been summoned back to her affluent New England hometown to help Brett out of this mess...and revisit the troubled family she left behind.
Caroline learned a long time ago that the ties that bind can also be broken. Now that she's back home, she can't help but doubt her family's motives―and Brett's innocence. As the trial heats up, Caroline finds herself up against those who would kill to keep dark secrets hidden...and the state prosecutor, who happens to be her former lover and will do anything to expose the truth. Now, with her family's fate―and her own reputation―hanging in the balance, Caroline must assume the role of a lifetime as she fights to save her niece. Or destroy them both...
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Richard North Patterson frequently rejects the label "legal thriller" for his novels, and The Final Judgement works hard to transcend this limiting category. A cleverly assembled murder mystery told with rich prose ("Moonlight refracted on the still, obsidian waters of the lake and traced the pines and birches and elms surrounding it. The only sound Brett heard was the rise and fall of James's breathing.") and filled with a cast of quirky small-town New Englanders, the novel ultimately succeeds through Patterson's talents as a writer, not just as a plotter.
As in many of Patterson's best novels, The Final Judgement draws on flashback sequences to ground the story and establish key characters. Forty-five-year-old Caroline Masters, a minor figure in Degree of Guilt and Eyes of a Child is the narrative center, and much of the suspense in the novel derives from the slow unwrapping of her past--the death of her mother and estrangement from her father. In the opening of the novel, Caroline is waiting for a message from the White House appointing her to the U.S. Court of Appeals, when, instead, her long-distant father gives her a call. Her niece has just been named the primary suspect in the murder of her boyfriend. The college-age Brett Allen was found naked, passed out from drugs and alcohol, with a knife in her hand, and covered in her boyfriend's blood. The family wants Caroline to return to New Hampshire to defend the girl.
The perils that face Caroline multiply quickly. By taking the case, Caroline clearly jeopardizes her chances for the Court of Appeals appointment. And by returning home, she must inevitably face the accumulated memories and resentments of the New Hampshire crowd, including Caroline's high-school boyfriend who is the prosecuting attorney. But her niece's life is at stake. Ultimately, The Final Judgement is a tale of the deep and twisted history of a New England family, but it is told in a captivating style that is--despite Patterson's reservations about the rubric--"thrilling." --Patrick O'KelleyFrom the Publisher:
With the first scenes of Richard North Patterson's electrifying new novel, we are plunged into the moment of a vicious crime: the peace of a New Hampshire summer night shattered into a nightmarish collage of murder when twenty-two year-old Brett Allen discovers her boyfriend brutally slain--and finds herself, only hours later, in police custody, the prime suspect...
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