cover image Private Screening

Private Screening

Richard North Patterson. Villard Books, $16.45 (322pp) ISBN 978-0-394-54275-1

Patterson's latest (The Lasko Tangent, Escape the Night) is a crackerjack thriller. First a rock superstar's manager and then a newspaper mogul's wife are kidnapped; the latter event is videotaped and sent to a cable news network. ""Phoenix,'' the chief kidnapper, appears masked on the tape, promising TV trials of the principals and, if his demands aren't met, a live broadcast of an execution. Attorney Tony Lord is called by superstar Stacy Tarrant to help ransom her manager. A year before, Lord had defended the Vietnam vet who had assassinated Stacy's lover, a U.S. Senator killed on the eve of California's presidential primary. Half the book is a long, vivid flashback to the assassination and trial, both of which prove to have surprising connections with the kidnapping. In a complex plot, Patterson saves his most shocking twists for the ending, however. And even while maintaining a breakneck pace, he manages to convey Vietnam's sad legacy for many of its veterans. A superior performance, with a few scenes that beg for movie or TV treatment. October 15