(Reviewed by Bill Robinson DEC 22, 2002)
Scott Turow's new novel, Reversible Errors, may be his best effort to date. And, that is saying a lot since his previous five legal thrillers have been translated into more than twenty languages and have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide. If this is not his best work, it is certainly his most intricate and complex.
Reversible Errors, like those earlier works, transcends its genre. Turow, being an accomplished and practicing trial lawyer, can effortlessly steer the reader through the most intricate judicial morass. With an equally sure hand, he can also illuminate the often-messy interpersonal embroilment of the steamiest extramarital affair. He is at home in the courtroom and, without being too invasive and overly sensational, in the bedroom. The novel contains significant action in both arenas.
Turow's characters, regardless of where they turn up, are alive. In creating them, he never resorts to stereotypes. Rather, he gives a believable existence to what become real people, thus providing the story with credence and depth. Whether it's a feisty prosecuting attorney or a semi-articulate small time crook, each character does his or her part to hold the reader's interest, attention, concern, and sympathy.
The novel's main story revolves around the death penalty and the possibility that Rommy "Squirrel" Gandolph, a minor league scammer of dubious repute, may have been erroneously convicted of a triple murder. Squirrel has spent ten years in prison following his conviction, and he is now, a decade later, on his deathbed when exculpating evidence surfaces from a fellow inmate.
With this scenario to set things in motion, enter a dynamic cast of characters. These include Arthur Raven, an overly sensitive, 30 something corporate attorney, who has been selected to work in Squirrel's defense; Muriel Wynn, the chief deputy prosecuting attorney, who is sure that Squirrel is as guilty now as he was a decade before; Larry Starczek, the hard nosed police detective on the case; and, Gillian Sullivan, the trial judge.
Imagine that Muriel, who is considering an upcoming run for chief prosecuting attorney, is reviving a hot and heavy, ten-year-old extramarital affair with Larry, as he is reinvestigating new developments in the case. Consider the implications of the deeply feeling Arthur falling in love with the quiet, but intense Gillian, who, ten years later, is working as a counter clerk at a local department store. She is a recovering drug addict, having been thrown off the bench for taking bribes. Mix in the various elements of case with all its complexities. What you have is the makings of, as they say and here with justification, a real page-turner. It is guaranteed to keep you reading well into the night.
Turow's major characters are of Greek tragedy caliber. He also has a real way with minor characters as well. He introduces Susan, the paranoid schizophrenic sister of Arthur, and provides a wide and illuminating window into the world of mental illness, with all its complications and sorrows. Or, with Erno Erdai, a sleazy deputy head of security for an airline whose tickets figure in the murder, Turow illustrates the corroded underside of corporate law enforcement.
Turow presents all the various characters and all the separate, yet intertwined story lines, in a way that does more than simply entertain. His presentation demands the reader's constant and total attention. As the narrator quickly shifts time frames, love stories, points of view, and intricate legal maneuvers, it is the role of the reader to keep all the parts together, to stay on top of things, and to make continuing sense of all that is happening. And, with a good story such as this, there is much to attend to.
Reading Reversible Errors demands work and involvement, however it is worth the effort. It surprises, it enlightens, it entertains, and, finally, it demonstrates again Turow's masterly skills as a storyteller.
- Amazon readers rating: from 117 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Reversible Errors at the author's Web site(back to top)
"Personal Injuries "
(Reviewed by Judi Clark SEP 25, 1999)
The events in this novel are narrated by Defense Attorney George Mason who tells us from the start that this is a "lawyer's story, the kind attorneys like to hear and tell. About a case. About a client." So we should already know that this isn't going to be the run-of-the-mill courtroom drama.
The case at first appears to be about tax evasion. The IRS Criminal Intelligence unit has found a non-interest bearing checking account that has millions in it and large sums of money withdrawn from it. No taxes have been paid on any of this money. The real case, though, is about where this money is going; US Attorney Stan Sennett wants to use this fraud to get at the whole corrupt judicial system existing within Kindle County since the days of Mayor Bolcarro.
The client is Robbie Feaver. Feaver & Dinnerstein are personal injury lawyers and have been best friends since childhood. Dinnnerstein's uncle happens to be Brendan Tuohey, Chief of the entire Kindle County Superior Court. It's suspected that they use this account to pay off judges to sway decisions in their favor. US Attorney Sennett has made it quite clear that it's jail or cooperation. Cooperation always means ratting out; either choice is tough on Robby. Jail means that he won't be able to be with his wife during her final year - she has A.L.S. (Lou Gehrig's disease). Ratting out, well, he's not a rat. Yet, he can't go to jail, he must take care of Lorraine. So he agrees to help with the sting as long as his partner, Dinnerstein, is protected. He claims that Dinnerstein knows nothing about what the money is really used for. Thus George Mason helps Robbie Feaver go undercover with the FBI.
