Innocent (Turow)

Scott Turow, 2010
Grand Central Publishing
406 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780446562423

The sequel to the genre-defining, landmark bestseller Presumed Innocent, Turow continues the story of Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto who are, once again, twenty years later, pitted against each other in a riveting psychological match after the mysterious death of Rusty's wife. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio 
Birth—April 12, 1949
Where—Chicago, Illinois, USA
Education—B.A., Amherst; M.A. Stanford University; J.D.,
   Harvard University
Awards—Silver Dagger of British Crime Writers
Currently—lives in Chicago, Illinois

Scott F. Turow is an American author and practicing lawyer, who has written eight fiction and two nonfiction books. His works have been translated into over 20 languages and have sold over 25 million copies. Movies have been based on several of his books.

Turow was born in Chicago, attended New Trier High School, and graduated from Amherst College in 1970. He received an Edith Mirrielees Fellowship to the Stanford University Creative Writing Center, where he attended from 1970 to 1972. In 1971, he married Annette Weisberg, a painter.

Scott Turow became a Jones Lecturer at Stanford until 1975, when he entered Harvard Law School. In 1977, Turow wrote One L, a book about his first year at law school.

After earning his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1978, Turow became an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago, serving in that position until 1986. There he prosecuted several high-profile corruption cases, including the tax fraud case of state Attorney General William Scott. Turow also was lead counsel in Operation Greylord, the federal prosecution of Illinois judicial corruption cases.

After leaving the U.S. Attorney's office, Turow became a novelist, writing legal thrillers such as The Burden of Proof, Presumed Innocent, Pleading Guilty, and Personal Injuries, which Time magazine named as the Best Fiction Novel of 1999. All four became bestsellers, and Turow won multiple literary awards, most notably the Silver Dagger Award of the British Crime Writers.

Many of the characters appear in multiple books, and all of his novels take place in Kindle County. (The state is unspecified, but the county contains a tri-city conglomerate on the Mississippi between Chicago and New Orleans. —Burden of Proof p. 52.) In 1990, Turow was featured on the June 11 cover of Time, which described him as the "Bard of the Litigious Age." In 1995, Canadian author Derek Lundy published a biography of Turow, entitled Scott Turow: Meeting the Enemy (ECW Press, 1995). Also, in the 1990s a British publisher bracketed Turow’s work with that of Margaret Atwood and John Irving, republishing it in the series Bloomsbury Modern Library.

Turow is the president of the Authors Guild. He was also President from 1997 to 1998 and has served on its board.

From 1997 to 1998 Turow was a member of the U.S. Senate Nominations Commission for the Northern District of Illinois, which recommends federal judicial appointments.

Current legal work
Turow is a partner of the Chicago law firm of Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal. He works pro bono in most of his cases, including a 1995 case where he won the release of Alejandro Hernandez, who had spent 11 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. He was also appointed to the commission considering the reform of the Illinois death penalty by former Governor George Ryan and is currently a member of the Illinois State Police Merit Board. He and his wife Annette divorced in late 2008 with three grown children. (From Wikipedia.)

Book Reviews 
[Turow's] intimate understanding of his characters and his authoritative knowledge of the legal world inject the narrative with emotional fuel, creating suspense that has less to do with the actual twists and turns of the plot than with our interest in what will happen to these people and how they will behave under pressure…Rusty's second trial—which takes up the better half of this novel—proves to be just as suspenseful and gripping as his first.
Michiko Kakutani - New York Times

In Innocent, [Turow's] exploring the many ways in which, time after time, we fail to under stand ourselves, in which we miss or misinterpret the evidence that could tell us who we are. "If we are always a mystery to ourselves," Anna asks at the end of Sabich's latest ordeal, "then what is the chance of fully understanding anybody else?" That's a novelist's question as much as it is a lawyer's…Innocent is a meticulously constructed and superbly paced mystery…a lovely novel, gripping and darkly self-reflective.
Terrence Rafferty - New York Times Book Review

There are enough keep the reader's attention fixed—Turow has always been very good at that—but as usual in his fiction there's more than skillful legal drama. Turow is a serious man who has thought long and carefully about the law. He understands that in the end it is not really much better than any other mechanism at uncovering absolute truth; that the courtroom is a roll of the dice…that life itself is a crapshoot…All of which makes for an intelligent, thoughtful novel: a grownup book for grownup readers.
Jonathan Yardley - Washington Post

Mesmerizing prose and intricate plotting lift Turow's superlative legal thriller, his best novel since his bestselling debut, Presumed Innocent, to which this is a sequel. In 2008, 22 years after the events of the earlier book, former lawyer Rusty Sabich, now a Kindle County, Ill., chief appellate judge, is again suspected of murdering a woman close to him. His wife, Barbara, has died in her bed of what appear to be natural causes, yet Rusty comes under scrutiny from his old nemesis, acting prosecuting attorney Tommy Molto, who unsuccessfully prosecuted him for killing his mistress decades earlier. Tommy's chief deputy, Jim Brand, is suspicious because Rusty chose to keep Barbara's death a secret, even from their son, Nat, for almost an entire day, which could have allowed traces of poison to disappear. Rusty's candidacy for a higher court in an imminent election; his recent clandestine affair with his attractive law clerk, Anna Vostic; and a breach of judicial ethics complicate matters further. Once again, Turow displays an uncanny ability for making the passions and contradictions of his main characters accessible and understandable.
Publishers Weekly

