Eyes of a Child by Richard North Patterson (Book Review)

  • Apalka Bareja
  • August 2, 2020

Content :

Richard North Patterson is the author of over 20 bestselling novels, including Degree of Guilt and Silent Witness. He embarked on a fiction- writing career after establishing himself as a successful attorney and so naturally most of his inspiration comes from his legal background and one can see his inclination to write about controversial issues such as late abortion and capital punishment. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1968 and Case Western Reserve University’s School of Law in 1971. He has served as an assistant attorney general for the state of Ohio; a trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange of Washington, D.C., and San Francisco; and was the SEC’s liaison to the Watergate special prosecutor. His experience, knowledge and an eye for the detailing can be clearly seen in his writing. His other work includes Private Screening, No safe Place, Exile, Eclipse, The Devil’s Light, and Fall from Grace.He has received several awards of his work including the French Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere in 1995 for Degree of Guilt and a Maggie Award from Planner Parenthood for Protect and Defend.

His book ‘Eyes of a Child”, published in 1995, is yet another stellar legal thriller that both informs and entertains. The series was in fact turned into a four hour TV mini-series by NBC TV, called Degree of Guilt. Being the third book in Christopher Paget series, it clearly shows how Paget’s well ordered world is shattered by his love for his assistant Terri. Knowing that character of Christopher has been pulled from the previous novel and portrayed as a good and powerful man, one can easily make out that he is not the bad guy in this story. This story is largely told through the eyes of Teresa Peralta, a bright young attorney employed by Christopher Paget, when leaves her psychologically abusive and manipulative husband leads her to a nasty custody battle over her six- year-old child Elena. It can clearly be seen that the character of Teresa Peralta’s husband, that is, Ricardo “Richie” Arias is manipulative which can be seen in instances of the court proceeding, prone to jealousy because of his wife’s growing relations with Chris Paget and a malignant and can go to any lengths to control Terri’s life and get the custody of their child Elena. He beautifully tries to prove to the court that what is left of him from his marriage is nothing else but his beautiful daughter and in order to gain his daughters custody, he makes devious plans, which involves making accusations of child molestation against Paget’s son, Carlos and succeeds in convincing the judge to award him both custody and spousal support. 

Terri, who is a smart and confident attorney herself, can be seen a little disturbed and haunted by the ghosts of her past, her childhood and her abusive father. Having an abusive childhood herself and seeing the same for her daughter, terrifies her and cripples her down. These events trigger a recurring childhood nightmare for Terri, who fears that Elena has indeed been the victim of sexual abuse. This is also a reason why it gets difficult for to release herself from the clutches of her husband Richie who would go to any lengths to control her life. Struggling to come out from the clutches of the mind games played by her husband, Ricardo “Richie” Arias and figuring out her stand for her boss, Christopher Paget makes her resilient in winning her daughter back and further understanding that the life she deserves and wants is one with Christopher Paget which can be seen when she goes some solo time with Paget to test the solidarity of their relationship. Ina few chapters into the new novel, Ricardo “Richie” Arias is found deservedly dead with a pistol in his hand, a note ‘apparently’ written by him stating the reason for him giving up his life which shows his grip on the loves or Terri and her daughter does seem to tighten. Having no idea of such event while Terri is in Italy with Chris, she finds out one they are back. The death at first determined to be a suicide, because there was a suicide note is Arias handwriting, soon however, turns-out to be a suspicion by the police and district attorney.

Some very unsympathetic cops sniff around Terri and her family and finally arrest her new lover, Christopher Paget, an upstanding lawyer and senatorial candidate.  Having charges pressed against himself and his 15-year-old son Carlos who is figuring out his teenage hood and adulthood, for child molestation puts him in a very grim situation. What also really shocks and amazes the readers is the part when Christopher Paget refuses to testify for himself, when he refuses to fight his case and with every evidence being against Christopher Paget and every suspect too is what keeps the readers hooked to the book. But one can clearly make out, by reading the previous novels of this saga that Christopher Paget is, in fact a good guy. Even though we know he didn\'t do it, but his efforts to prove his innocence in the face of many facts that make him look guilty provides the terrific suspense. The outcome is unexpected and exciting. This incident undoubtedly takes Paget’s and Peralta’s relationship a toll. The author here has beautifully explained via this how accusations regardless of the fact they are true or not,can easily destroy people and relationships and tells a realistic story about the emotional impact that it leaves. The fact that such impact takes longer than anticipated to get over with really kicks in, and having to portray it while dealing with a murder mystery and a legal thriller shows his experience. These things I believe can only be known to an attorney or the people who have experienced it. It’s during this time when Teresa Peralta learns why Rosa stayed with her abusive husband, Its forthright and sad. 