Turow's strength is that he always tells a good lawyer story. The whole FBI undercover sting is incredible from a technical as well as a personal perspective. However, it his character handling that is the most impressive. Robby Feaver is one of those people that most would find offensive. Too good looking and knows it, wears tailored Italian suits with lots of gold jewelry and too much cologne. He speaks too loudly and talks too much. Everything is a play. Look at his profession, he's an ambulance chaser! His one redeeming virtue is that he knows this about himself. Turow manages to keep Robbie true right up through the end, without him feeling like a stereotype. We learn most about Feaver through his interactions with undercover FBI agent Evon. She is acting as a paralegal clerk to keep an eye on Robbie. Our empathy for Robbie is absolutely necessary to the story line. A lesser writer would not be able to pull off the extra meaning behind the title. Turow's skill can be compared to that of a method actor. Not once does the reader have to worry about motivation - we are with these people. And the book certainly has it share of suspense and twists.
- Amazon readers rating: from 226 reviews
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"The Laws of Our Fathers"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 7, 1998)
The Laws of Our Fathers is different than Turow's previous novels. It is a story about our legal system, but it is more of an exploration of the sixties and events that sculpted a generation. The story moves back and forth between the past and present day murder trial, with usual twists that make us appreciate Turow's skill.
Sonia Klonsky, whom we met in The Burden of Proof, is a newcomer to the Superior Court bench. She is charged with deciding the outcome of a murder trial in which Nile Eddgar, a probation officer, is charged with arranging the drive-by shooting of his mother. The scene with the Black Saints Disciples is unforgettable. By weaving the tale of the lives of Sonia with the murder victim and a few in the courtroom, Turow offhandedly compares the experience of the two generations.
In some ways, I enjoyed this book better than his last two because it goes deeper than being just another legal drama, getting at societal issues as well.
- Amazon readers rating: from 103 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from The Laws of Our Fathers at the author's website(back to top)
(Reviewed by Judi Clark FEB 7, 1998)
I will be forever sitting in my old backyard on the Piscataqua River in Kittery, Maine when I think of this book. Because that is where I opened it and that is where I stayed until it was finished. This came out when I wasn't taking the time to read as much as I do now, but, fortunately, it was also a time when I belonged to the Book of the Month Club. For me (and my neighbors with whom I shared this book) this was our first close-up look at the legal system. We were mesmerized by it, to say the least. I have read every one of his books and I have never been disappointed.
If you are new to Turow, take the time to read this book. Trust me, you will be a fan.
- Amazon readers rating: from 91 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Presumed Innocent at the author's website
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Presumed Innocent (1987)
- The Burden of Proof (1990)
- Pleading Guilty (1993)
- The Laws of Our Fathers (1996)
- Personal Injuries (1999)
- Reversible Errors (2002)
- Ordinary Heroes (November 2005)
- Limitations (November 2006)
- Innocent (May 2010)
- One L: The Turbolent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School (1977)
- Ultimate Punishment: A Lawyer's Reflections on Dealing with the Death Penalty (2003)
Movies from books:
- Presumed Innocent (1990)
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- Official Scott Turow Web site
- BookPage interview with Scott Turow
- Understanding Mass Personal Injury Litigation
- BookPage interview with Scott Turow about Personal Injuries
- The New York Times review Personal Injuries
- ReviewOfBooks.com collection of reviews for Reversible Errors
- MostlyFiction.com review of Ordinary Heroes
- MostlyFiction.com review of Innocent
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About the Author:
Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. In 1970 he graduated from Amherst College and received a fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Center. He stayed on to teach creative writing at Stanford until 1975, whereupon he entered Harvard Law School. From 1978 to 1986 he was Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago. Today he is a partner in a Chicago International law firm, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, where his practice centers on white collar criminal litigation.
He is also a member of the Rock Bottom Remainders a rock band that consists of authors.
Turow has been active in a number of charitable causes, including Literacy Chicago. In 1997-98, he served as president of the Authors Guild, which is the national membership organization for professional writers, and continues to serve on its governing board. He is a Trustee of Amherst College. Turow has been married to Annette Turow, a painter, since 1971. They have three children and live outside Chicago.