BOOKS: Public Service

Whoever killed this thriller's rotten villain did a good deed

Richie Arias is a societal malignancy, a weak, charming, tirelessly manipulative man who inspires thoughts of therapeutic homicide in almost everyone who knows him. We met him a couple of years ago in Richard North Patterson's crisp courtroom drama, Degree of Guilt. There he was a minor character, the shiftless, sponging husband of the heroine, attorney Terri Peralta. Since then Richie has metastasized, and in Patterson's new legal thriller, Eyes of a Child (Knopf; 590 pages; $25), his rottenness drives the action. His psychology is that of an exceedingly clever stalker, and after Terri moves out with their six-year-old daughter Elena,...

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