Review: Innocent by Scott Turow
More than 20 years ago, practising lawyer Scott Turow caused a stir in the literary world with Presumed Innocent, a sensational edge-of-the-seat courtroom drama that defined the genre and topped best-seller lists for months everywhere it was published, selling nine million copies. It went on to be a major movie starring Harrison Ford and Greta Scacchi.
That book charted the precipitate fall from grace and eventual resurrection of fast-track lawyer Rusty Sabich, the deputy chief prosecutor of Kindle County, sent to trial for the murder of a former lover whose brutal rape and killing he has been investigating until an unexpected turn of events transformed him from the accuser to the accused.
Turow's elegant prose, likened by some to that of F Scott Fitzgerald, and his inside knowledge of the labyrinthine machinations of America's court apparatus, garnered rave reviews everywhere.
In his new book, Innocent, a sequel to the original, Scott Turow brings the reader back to Kindle County, more than 20 years later.
Rusty Sabich has just turned 60 and is chief judge of the Appellate Court, considering a run for election to the Illinois State Supreme Court.
When his wife Barbara, who suffers from fragile mental health and is always heavily medicated, dies in her sleep beside him, Sabich delays for 24 hours before informing their son or anyone else.
Rusty's old nemesis Tommy Molto, now the acting prosecutor, finds this very suspicious and, although the coroner finds Barbara died from natural causes, sees an opportunity.
Molto and his ambitious assistant Jimmy Brand quietly start building a case against Sabich, convinced he is trying to get away with murder again. For Molto, whose career was almost ruined when Rusty was found not guilty of killing his mistress, this is a real chance to gain a sweet revenge.
But at heart, he is a profoundly honest man. Brand, however, does not have the same scruples, and the state's case against Sabich begins to look very strong.
What's more, Sabich is hiding a terrible secret that could destroy his son's happiness, a secret that could come into the open if he was found guilty. When Rusty realises the case against him is growing stronger by the day, he turns to his old friend, the charismatic defence lawyer, Sandy Stern. Stern is desperately ill from cancer, but while his treatment has sapped his body, his mind remains as sharp as a razor and, with the help of his daughter and legal practice partner, builds a strong defence.
Turow handles the climactic trial with consummate skill, drawing the reader headlong into the cut and thrust of the courtroom as Stern and Molto metaphorically stand toe to toe and jab and weave to tease out the truth. The result of the trial is surprising and utterly shocking, but on reflection very logical.
Intricately plotted, packed with jaw-dropping twists and turns and possessed of a wonderfully drawn cast of characters, Innocence confirms Scott Turow's mastery of legal suspense thrillers.