Published by Quercus on July 15, 2014
Genres: Family Saga
EDEN IN WINTER represents the height of achievement for one of America’s most prolific and beloved modern authors. From the picturesque coastline of Martha’s Vineyard to the violence-ridden recesses of Afghanistan and back again, Richard North Patterson hits every note perfectly as he propels this family drama to its final satisfying scene.
Two months after the suspicious and much-publicized death of his father on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, it is taking all of Adam Blaine’s character to suture the deep wounds – both within his family and himself – torn open by the tragedy.
Moreover, as the court inquest into Benjamin Blaine’s death continues, it is taking all of Adam’s cunning to protect those closest to him from figures who still suspect that Adam’s father was murdered by one of his kin.
But the sternest test of all is Adam’s proximity to Carla Pacelli – his late father’s mistress; and a woman who, despite being pivotal to his family’s plight, Adam finds himself increasingly drawn to.
The closer he gets to this beautiful, mysterious woman, the further Adam feels from his troubles. Yet the closer he also comes to revealing the secrets he’s strived to conceal, and condemning the people he’s fought so hard to protect.
For three days, Adam Blaine and his family had entered the Dukes County Courthouse, a modest two- story brick structure with white trim and doors, and passed through a double door to a spiral stair-case that rose to the courtroom itself.
Its new carpets were a rich blue, lending it a certain majesty augmented by the high ceilings and four fluted chandeliers. From the raised mahogany bench, framed by the flags of the United States and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Judge Aaron Carr presided.
At a desk below him the court reporter, a young woman with long blond hair and a grave expression, transcribed the proceedings; still lower were the tables for the prosecutor and the witness’s counsel. Black and white photographs of judges, some gazing out from the recesses of the 19th century, gave the room a further aura of gravity. But to Adam, the pallid walls and scarred benches where his family sat watching bespoke a certain world weariness, decades of human missteps and misdeeds, and, on occasion, tragedies— traffic tickets, theft, assault, divorce, domestic violence and, less frequent, a fatal accident. Murder came to this courtroom every thirty years or so. Now his family was trapped here, suspected of killing one of its own.
On a wall, a schoolroom style clock marked the agonizing pas-sage of time, its second hand twitching from mark to mark. Though four tall windows on each side admitted light, it was dulled by lowering clouds and a steady rain that streaked the glass. Gloom seeping into his soul, Adam could only watch, gripped by the fore-boding that his careful plan to conceal the truth would evaporate before his eyes.
His father sat in the witness stand, preparing to deny what Adam alone knew to be true. The stakes for his family were reflected by the media clustered outside, denied entrance to the medical examiner’s inquest into the death of Benjamin Blaine, the most famous novelist of his time. A man as arrogant as he was gifted, a great sailor, adventurer, and womanizer, the man everyone believed to be Adam’s father. Another lie to be concealed.
The degree to which Adam’s mother and brother grasped these perils differed. Sitting to Adam’s right, Teddy Blaine was an uneasy mix of worry and gratitude, knowing only that, if this witness were believed, the inquest would clear him of murder. Clarice Blaine understood much more. With a characteristic exercise of will, she projected an aura of patrician calm, as perfectly maintained as her blond, tinted hair, which, even now, helped preserve the beauty of her youth. Beneath which, Adam now understood, lived the fear that had consumed her since the day he was born.
On the stand was Benjamin Blaine’s brother, Jack— a man in his late sixties, with stooped shoulders and silvered hair, whose long face was relieved from homeliness by an aura of modesty and kindness. The only person who knew all that Adam knew, and bore for them both the burden of burying it.
With an unwonted look of wariness, Jack faced his interrogator, District Attorney George Hanley, a bulky figure whose white hair and mustache marked him as Jack’s contemporary. From the front bench, Sergeant Sean Mallory, the ascetic, sharp- eyed homicide inspector for the Massachusetts State Police, studied Jack fixedly. So, too, did Jack’s lawyer, Avram Gold, a Blaine family friend and, of more import, an eminent law professor and defender of hard cases for more than forty years. Adam could not help but wonder if Gold knew, or sensed, how much hatred festered beneath the surface, and how much more was at risk in the next few moments than Jack Blaine’s freedom.
As Gold had explained to Adam, on Martha’s Vineyard the medical examiner’s inquest was invoked in the rarest of cases— a high- profile death where the circumstances were ambiguous, the media pressure unrelenting, the stakes for public officials high. Its modern genesis was the Chappaquiddick incident— the death of a young woman; the fate of a potential president; a swarm of media; a politically ambitious district attorney. In these circumstances, Gold went on, the authorities had needed an investigative tool to determine whether to impanel a grand jury. But, as Gold had trenchantly added, “No one intended for that tragedy to happen.Whereas a lot of people think someone in your family decided that your father deserved to die.”
Though Judge Carr had broad discretion to conduct the hearing, certain rules protected the witnesses and, especially, the person who might be charged. The inquest was closed; the potential subject— in this case, Jack Blaine— could be represented by counsel. The judge could bar all others from attending, though an exception was some-times made for the next of kin of the deceased— as the judge had for Clarice, Teddy, and Adam, who had already given their testimony. But only Teddy, Adam was painfully aware, had told the truth as he understood it. The other three Blaines had committed, or were about to commit, their own separate acts of perjury or omission.
For Adam Blaine, knowing this, the wait for the judge’s final report would be excruciating. The report could precipitate a grand jury, and then a trial, with Jack or Teddy accused of murder. But whatever the result, it would be Adam who had caused it.
Eden in Winter is the third book in the Blaine Trilogy and the second book that I have read by Richard North Patterson. Unfortunately I’m reviewing them out of the order that I read, but my review of the second book (also, the prequel), Loss of Innocence, will post tomorrow evening with a giveaway of it’s own!
The books in the Blaine Trilogy do not need to be read in order but I’ve found that reading all of them will clear up some questions one may have after reading the prequel (book two) and then book three as book one fills in some time between the other two. That aside, it was great to get back to Martha’s Vineyard and see how the characters from Loss of Innocence “grew up” and what their lives were like decades later. Eden in Winter is another exceptionally well written story and despite my lack of great political or war knowledge, I was able to follow along fairly well and even came across a few things that were familiar! I am now on the hunt for Fall From Grace, the first (middle?) book in the Blaine Trilogy and would like to add the full trilogy to my shelves.