Innocent by Scott Turow

I still vividly remember reading Presumed Innocent more than twenty years ago. I was a little late coming to it because I can remember being on the train and it seemed that everyone was reading it. At the used book sale where I bought it there seemed to be hundreds of copies available. I was blown away by the experience. The emotional content was very strong (it is still the most vivid description of an affair I’ve read) and the ending genuinely surprised me. Very few books have stayed with me for so long, especially ones that I only read once (I can’t explain why rereading it was never appealing).

Innocent, the sequal, is not nearly the same experience. As a mystery it was effective and Scott Turow knows how to build the suspense. I was pulled along by the story and the ending was a surprise. Unfortunately, overall it was a disappointment. For a start, there were too many aspects that were implausible to me. Would Rusty Sabich really be an elected judge after the events in Presumed Innocent? I could believe a successful defense attorney, but I couldn’t believe that being acquitted of a murder on a technicality didn’t have a negative effect on his career. And after having such a sordid affair, would he still be married to the same woman? The story tries to deal with that, but I had a hard time accepting.

Part of the strength of Presumed Innocent in comparison to Innocent is that emotions were built on characters making choices that felt psychologically true. That feeling is lacking here. I don’t want to give away the story, but there are too many times where I doubted the narrative. In most genre books, implausibility is such a constant that I don’t even notice it. In a Scott Turow story the effect is discouraging because so much of the story telling is so strong.

If I hadn’t read Presumed Innocent, I wouldn’t have read Innocent. On its own merits I weakly recommend Innocent, but it is a pale comparison to the earlier work.


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