It took Turow more than 20 years to bring us the sequel to his best-selling first novel, Presumed Innocent, and it was worth the wait. Now 60 and long after being acquitted of murdering his mistress, Rusty Sabich has become chief judge of the Kindle County, IL, appellate court and is running for the state supreme court. When his wife dies in her sleep, Sabich waits 24 hours before calling his son or anyone else, setting off suspicions of foul play with his old nemesis, acting prosecutor Tommy Molto. The coroner determines she died of natural causes, but Molto and his chief deputy, Brand, quietly start building a case, convinced Sabich is trying to get away with murder again. Verdict: This is a beautifully written book with finely drawn characters and an intricate plot seamlessly weaving a troubled family story with a murder. Drawing the reader in and not letting go until the last page, Turow's legal thriller is a most worthy successor to Presumed Innocent and perhaps the author's finest work to date. —Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL
Library Journal

Though at least one other lawyer turned author has subsequently achieved greater commercial success, Turow remains the master of the form, at least partly because he's more fascinated by the mysteries of the human heart than he is by the intricacies of the law. Here, suspense and discovery sustain the narrative momentum until the final pages, but character trumps plot in Innocent. The ironic title underscores the huge gap between innocence as a moral state of grace and "not guilty" as a courtroom verdict. Once again, Turow's novel pits Rusty Sabich against Tommy Molto, former colleagues turned adversaries, with the former now chief judge of the appellate court and the latter as prosecuting attorney. Sabich remains more complicated and morally compromised, while Molto is much more certain of right and wrong. Exonerated in a murder trial 20 years ago, but his innocence never completely established, Sabich finds himself once again under suspicion after the sudden death of his mentally unstable, heavily medicated wife. As in the first novel, Sabich suffers the guilt of infidelity, but does this make him guilty of the murder Molto becomes convinced the judge has committed? Complicating the issue are the judge's only son, more of a legal scholar than his father though with some of his mother's emotional instability, and the whirlwind romance between the junior Sabich and the former clerk for the senior Sabich. To reveal more would undermine the reader's own pleasure of discovery, but the judge, whether guilty or not, might prefer prison to the revelation of crucial secrets. "How do we ever know what's in someone else's heart or mind?" the novel asks. "If we are always a mystery to ourselves, then what is the chance of fully understanding anybody else?" The various perspectives—with some characters knowing more than the reader does, while the reader knows more than others—contribute to an exquisite tension that drives the narrative. Where the title of the first novel may have presumed innocence, the sequel knows that we're all guilty of something.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions 
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Innocent:

1. What is the significance of the book's title, ostensibly the legal term for someone found "not guilty"? In what way is it ironic, suggesting a philosophical, moral question?

2. Author Scott Turow uses an unusual structure for this novel, moving back and forth between time frames and viewpoints. Why might he have used this technique rather than a straightforward narrative? Did the novel's structure enhance or detract from your enjoyment?

3. Have you read Presumed Innocent, the "prequel" to this novel? If so, how do the two compare? Is it important to have read the previous book? Why or why not?

4. Follow-up to Question 3: If you haven't read Presumed Innocent, was it hard to come up to speed on this novel? Having finished Innocent—and looking back—would it have made a difference if you had read the first book? If what way? Will you read PI now? Why or why not?

5. How would you describe Rusty Sabitch? What kind of a man is he? Has he learned from his past mistakes?

6. What is Rusty's wife Barbara like? Why have the two stayed married all these years?

7. Author Turow seems as interested in penetrating the mysteries of marriage and the human heart as he is the ins-and-outs of the legal system. What issues does he raise about how two people operate within a marriage? What do we come to learn about Barbara and Rusty's marriage? Do you see parallels to your own relationships?

8. What about Anna Vostic? First of all, will older men ever find age-appropriate women? Or is the answer to that "In your dreams, sweetheart"?

9. Back to Anna: what kind of person is she...and why does she end up in an affair with Rusty's son? Talk about those complications.

10. What about Nat? Is he a sympathetic character or not? Good boyfriend material...good son material?

11. What drives the prosecutorial team—Tommy Molto and Jim Brand? Why is Brand so eager to convict Rusty Sabitch? What evidence does the prosecution have against Rusty? Is it particularly strong?

12. Much of the book is a courtroom drama. Did you enjoy the pyrotechnics between prosecutors and defense attorneys?

13. How does Rusty's secret drive, or shape, his own defense?

14. Does this book deliver? Were you surprised by the various plot twists? Going back over the book, can you pick out where Turow purposely withholds information—then reveals it—to keep readers wondering?

15. What insights does this book offer—or issues does it raise—regarding the country's (or a state's) legal system ?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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