Arthur Raven, more versed in corporate law than criminal defense, is not eager to accept the court-appointed task of handling death-row inmate "Squirrel" Gandolph's last-minute appeal of his murder conviction. Fast approaching middle age, Arthur has come to terms with the burdens and disappointments of his life, among which are a schizophrenic sister for whom he is responsible and the realization that he will probably never make an enduring connection with a woman. But when evidence surfaces that might exonerate his client, he rises to the occasion with a quiet determination to see justice done. Facing a formidable prosecuting attorney and her former lover, the policeman whose testimony convinced Judge Gillian Sullivan to find Squirrel guilty, Arthur's persistence not only wins his client a temporary reprieve from execution but also endears him to Sullivan, who has fallen on hard times since Squirrel's trial--fresh out of prison herself for taking bribes, she is a most unlikely candidate for Arthur's affections. Scott Turow's masterful characterization of complex and multidimensional people catalyzed by events into searching reexamination of their own motives and ambitions is matched by the intricacies of his plot, which itself is well served by his insider's knowledge of the criminal justice system and his extraordinary understanding of the vagaries of the human heart. The prose is luminescent, the narrative compelling, and the moral implications of Arthur's personal and professional choices beautifully articulated. This is a tour de force for a novelist writing at the top of his game. --Jane Adams
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From Publishers Weekly
The sixth novel from bestseller Turow is a big book about little people in big trouble, involving the death penalty (one of the author's real-life legal specialties), procedural foul-ups and a cast of characters who exemplify the adage about good intentions paving the road to hell. Arthur Raven (a middle-aged, undistinguished lawyer taking care of a schizophrenic sister in a suburb of Chicago) lands a career-making case: the 11th-hour appeal of a quasi-retarded death row inmate, Rommy "Squirrel" Gandolph (accused of triple homicide a decade earlier), on new testimony by a terminally ill convict. Muriel Wynn, an ambitious prosecutor, and Larry Starczek, the detective who originally worked the case, are Raven's adversaries. Plot thickener: Wynn and Starczek are engaged in a longstanding, tortuous, off-again, on-again affair (both being unhappily married) that predates the crime, and which may have indirectly influenced the course of the original investigation. Arthur pulls in the original presiding judge from the case, Gillian Sullivan, just emerging from her own prison stretch for bribery (which masks an even darker secret) to assist him on the case, which leads to another tortuous affair on the defense's side. On top of this (Turow is well known for his many-layered narratives) is the dynamic among the criminals themselves: the dying con may be covering up for his wayward nephew, further muddying the legal waters. The first part of the book, which flips back and forth between the original investigation (1991) and the new trial (2001), is structurally the most demanding, but it is vital to the way in which Turow makes Rommy's case (as well as Arthur's and Muriel's). No character in this novel is entirely likable; all seek to undo some past wrong, with results that get progressively worse. Turow fans should not be disappointed; nor should his publisher.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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