An Illinois prosecutor seeks to learn who annihilated a group of refugee gypsies in Bosnia.
Mega-selling author Turow turns from familiar, fictional Kindle County (read, Chicago) to treacherous Bosnia for this latest, uneven thriller. Here, in 2004, about 20 armed men herded into a cave a group of 400 Roma, or gypsies. From atop an overhang to the cave’s entrance, the abductors set off explosives, causing landslides that buried the gypsies alive. Who were the perpetrators, and what were their motives? Were Serb paramilitaries behind it? Were jihadis defending Bosnian Muslims from the Serbs? Or did the American military carry out the massacre in an act more heinous than My Lai? Eleven years later, the International Criminal Court at the Hague, which tries mass atrocities, pursues the case. The ICC wants an American lawyer to prosecute, and Bill ten Boom seems the perfect choice. He has friends on “both sides of the aisle” in D.C. and a reputation that’s “bulletproof.” Alas, Bill, though worth millions, is going through a male midlife crisis, which leaves a too-familiar, not very fascinating character to carry the tale. It doesn’t help when Bill predictably becomes attracted to defense attorney Esma Czarni, an English barrister who is also a Roma. As they combust, Turow’s prose turns purple. An “earthquake of pleasure” turns the bed they share “into a delicious, soupy mess.” Just as clichéd is Turow’s sense of place. En route to the gypsy campsite, Bill sees “little whitewashed houses that could have been home to Hansel and Gretel.” Bill’s journey to find the culprits initially moves by fits and starts, frequently interrupted by subplots only tenuously connected to his quest. A tightly written action set piece at midpoint, in which Bill and an associate narrowly escape execution, snaps readers to attention, and Turow largely keeps them there as he moves on to a complicated, trenchant, and pertinent finish.
Worth staying the course.