With so many new books out there, would you consider reading an old courtroom thriller? I did! Presumed Innocent was published in 1987 and the movie starring Harrison Ford followed in 1990. So 35 years ago, it was a hot book and a hot movie.
This excellent story is about its narrator, Rusty Sabich, Kindle County’s chief deputy prosecuting attorney who has been arrested for the murder of Carolyn Polhemus, an ambitious attorney in Sabich’s office. Rusty and Carolyn had a brief affair and his fingerprints are found on the scene. This is all on the heels of Raymond Horgan’s lost bid to another term as chief P.A. Rusty, loyal to Horgan for twelve years, had one day hoped to succeed his boss. Now, everything has changed. Nico Della Guardia (whom Rusty had once fired) takes Horgan’s place and Rusty’s a pariah, fighting for his freedom. What does his young son think of him? Will his wife, Barbara will stand by his side? Readers have more questions. Did Rusty murder Carolyn? And if he didn’t who did?
Sandy Stern, a shrewd and sophisticated defense attorney, gives Rusty hope. That and the fact that Judge Larren Lyttle, Horgan’s best friend, will preside at his trial. Lyttle’s twenty years as a defense attorney could favor Rusty in rulings during the trial, but the ultimate decision rides on the jury.
Sound complicated? It is! Add police corruption, politics, a tangled web of relationships and a lost file from years ago, containing incriminating information, and it will take a book to figure it all out.
I liked Presumed Innocent for a lot of reasons. At 453 pages, and close to one hundred characters, this is not a book you read in a couple day. Its length made me think about all the pieces and wonder about the characters. Turow does an excellent job with his main characters. Readers get to know Rusty best of all and learn about the key players through his observations. Several characters with questionable motives muddy the waters and reflect the complexities in police and legal work. My favorite character was Sandy Stern. His composure and skill in the courtroom would make anyone want him on their side. But he plays his cards close to the vest and keeps his strategy to himself, a frustration for Rusty.
Presumed Innocent is Turow’s first of eleven books in the Kindle County series. Book 11, The Last Trial was published in 2020. The one criticism I would make about the book, which is obviously dated in the sense of crime scene investigations, is the author’s use of stereotypical ethnic characterizations, some of them cringe-worthy. I’m taking a star off for that reason, but would otherwise recommend this first book in the series, especially if you want to read the rest.
Have you read Presumed Innocent or seen the movie? Leave a comment!
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