Thursday, June 3, 2010

Page 23: Innocent by Scott Turow

I am currently reading Innocent by Scott Turow which I blogged about briefly in a post about new books a few weeks ago.  So far so good.  More to come when the book is finished.

I just finished the book today.  Scott Turow is still amazing, and has taken some of the same characters from Presumed Innocent and put them into another legal cliff-hanger.  Rusty Sabich is back, but is now a chief appellelate court judge. Tommy Molto is still working as a prosecutor, but now is the acting head of the Kindle County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.  The animosity between Rusty and Tommy has been put into a restless sleep for twenty-one years, but not forgotten by either.

 Rusty is once again charged with murder.  This time it is his wife Barbara.  When Rusty found her non-responsive one morning, he stayed with her for nearly twenty-four hours before calling his son Nat.  Nat convinced him to call the authorities and report her death.  This seems like strange behavior for a judge, and Tommy Molto's assistant, Jim Brand, thinks so as well.  Jim convinces Tommy to let him start a quiet investigation into the circumstances of Barbara Sabitch's death.

Scott Turow takes a different approach to this novel than the one he used in Presumed Innocent.  The story is told from several viewpoints and jumps around in time.  At first I thought this distracted from the story, but soon came to realize it was a good technique.  We hear from Rusty, Tommy, Rusty's son Nat, and Rusty's former clerk Anna.  Tommy Molto has mellowed over the twenty-some years since he prosecuted Rusty for the murder of Rusty's mistress in Presumed Innocent.  Jim Brand finds enough circumstantial evidence to get Tommy all fired up again, and they decide to press charges and prosecute.

This is a great legal thriller with plenty of plot twists and surprises.  The trial scenes are vintage Turow and will not disappoint.  Sandy Stern is back as Rusty's defense attorney.  Sandy's daughter Marta is his partner.  Together they mount a defense to counter the attacks of Tommy Molto and Jim Brand.  Rusty, Tommy, and Sandy are all older, but pretty much the same people they have always been.  However, the trial judge is one of the best characters in the book.

I always like to include some reviews from the publishing world, and here are two of them.

Here is a review from Publishers Weekly:

"Mesmerizing prose and intricate plotting lift Turow's superlative legal thriller, his best novel since his bestselling debut,Presumed Innocent, to which this is a sequel. In 2008, 22 years after the events of the earlier book, former lawyer Rusty Sabich, now a Kindle County, Ill., chief appellate judge, is again suspected of murdering a woman close to him. His wife, Barbara, has died in her bed of what appear to be natural causes, yet Rusty comes under scrutiny from his old nemesis, acting prosecuting attorney Tommy Molto, who unsuccessfully prosecuted him for killing his mistress decades earlier. Tommy's chief deputy, Jim Brand, is suspicious because Rusty chose to keep Barbara's death a secret, even from their son, Nat, for almost an entire day, which could have allowed traces of poison to disappear. Rusty's candidacy for a higher court in an imminent election; his recent clandestine affair with his attractive law clerk, Anna Vostic; and a breach of judicial ethics complicate matters further. Once again, Turow displays an uncanny ability for making the passions and contradictions of his main characters accessible and understandable." (May) 

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Here is another review, this one from Booklist, with a different take on the book.
“The more things change, the more they remain the same” seems to be the burden of Turow’s ninth novel, which is a clever reprise of his first, Presumed Innocent (1987). In Turow’s breakthrough book, prosecuting attorney Rusty Sabitch is put on trial for the murder of a woman colleague with whom he’d been having an affair. Tommy Molto, another attorney, launches an unsuccessful prosecution against Sabitch in a nail-biter of a courtroom drama (with added zest provided by Turow’s own background as a lawyer). Twenty-one years later, as this story begins, Sabitch has ascended to an appellate court judgeship, Molto is still a prosecutor, and they retake their roles as defendant and prosecutor (and persecutor, since Molto investigates Sabitch before the trial). Rusty’s wife of 36 years, Barbara, is bipolar and extremely difficult. His senior clerk, Anna, is jolly and extremely willing. Sabitch embarks on an affair that has disastrous consequences and winds up with the judge once again fighting a murder charge. The first part of the book shuttles between Sabitch and Molto, each narrating his take on events—suspense is often spoiled, though, because readers know what Sabitch has done before Molto figures it out. Part 2, inevitably, is the criminal trial, in which the two antagonists meet again. Turow is as agile as ever at plotting and characterization, and his fans will be thrilled at the prospect of a reprise between two of his most memorable characters. But this time the courtroom drama has a mechanical feel to it, as if Turow accepted a dare to put Sabitch and Molto back in the courtroom, older, but in the same position and pickle as in Presumed Innocent. --Connie Fletcher
I liked this book and urge you to read it as well.  Judge for yourself.

Next Book Page: The Help by Kathryn Stockett 

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