In Washington, the newly elected young president, Kerry Kilcannon, faces his first test: the sudden death of the chief justice of the United States has created a vacancy at the heart of a sharply divided Supreme Court. In San Francisco, an unknown 15-year-old girl, Mary Ann Tierney, wants to sue for permission to have a late-term abortion over the opposition of her pro-life parents.
President Kilcannon resolves to nominate Caroline Masters - a brilliant jurist shadowed by a personal secret - as the next chief justice. In the Senate, two men who hope to succeed Kilcannon hold the key to her nomination: Majority Leader Macdonald Gage, and his bitter rival, Chad Palmer, a former military hero noted for his political independence. A hidden alliance between Kilcannon and Palmer is threatened when Mary Ann Tierney's inflammatory, nationally televised lawsuit thrusts the issue of abortion to the forefront of the Senate battle over the Masters nomination.
As the Tierney case moves to its dramatic climax, it poses a stark choice - between preserving the life of a potentially doomed fetus and putting Mary Ann's fertility at risk. The trial's legal and political dangers are equally clear: to the future of the pro-choice and pro-life movements; to the gifted but inexperienced woman lawyer who represents Mary Ann Tierney; to the bitterly divided and politicized appellate court that must review the trial, and on which Caroline Masters serves; to the president who has chosen her; to the powerful forces who wish to defeat her by any means at hand.
©2000 Richard North Patterson; (P)2000 Random House, Inc.; Random House AudioBooks, a Division of Random House, Inc.