four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
39-Mar-Apr-2009
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0

A-EclipseA fixture atop best seller lists, thriller author Richard North Patterson has made a name for himself by writing with intelligence and clarity on important contemporary issues. His most recent hot reads include Exile, The Race, and Conviction. Eclipse is his 16th novel.

The Story: San Francisco lawyer Damon Pierce is at a personal and professional standstill when he receives an urgent message from Marissa Brand Okari, a woman he loved a decade before. Pierce travels to Luandia in West Africa (a fictional stand-in for Nigeria) to defend the woman’s husband, a political activist and leader of the Asari people, against bogus murder charges. Pierce discovers that events aren’t as cut-and-dried as they first appear. In a plot involving the highest levels of American government, a global oil giant, and corruption within a despotic regime, thriller master Richard North Patterson brings the simmering feud over control of the world’s oil reserves to a full boil.
Holt. 369 pages. $26. ISBN: 0805087729

Washington Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Eclipse aspires to be any number of books: a novel of political intrigue, an international conspiracy thriller, a courtroom drama, a romance, even a straightforward murder mystery. … Patterson, fortunately, hasn’t given up on the novel’s power, and his work in this grim, passionate book proves not just exciting but eye-opening, page by page." Art Taylor

Daily News (New York) 4 of 5 Stars
"Eclipse is meant to be suspenseful, and it is, but it’s also an education beyond the geopolitics of oil. Patterson defeats the shrug and the ‘that’s just Africa’ thinking about atrocities with a novel that points fingers and brings the responsibility home." Sherryl Connelly

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Reading your way toward the outcome of all this is like spending an entire day or two at the movies, but a movie with a moral and ethical resonance not to be denied. … A lot of the engagement you feel as you read comes of that unsettling political subject matter." Alan Cheuse

Critical Summary

Richard North Patterson is an anomaly in the whiz-bang world of political thrillers. A meticulous stylist with a keen understanding of human nature—in that sense, at least, his novels recall those of spymasters Robert Littell and John le Carré—Patterson constructs taut, gripping plots without sacrificing his characters’ humanity. In Eclipse, he handles complex relationships with a "jeweler’s eye" (San Francisco Chronicle) and his ripped-from-the-headlines story with the sangfroid of an old pro. As the Washington Post notes, the novel succeeds on many levels. An endnote gives the book added historical weight, describing its inspiration—the death some 15 years ago of Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmental and human rights activist hanged by a Nigerian general.