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FICTION : PRIVATE SCREENING by Richard North Patterson (Random House: $16.95).

May 25, 1986|Mark Schorr

In an age when the manipulation of the media by armed rebels with a cause is a vital concern, this thriller offers a couple of clever twists that are guaranteed to boost terrorists' ratings.

Holding two apparent hostages, a terrorist plans a telethon and a phone-in-your-vote program. The viewing public will decide if his victims--the manager of a female rock star and the wife of the cable news network owner--should live or die. The scheme is set up in a five-page prologue, where 13 named characters are introduced. The confusion over just who is who slows the momentum.

The novel then goes into a long flashback where we learn the tangled events that lead up to the kidnaping. The female rock star's politician lover was assassinated by her manager's Vietnam vet buddy. Defending the Vietnam vet is Tony Lord, handsome, talented, ambitious.

The portrayal of the attorney and his dissolving marriage is skillfully handled by the author, himself a former trial lawyer whose career included work with the Watergate special prosecutor. The identity of the masked kidnaper, intended to be a shock, is predictable from the first chapter.

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