The Lasko Incident
Book: The Lasko Incident (1979)
Writer(s): Richard North Patterson
For some reason I've never read R.N.P. I guess I confused his books with James Patterson. Anyway, he's a lawyer and writes political thriller type stuff. I heard a radio interview with him about his new book and thought I'd give him a read. I picked up a bunch of used copies of his books and started this with one, his first. Impressively, he won the Edgar Allen Poe award for Best First Novel in 1979. It's easy to see why: he's crafted an excellent mystery here, though not without its flaws.
The plot is convoluted: the main character is a government lawyer assigned to investigate stock manipulation by Lasko, a multi-millionaire tycoon who's close friends with the President. The lawyer discovers conspiracy, corruption within his own agency, and murder. Unfortunately, while this is revealed in an extremely realistic fashion, it isn't that exciting. A lot of the book reads like dry court transcripts. It's like watching C-SPAN. Patterson makes other mistakes: for instance, he introduces characters by the dozens, then brings them back later simply by name (expecting us to remember that Di Pietro is the police sergeant we met once at the beginning of the book). That makes for confusing reading. The main character, the narrator, is also rather too into self-analysis and analysis of everyone he meets: I'm sure Washington is actually like that, with everyone scheming, weighing words and deciding what information to reveal, but it makes for ponderous reading. Such things are fine in two or three places in a novel, or about a select few characters, but we don't need a psychological profile of every Tom, Dick, and Harry. With all the vague intrigue and mystery, the book didn't get going until well-past the halfway point, but then I couldn't put it down. Patterson has a gift for dialogue and intuitive psychological accuracy; even without reading his more recent stuff I can predict he'll get even better.