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Protect and Defend


Protect and Defend

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Anytime a popular author creatively stretches outside of their
bread-and-butter genre, they run a certain risk. Stephen King has
done it, to the extent that he has had to endure some disingenuous
howls over whether he is striving to become known as a "serious"
writer. Robert Parker has tried it once or twice, straying away
from his Spenserian mystery environs to (unfortunate and
unjustified) commercial ho-hums. It's kind of like opening that
closet in the basement that is probably full of spiders but that,
according to family legend, holds a pirate's treasure: you're going
to open the door sooner or later, and all that you'll probably get
is a bunch of spiders.
Herein lies the problem with PROTECT AND DEFEND, the latest
offering from Richard North Patterson. Patterson heretofore has
made his bones with crime-and-courtroom thrillers. PROTECT AND
DEFEND aspires to be a bit more lofty. Its ultimate failure is not
that Patterson's reach exceeds his grasp; it is rather that it is
unerringly and, at times, mind-numbingly predictable.
PROTECT AND DEFEND concerns 15-year-old Mary Ann Tierney, who
is seeking what is genteelly referred to as a "late-term" abortion
but is prohibited from obtaining it due to a Defense of Life Act
previously passed by a Republican-controlled Congress. Her dilemma,
as her efforts to have the law declared unconstitutional rise
through the Federal Courts, is played out against the backdrop of
the efforts of a newly elected President to appoint, for the first
time, a woman to the position of Chief Justice of the US Supreme
Patterson's pro-abortion viewpoint is on full display here ---
and hey, it's his book, nothing wrong with that. The problem,
however, is that Patterson so obviously stacks the deck almost from
the point that the first page is turned that the reader knows what
is going to happen here. While he does present the pro-life
viewpoint, it is always through the cipher of the pro-choice
position, so that those holding the pro-life viewpoint are
presented as well-intended but misguided at best, and selfish and
diabolical at worst. And that portends a predictable result. What
we are left with, accordingly, is not so much a novel but a
docudrama treatise for abortion rights. The crime here is not the
death of an innocent child, but that the suspense level of PROTECT
AND DEFEND rarely, if ever, even simmers, let alone

is inevitable that an author's viewpoint will interject itself into
his work. Indeed, this has resulted in some magnificent literature
--- Stowe's UNCLE TOM'S CABIN comes to mind. Patterson,
unfortunately, would have been better served in this case by
concentrating more on the motion and less on the meat in PROTECT
AND DEFEND. What we have here, however, is a novel that radical
pro-choicers will love, and strongly opinionated pro-lifers will
hate. The majority of Patterson's heretofore loyal readership,
however, simply won't care.


Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 24, 2011

Protect and Defend
by Richard North Patterson

  • Publication Date: January 1, 2000
  • Hardcover: 590 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0679450440
  • ISBN-13: 9780679450443