Posted by: Corri van de Stege | January 10, 2011

Scott Turow – Presumed Innocent

I know, everyone has already read this book ages ago, it is a nine-million copy bestseller.  I never looked at these books until I am suddenly become fascinated by the crime thriller.  Not just an odd one, no I now have a collection of them, spread over the house.  I picked this one up because the follow-up, Innocent, was reviewed not so long ago in the Sunday papers and received high recommendations.  And I did not want to spoil the prequel by reading the second one first…. 

The book has had me by my throat, it is intelligent and well written, you need to read carefully for fear of missing out something, and I learned a lot about American law practice.  At least I think I did.    It is a law thriller in which Rusty Sabich, a deputy prosecutor in ‘Kindle County‘  stands accused of murdering a beautiful attorney with whom he once had an affair.   You follow the workings of the Prosecuting Attorney‘s Office, who does what, how they become elected and chose their running mates, how political it all is and the undercurrents of venom between lawyers and police and between sections of the society in which this takes place.  As the Sunday Times Review noted ‘….if you start Presumed Innocent you will finish it – it grips like an octopus, and Scott Turow unwinds the plot with brilliant cat-and-mouse meanness’.  The final twist is breathtaking and totally unexpected.   Moreover, there is good character development, and you wonder all along whether you know all or whether the Rusty is holding something back.  He is, needless to say, as that gives the plot the final twist, not only as a plot but also as an insight into his character and those of people around him.  I shall say no more!

I can thoroughly recommend Turow though as he is an excellent writer and knows how to evoke what is going on in very subtle ways.  Here is an example of how he shows up some of the characters, this is when the hearings have started as Rusty stands accused and tries to work out how is lawyer, Stern, is going to approach his defense when he helps pick the jury:

‘To pick a jury effectively you must know the case you want to try.  Stern has not said anything to me, but it is becoming clearer that he has a strong notion not to offer evidence for the defense.  He thinks he can whittle away at Nico‘s proof [Nico is the prosecutor].  Perhaps my actions in the past, when I have been beyond control in spite of his instructions, have convinced him I would be a poor witness in my own behalf. ……..’

and then, insight into what Rusty is thinking about his defense lawyer:

‘Clearly, though, he wants to try a reasonable-doubt case.  At the end, if all goes as he hopes, no one will know what happened.  The state will have failed to meet its burden of proof and I should be acquitted.

And we carry on reading, biting our nails and unable to sleep, we try to work out two things: is he in fact guilty and how will his lawyer go about trying to get him acquitted?  We are left in doubt until the very end.  Rusty keeps everything very close to his chest, even if we learn about his heart ache about Carolyne, the murdered attorney, and about his wife Barbara.  This is real enjoyment, the fun of reading a book by an excellent story-teller.

I am now a third through ‘Innocent’, which is just as riveting.  Whereas the first book is all in the first person singular, related from Rusty Sabich’s point of view, this second book has a much wider scope, with Rusty and his son Nat (now in his twenties) as story tellers, in the first person, and the use of third person when giving the pov of Tommy and Anna, which gives a deeper insight also into what others think of Rusty and how they approach him. 

Nevertheless, don’t read this before trying to fall asleep: it keeps you awake as you want to carry on reading!



  1. I read this one years and years ago but would love to give it another go. Your review reminds me that it is one of Turow’s best (in my opinion anyway). Glad you enjoyed it again and the new one too!

  2. I think I agree – I have now also read his Innocent, which was a good read nevertheless.

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