RICHARD NORTH PATTERSON – The Lasko Tangent. Christopher Paget #1. W. W. Norton, hardcover, 1979. Ballantine, paperbark, 1980.

   Yes, it sounds like a spy thriller, the paperback reprint is packaged as a spy thriller, but what this book precisely is not is — aw, you guessed it. It’s not a spy thriller.

   What it really is is a novel about the dirty business of laundering money. That is to say, it’s a detective story, and told in today’s most au courant Washington (DC) style.

   Lasko is the President’s favorite industrialist, but his background has more shade than Forest Lawn — not that anyone has ever proved anything. The President, who is unnamed, but — well, let’s just say that only the names have been changed.

   Christopher Kenyon Paget is a lawyer for the Prosecution Bureau of the United States Economic Crime Commission. (And I’ll wager you didn’t even know there was one.) He’s young, idealistic, very much a crusader for what he believes in. A chance tip about some possible stock manipulation takes him to Boston, where he watches in horror as his witness, who works for Lasko, is run down by a hit-and-run driver. Higher things are cooking.

   This is a cynical novel, Patterson’s first, and you don’t have to dig very far to discover it. According to inside the front cover, the author worked for the special prosecutor in the Watergate uncover-up, and his is the voice of authenticity. Paget continually has to fight pressure from higherups, without ever knowing who or where the enemy is. an he has a narrow escape or two before he does.

   On the other hand, none of this “real Washington” stuff is really new, and it’s all wrapped up in the end more tightly than real life ever seems to be.

–Reprinted in slightly revised form from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 4, No. 5, Sept-Oct 1980.

       The Christopher Paget series —

1. The Lasko Tangent (1979).    [Winner of Edgar award for Best First Novel, 1980.]
2. Degree of Guilt (1992)
3. Eyes of a Child (1994)
4. Conviction (2005)