The court battle that follows, begins with several yards of authentic-sounding, cynical maneuvering in the corrupt and immoral manner and process of jury selection and ends, hundreds of pages later, with the question of who actually plugged Richie still disturbingly unresolved. This trial is an interesting dismemberment of what really happens when smart and self serving individuals collide with genuine trouble; especially when everyone is playing for high stakes and protecting peripheral secrets. The most cunningly prepared surprise, I believe is the foreshadowed by a psychologist’s persistent therapy with an unresponsive Elena don’t come until after the verdict is in. It also showcases how the cases become much more than just being a case to an attorney and how they go to every length possible to win it. It is undoubtedly, extremely beautifully depicted, where and how the American Justice system stands and prevails and how skillful an attorney needs to be to stand and present his case. What has also beautifully been showcased is how important it is for an attorney to be able to connect to individual members of jury and make them believe your side of the case to be plausible and true. The fact that fate of a person ,regardless the fact they are innocent or not relies in the hands of jury makes it very crucial for the attorney to be able to find that connect. Something which is an extremely significant factor in case of trials and yet over-looked by many. The intense pressure that is created in matters such as these, where the lawyers are fighting for their integrity, where the stakes to protect certain secrets are too high what is really important for the attorney to have is the skills of being able to extract certain facts and to an extent to be able to twist it to their strength. 

‘Eyes of a Child’ grips you right from its chilling opening to its shattering finale. The characterizations are richly drawn and extremely credible. Richard North Patterson has done a phenomenal job in building an in-depth story of each of its characters, their situations and their relations to each other, which makes the book more enjoyable with every turn of the page of the book. One cannot deny that Richard North Patterson’s masterful portrayals of law and politics at the apex of power has made him one of the most important writers of such legal thrillers and fictions. Combining an enthralling narrative, his vast and comprehensive research, and a sophisticated grasp of contemporary society, his novels bring tempestuous and eruptive societal problems to vivid through characters that are richly imagined and intensely real. The effort of the author in explaining the harsh reality of a very unfortunate and unthinkable phenomena prevalent in today’s society has been captured beautifully. I believe what the author also tries explain here other than murder and child molestation is the mental torture and trauma that a woman has to go through in every step of her life especially when it comes to her integrity and her child. It is difficult for women, even in today’s time to live the by their own term, to not be judged by their decisions that they make for themselves, and most importantly to be happy. It is not realized by most of us, but all this really creates a mental pressure and a struggle to survive and live up-to other people’s expectations. I believe, mental health is highly neglected and taken for granted. The reason why people ask for damages for the mental agony that is caused by cases in court is prayed not because it is just some sort of relief but because all these things do in fact add on to the existing mental pressure and agony that a person goes through and has to face through this entire process. Especially when it is a case of false accusation or rape etc. What makes the entire process more scary and sorrowful is the trauma that a kid has to suffer as a result of abuse. It takes years and years of therapy, perhaps even a lifetime of the child to get over such abuse and the impact that it creates mentally.

Having a multiple plot twists keeps the reader hitched to the book but also makes it difficult to quickly absorb the plot and a little long to read. Even though there were certain unwanted plot twists, ones which seemed absolutely unnecessary, the book was intriguing with a well earner and shocking conclusion. The intense dialogues and the courtroom clash one after another is intelligent, electrifying, to a great extent inevitable but also the highlight of this novel. However, the point by point details of how the crime went down and what the mind-set was a highlight equally. The way Richard North Patterson has built around his character but also around the politics and the court room scene has in a way made me dislike Ricardo “Richie” Arias from the very beginning and this just showcases the skills that the author has to be able to push the readers for having a mixed set of emotions throughout the book. It is a hard-boiled thriller with a soft centre. This book certainly delivers a loud and clear message of believing in rule of law against a violent and lawless regime that holds all the cards. This book certainly gives you reasons to believe in law, the people and most importantly,to take risks that the Richard North Patterson has taken as an author which is beautifully portrayed by his characters. This book is undoubtedly one of the best legal thrillers and mystery murder and a must read. Richard North Patterson is a good writer and explores issues that are deeper than the mystery and that rally do leave an impact on the readers and the society. What is also beautiful about his style of writing is his eye for detailing and being able to connect with his readers in his own way.