In a change of venue from contemporary courtroom to World War II battlefield, Turow further distinguishes himself from other lawyers turned bestselling authors with his most ambitious novel to date.
Readers will recognize narrator Stewart Dubinsky from Presumed Innocent (1987) and The Laws of Our Fathers (1996). Now a retired journalist coming to terms with his own failed marriage, he discovers a number of letters from his late father that suggest dark secrets at the heart of the family’s history. It seems that during the war, Stewart’s father had been engaged to another woman (to whom the letters are addressed), that he had been court-martialed and imprisoned for assisting a potential spy’s escape and that Stewart’s mother and father had kept the truth from their children. Always a dogged reporter, Stewart pursues the story, despite warnings that he might be devastated by what he learns. Revelation comes more quickly than Stewart anticipates, through his father’s memoir of his war years, a manuscript entrusted to the lawyer who defended him. That manuscript (which subsequently provides the majority of Turow’s narrative) describes the transformation of a young idealist, one who finds his innocence shattered by his initiation into combat and involvement in an unlikely romantic triangle. He had been ordered to arrest an OSS officer named Robert Martin, a maverick whose fellow soldiers insist is a brave patriot but whose commanding officer believes is a communist sympathizer. His mission enmeshes him with the inscrutable Gita Lodz, who may or may not be Martin’s lover, and who will stop at nothing to advance their cause (whatever that cause may be). While some of the writing succumbs to war-is-hell cliché and there are passages of sentimental dialogue that suggest flashbacks from 1940s battle movies, the story of shifting allegiances, divided loyalties, compromised principles and primal instincts is as engrossing as any of Turow’s legal thrillers.
Without diminishing his page-turning narrative momentum, Turow extends his literary range.