Thursday, January 27, 2011


Does it seem a long time ago that Presumed Innocent (the hit novel and smash movie) transformed author Scott Turow into a household name?  If so, there is a good reason for that; it was a long time ago.  The novel was first published in December 1987 and the movie version starring Harrison Ford was released in 1990.  Now, let’s call it 22 years later, Turow is back with a sequel that tells what Rusty Sabich has been up to since he was acquitted on murder charges all those years ago.

When last seen, Rusty Sabich had just been acquitted of the murder of his mistress, a fellow attorney, and had made the decision, for the sake of his young son, to try to keep his marriage intact.  The evidence against Sabich was strong, almost overwhelming, but he was acquitted, in part because Prosecutor Tommy Molto was humiliated into admitting that his office had mishandled some of the physical evidence against Sabich. 

It has happened again.  Another woman close to Rusty Sabich is dead, and he is suspected by Tommy Molto of having caused her death.  Barbara, Sabich’s wife of 36 years, is found dead in her bed but Sabich does not bother to report her death to anyone, including her son, for some 24 hours.  Barbara’s death is at first attributed to natural causes, odd though Sabich’s behavior may have been.  Molto’s chief deputy, however, is not so sure about the cause of death, and piece by little piece, he methodically builds a case against Sabich that will end with Sabich and his old adversary, Tommy Molto, locked in a rematch.

 On the surface, it does not look good for Rusty Sabich – and that is his own fault.  There is evidence of a recent affair that he refuses to discuss, his marriage has been shaky for years, and it becomes obvious that he has been seeking a way out of it.  Turow uses alternating first-person narratives to tell the story with some chapters told through the eyes of Rusty, some through the eyes of Tommy, and others through the eyes of Nat (Rusty’s son) or Anna (Rusty’s recent lover).  As in the first novel, Turow shows the good and bad sides of all the main characters, allowing the reader to judge the rightness or wrongness of what each of them does.  The trial itself is a cliffhanger that offers the reader several opportunities to change his mind about Sabich’s guilt or innocence, and who committed the crime (if there was one) if Sabich is innocent.

The audio version of the book is read by Edward Herrmann and Orlagh Casssidy (who handles mostly the chapters narrated by the Anna Vostic character).  Herrmann does a particularly fine job with all the male characters but I had a difficult time matching Cassidy’s voice to my mental image of the youngish mistress, Anna Vostic.  That distraction was a minor issue, however, and I found that using separate readers based on the sex of the character narrating each chapter was a great help in keeping all the details straight.

Innocent will likely appeal most to those who have fond memories of Presumed Innocent, but potential readers should not be concerned if they are unfamiliar with that book.  Turow brings enough information from the first book into this one, by having the prosecutors rehash the first case in preparation of the new one, that Innocent works very well as a standalone novel.

That one or two of the novel’s plot elements do not seem quite logical to me, causes me to rate this one at a 4.5 rather than at 5.0, but I did thoroughly enjoy it over the number of days I listened to it on my daily commute.

Rated at: 4.5


  1. Personally, I was very disappointed by this book. Maybe that is because Presumed Innocent is one of my all-time favorites. I just couldn't see Rusty Sabich getting himself into the same predicament again. I would have enjoyed the book a lot more if Turow had used a brand new cast of characters.

  2. I can't believe it's been that long ago. Thanks for the update and review.

  3. Syndi, I was not all that surprised that Rusty would succumb to the same temptation again, considering how the last book ended and the fact that he was still living with the same woman. His son was a grown man and I suppose the urgency the make the marriage work was less than when the guy was a child.

    I found a hole or two in the logic but sort of suspended my disbelief for the sake of the story.

  4. Time does have a way of getting away from us, Cozy. I figured it was a long time ago when I remembered that I owned a copy of the movie on Beta tape...antique.

  5. A few months ago now Turow was in town, just down the street from me at a restaurant called The Black Thorn -- it was an event sponsored by my city's annual Writer's Festival and coinciding with a rare day off from work for me! So I wanted to go -- the tickets were $60 and with that you got lunch, a speech from the author, and an autographed copy of Innocent.
    I decided not to go when I found out that this book was a sequel, and I had not read the first one.
    Damn! Now I see from what you are saying, Innocent can be a stand-alone book! Maybe I should have gone!
    I've never read any of his fiction, but have read his Ultimate Punishment which is about capital punishment in the U.S. of A. It was totally fascinating and thought-provoking.

  6. Yeah, Cip, "Innocent" does work pretty well as a standalone because Turrow revisits much of what happened in the first book via short passages to explain motivations for what is happening in the new book.

    Coincidentally, I just watched the 1990 movie, "Presumed Innocent," with Harrison Ford last night. It was a lot duller than I remembered it, especially the big surprise ending suddenly thrown at the audience. I suppose I'm just too familiar with the plots now to be "wowed."