THE BURDEN OF PROOF

The bad news is that the returning of Alejandro Stern, the canny defense attorney in Presumed Innocent, isn't nearly as devilishly twisty as he was in Turow's earlier megaseller. The good news is that Sandy Stem's own problems make for a compelling novel of a different sort. These problems surface when Sandy arrives home—preoccupied with his defense of his sister Silvia's husband (and Sandy's old school friend) Dixon Hartnack, whose coyly named commodities house, Maison Dixon, is under federal investigation for taking advantage of clients' futures orders to place illegal preemptive orders—to find that his wife Clara has killed herself. Why did his placid wife of 30 years commit suicide? What sort of prescription was filled for her only a short time before her death? And what could Clara's death have to do with the financial shenanigans of her Mephistophelean brother Dixon? Stumbling through grief and guilt, dredging up painful memories of his early meetings with Clara—he'd first been interested in her as a way to secure his position with her powerful father—and plunging into sexual escapades that eventually lead him to 40-ish federal attorney Sonia Klonsky, married, pregnant, and Dixon's principal nemesis, Sandy is stunned (and even farsighted readers will be too) to find how insidiously Dixon's troubles have twined themselves around Silvia and Sandy's children—Marta, Kate, and Peter. Although the whodunit question so prominent in Presumed Innocent is downplayed, Turow is a master at dramatizing legal complexities (Dixon deposits an incriminating safe with Sandy; Sandy warns him that he'll have to turn it over to the feds; Dixon steals it from the office; Sandy and a client break into Dixon's home to steal it back), and the last hundred pages of revelations about Sandy's decent, humane family are riveting. Despite a slow start and an overdose of middle-age angst, this complex, meditative novel is as richly entertaining as its predecessor. A surefire best-seller for summer—and on into the fall.

Pub Date: June 5, 1990

ISBN: 0446584177

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1990

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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