Monday, August 8, 2011

Book Review: The Burden of Proof by Scott Turow

I read Presumed Innocent more than 10 years ago and it saved my opinion of legal thrillers, which I thought had been irreparably damaged by John Grisham. Ever since then, if I hear of a Grisham fan, I always tell him/her, "well if you like Grisham, you really need to try Scott Turow, because he can actually write." While that does remain true with The Burden of Proof, I do understand why it isn't as popular as his other books.

Sandy Stern, the defense attorney in Presumed Innocent, arrives home from a business trip to find his wife dead in her car in the garage, a suicide. Meanwhile, his biggest client, Dixon, his sister's husband, is being investigated by a grand jury, and Sandy needs to figure out what he's hiding and how best to defend him, while dealing with the repercussions of his wife's death. There is missing money, fraud, cheating, a nasty STD, lying, FBI informants, and amidst all this Sandy is trying to figure out the world of dating after more than 30 years off the market.

Normally even in a thriller, I try not to guess what's going to happen. I know some mystery/thriller fans consider this the best part of the genres, however I find that keeps me distant from the action and reminds me that I'm reading a book, so I try to get lost in the story instead and let the revelations come to me as they do to the characters. But this book is written in a leisurely, languid pace that does suit Sandy to a T, but is not as suitable to the legal thriller genre. It did allow - if not encourage - me to ponder the various possibilities and clues, and while the ending was well satisfying but not too obvious (and kudos to Mr. Turow on his big red herring which did completely throw me, but not in a way where later I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me.)

Sandy is from Argentina, but of German descent, and he's at the upper end of middle age, living a comfortable, settled life, and he doesn't act impulsively or quickly. It is fascinating how Mr. Turow adjusted the pacing of his book to reflect his main character's personality, but in the end I think it wasn't as effective for the book overall. That said, I did still enjoy the book very much and found it very hard to put down towards the end. The 1989 setting didn't date it very much surprisingly (no email, and Sandy has a car phone, but that's it.) And I liked reading about a character who had been a minor character in another novel, now elevated to center stage. And I still think Mr. Turow can write circles around Mr. Grisham.

I bought this book, used, from a street vendor in NYC.


christa @ mental foodie said...

I have never read Grisham, but enjoy Turow. I probably have read this one some time ago, so don't remember it at all! I like guessing what is going to happen, that's part of the fun for me :)

Sherrie said...

Sounds like a great book. I've not read this author before. I'll have to check his books out. Thanks for stopping by my place. Thanks also for catching the misspelled word. Have a great day!

Just Books

Jen said...

I've always enjoyed Turow, although I admit that a bit of paperback Grisham can be an occasional guilty pleasure. :)