Gun-control thriller hits the bull's-eye

In Richard North Patterson's previous novel, "Protect and Defend," anti-abortion and abortion rights arguments were made and dissected.

His latest churning novel, "Balance of Power," also compellingly presents an in-depth analysis of a complex subject -- this time, gun violence in America.

The dialogue, delivered by a cast that includes politicians, lawyers, police officers, physicians and lobbyists, is believable and eloquent, to the extent that the reader can envision Patterson, the creator of such passionate and persuasive positions, as a lobbyist, political speechwriter or candidate in his own right.

Patterson's strong dialogue is matched by his fascinating plot, which presents insights into one of society's polemical issues. Plus, as always, his character development is painstakingly thorough, allowing the reader to intimately know protagonists and secondary characters alike.

The author acknowledges that he favors "commonsense measures to curb gun control," yet he extensively researched the many facets of the gun controversy. To authentically represent both sides of this issue, Patterson interviewed a variety of people, including a former president, a former presidential candidate, gun company executives, victims and law enforcement officials. He presented strong arguments for a variety of points of view on the subject -- including those of the mighty gun lobby, weapons manufacturers and pro-gun politicians.

In the book, such views are fervently opposed by those of the fictional U.S. president and his circle. Thus, many opinions about guns and their availability to the public are offered throughout this spellbinding novel.

The main character, appearing in his third Patterson novel, is President Kerry Kilcannon, recently elected by a narrow margin. Shortly after his marriage to a former TV journalist, he and the first lady are affected by gun violence through a horrific incident that sets the plot, and those on either side of the gun issue, in motion.

Political junkies will get a Beltway fix as the novel exposes them to the pressures and ways of Washington -- how politicians, lobbyists and others interact, and compromise.

Patterson's extensive research, plot skills and ability to create engaging, authentic dialogue set his writing apart from that of others and places "Balance of Power" several cuts above most other novels of its ilk.

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