About Me

Ithaca, New York
MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

#89 - Innocent

Innocent, by Scott Turow (New York: Grand Central Publishing, 2010).

Summary: "More than twenty years after Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto went head-to-head in the shattering murder trial of Presumed Innocent, the men are pitted against each other once again in a riveting psychological match. When Sabich, now over sixty years old and the chief judge of an appellate court, finds his wife, Barbara, dead under mysterious circumstances, Molto accuses him of murder for the second time, setting into motion a trial that is vintage Turow—the courtroom at its most taut and explosive.

"With his characteristic insight into both the dark truths of the human psyche and the dense intricacies of the criminal justice system, Scott Turow proves once again that some books simply compel us to read late into the night, desperate to know who did it."

Opening Lines: "A man is sitting on a bed. He is my father.

"The body of a woman is beneath the covers. She was my mother."

My Take: Not surprisingly, this one was about what I'd expected. Yes, it entertained; no, it didn't disappoint.

The latter's always a risk in a situation like this. It seems almost everyone's read Presumed Innocent, or at least seen the Harrison Ford movie. The ending there was surprising enough, and the characters sufficiently compelling, that you can't help wondering what happened to Sabich and Molto and all their other pals after all those years; heck, I don't think I've been as excited about a much-delayed sequel since Michael Tolliver Lives came out. But for all that readers are curious, we're also an oddly proprietary lot. Even for an accomplished author like Turow, it's a fine line to walk: the next installment needs to seem logical and plausible given what we know of the characters, but not so logical that it seems obvious or unsurprising.

Fortunately, Innocent seems to pull it off. Many of the characters we remember from Presumed Innocent are back, and one of the things that makes this book work so well both as a sequel and a stand-alone is that they've both changed ... and they haven't. Time has passed, and their lives have taken unexpected turns, but nothing we see here is out of character with the folks we've gotten to know. At 60, Tommy Molto has recently married a much-younger woman and is the proud father of a small son. After a brief separation following Rusty's first trial, he and Barbara reconciled, but Barbara struggles with bipolar disorder and their relationship is a rocky one. Their son, Nate, is 22, a newly-minted lawyer himself, and still wrestling to carve out an adult identity and relationships apart from his parents.

And that's where we come in. When we pick up the story, Barbara has just turned up dead one morning, apparently of natural causes ... or is it? If so, why did Rusty sit beside her body for a full day before notifying the police, or even his son? And what's the significance of Rusty's recent affair with a young law clerk (which we learn about in the first few chapters) -- his first since the ill-fated tryst recalled in Presumed Innocent? I formed a few theories early on about how the story would ultimately end, and for once, I'm glad to say I was wrong. Great literature it's not, but an enjoyable legal suspense novel -- absolutely.

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