Richard North Patterson is the Edgar award-winning author of multiple bestselling novels. I have read and enjoyed them all, but none as much as Balance of Power. This latest work is a political thriller that digs at the heart of the controversial gun debate, revolving around the constitutionally protected American right to bear arms. The book is long, complex, and loaded with a host of characters. In the advance review copy, the beginning of the book is complete with three pages to appropriately separate and list the cast. This is a helpful tool I hope to see incorporated in the finished novel. But don't let a laundry list of characters alarm you. Patterson skillfully reintroduces characters when they have not been around in a while. Trust me, the book moves fast.
Joan Costello Bowden and her husband John have a seven-year-old daughter, Marie. What seems like it should be the ideal family is not; John is physically abusive. Perhaps it is because he feels like he has never amounted to anything in his life. To make matters worse, Joan's sister, Lara, is about to marry Kerry Kilcannon, the President of the United States. When the abuse reaches dangerous levels, Joan calls on her future brother-in-law for help.
In the meantime, Kilcannon is working toward fixing problems with gun laws. He has a host of players on both sides of the fence. Most of the gun manufactures are not opposed to the president's outline, but fear retribution from the members of the gun lobby, the Sons of the Second Amendment (SSA) in particular. A dealer would never want to antagonize the SSA. Agreeing to work with the president is almost certain death for a manufacturer.
Lara's marriage to the president forces the media to become interested in her family. It isn't long before Joan's abusive relationship is discovered. When a newspaper wants to run a story "exposing" Joan's family, Lara and the president decide it might be best to talk to the nation before the release of the article. This public announcement might just be enough to finally push John Bowden over the edge.
The tragic events that follow unfold in a whirlwind. Though Bowden purchases a legal gun, it is advertised as a weapon that you would never use for hunting -- only for killing people. Bowden also uses legal bullets, but they are designed to implode inside a victim and tear apart anything they come in contact with. Legally armed to the teeth with a powerful weapon, he proceeds to commit terrible and devastating acts of murder, leaving the president and his new bride, along with the rest of the nation, grief-stricken. The battle becomes as personal as possible as Kilcannon sets out to make major changes to existing gun laws. And the political war has begun.
This inside look at politics is amazing. To imagine this might be the way government is forced to behave is unthinkable. The struggle for truth and the search for righteousness are coupled with brilliant characters, a deep, compelling plot and an unprecedented literary legal battle. Richard North Patterson ties it all together and brings it home in one tightly crafted legal drama. Balance of Power might be classified in a genre as a legal or political thriller. Regardless, it is clearly in a class all by itself.