A final appeal from Death Row reopens a decade-old murder case as the world’s preeminent legal novelist (Personal Injuries, 1999, etc.) proves once again why his grasp of the moral dimensions of legal problems sets the gold standard for the genre.
The cops in Turow’s home turf of Kindle County had no trouble solving the Fourth of July Massacre ten years ago because Romeo Gandolph “confessed to everybody but the Daily Planet,” as his court-appointed appellate attorney Arthur Raven tells his junior associate Pamela Towns. But now, weeks from execution, Rommy’s changed his story. Instead of pleading insanity to the shooting of popular restaurant owner Gus Leonidis and two customers, the acknowledged thief and fence suddenly insists he didn’t do it. And improbable, nearly imperceptible cracks begin to appear in the mountain of evidence that aggressive prosecutor Muriel Wynn and her lover Larry Starczek, the lead detective on the case, amassed against Rommy. The DA’s office, eager to keep their files tidy, never questioned key witnesses, came up with questionable forensics of one of the victims, and overlooked the possibility that Rommy may already have been in custody when the gun went off. This time around, as Arthur realizes, there’s another defendant besides Rommy: Gillian Sullivan, the judge who found him guilty and sentenced him to death before her own conviction and sentence for bribery. Working with Gillian’s unwilling help, Arthur manages to get a confession from a long-unsuspected source. Fans of Turow, however, will see this second confession as no more reliable than the first—except as a device to strip away still more layers of deception from troubled characters desperate to break the fragile alliances they were desperate to form.
No car chases, explosions, threats against the detective, movie-star locations, or gourmet meals: just a deeply satisfying novel about deeply human people who just happen to be victims, schemers, counselors-at-law, or all three at once.