20 years on: Innocent by Scott Turow

After 20 years its good to catch up again with some of the key characters of Presumed Innocent who have, since that book’s publication, been hovering at the edges of Turow’s novels – almost all based in the fictional metropolis of Kindle County – a stand-in, one presumes, for contemporary Chicago.

Rusty Sabich, the protagonist of Presumed Innocent, is now a senior judge. Tommy Molto, his former prosecutor, is in Rusty’s old job, in charge of the County’s Prosecuting Attorney’s office. The plot of this book revolves around the mysterious death of Rusty’s wife, Barbara, as Tommy is reluctantly drawn into investigating him again.

While the plot and mystery are compelling the true joy of the book arises from the exploration of the messy lives and loves of the characters. Turow uses the device of first person, present tense narrative for three of his principal protagonists. Hence we come to know them intimitately while they remain in crucial ways mysteries to each other and to Tommy. There is an echo in this book of vintage Graham Greene in the compassion and understanding with which Turow treats the characters and their mistakes. However, unlike much of Greene’s work, in this book it is the Catholic character, Tommy, who’s moral compass is steadiest in the midst of all, his prosecutorial zeal mellowed with love and age to a more humane commitment to justice and rule of law.

This book may lack the twists and surprises of Presumed Innocent, but it makes up for it in many other ways, not least the beauty of its writing, and is pretty much an unalloyed joy from start to finish.

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