Richard North Patterson, having made a career out of writing highly enjoyable legal and political thrillers for the past few decades, has spent the last several years penning the most personal stories of his career.
LOSS OF INNOCENCE is the middle novel in what is being referred to as his Cape Cod Trilogy and is actually the prequel to his prior effort, FALL FROM GRACE. There, we experienced the final days of a mysterious and self-absorbed writer named Benjamin Blaine. His death did not put an end to the mystery as his family was left to pick up the pieces. Most notable among the unsolved mysteries Blaine left concerned whether his death --- falling from a cliff --- was a homicide or suicide.
"The main triumph for Richard North Patterson is not that LOSS OF INNOCENCE doesn’t follow his typical thriller blueprint, but that he is able to firmly immerse himself into the psyche of a young female during the turning point of her life --- and do so in page-turning fashion."
Patterson takes the story in a completely different direction. To begin with, the protagonist of this tale is Whitney Dane, the 21-year-old daughter of Wall Street mogul Richard Dane. Secondly, the novel is set in the summer of 1968 at an extremely pivotal time in American history. The nation is undergoing a serious moral and political shift, and the entire landscape of it is consistently in a state of flux.
America is well ensconced in the Vietnam War. The end of the innocence that was the American psyche died in 1963 when JFK was assassinated. The country has since had to bear up with the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy --- the latter of which is featured in this book. It is an era of protests, riots, and the return of the draft. There are also clear sides being drawn between liberals and conservatives, and the upcoming Presidential election that includes front-runner Richard Nixon is right around the corner.
Whitney is engaged to be married to her fiancé, Peter, after the summer draws to a close. The time in between will be spent on the beach with her best friend, Clarice, and her family in their Cape Cod summer getaway home. Readers might ask themselves why they should care about how the turbulence in the country affects a group of privileged one-percenters. Yes, the Danes are definitely an example of the entitled upper class, but they will learn before the summer is out that the higher you are up the food chain, the longer you have to fall.
While Peter is in New York City, working at the Wall Street job her father got him, Whitney has idle hours on her hands to prepare for her upcoming nuptials. She meets an interesting young man, the aforementioned Benjamin Blaine, and is intrigued by him. He is not of the same circle as her family, yet is an educated Yale graduate seeking to avoid the Vietnam War draft board. Whitney begins to take sailing lessons from Ben and finds him to be a breath of fresh air and a relief from dealing with the Dane family’s constant crises.
By the end of the summer, nothing will be as it started back in June, and the Martha’s Vineyard saga will turn everyone’s lives on their ears. Family secrets, betrayals and lies are the norm for these people --- and it may be a life Whitney Dane no longer needs or wants. The main triumph for Richard North Patterson is not that LOSS OF INNOCENCE doesn’t follow his typical thriller blueprint, but that he is able to firmly immerse himself into the psyche of a young female during the turning point of her life --- and do so in page-turning fashion.
Reviewed by Ray Palen on November 22, 2013