Read and reviewed: Pattaya, Thailand
” I hover then, above myself, my soul looking down on my hungry heart. How can longing unfulfilled seem to be the only meaningful emotion in life? But it does. ” (Part 1, II, 11)
Innocent picks up from where Presumed Innocent left off twenty years ago, since Rusty Sabich went on trial for the twisted murder of his lover and colleague Carolyn Polhemus. The opening of the sequel is somewhat dubious and far-fetched: Rusty is still married to Barbara, his volatile, unhappy wife. Rusty, now 60 and the chief judge of the State Court of Appeals, had decided to stay married to her when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. They returned to the life they’d had before the Polhemus trial—so what if Barbara played a diabolical role in that case. It’s for the best for their emotionally fragile son, Nat.
I gave up thinking I fully understood my parents—either one of them—a long time ago. Who they were to each other, or in the parts of their lives that never touched mine, is something I won’t ever completely comprehend. It’s a little like trying to figure out who actors really are bwyond the roles they play on-screen. (Part 2, 36)
Innocent opens with the shocking scene of Rusty sitting on his bed next to Barbara, who is dead. He has accompanied the body for a day before calling his son or the police. The initial reports says Barbara died of heart failure, but Rusty’s old adversary, Tommy Molto, now the acting prosecuting attorney, is looking into her death, egged on by his zealous chief of deputy. Rusty, they suspect, was having an affair and might have murdered his wife rather than go through a messy divorce.
He had pounded Sabich, but there had been a stubborn center to the man. There was not a minute when he looked as if he had killed anybody. Not that he would. Tommy had never spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with Rusty, but it was something deep and complex. (Part 3, 27)
What is wrong with Rusty is not that he has killed his wife, trying to feed her food that triggers adverse reaction with her antidepressant. It is about the “unnamable piece of happiness” that has eluded him his entire life. At age 60, he wants to throw off the dutiful restraint on which he’s staked his life. He begins an affair with his former clerk and finds himself unexpectedly falling in love. When circumstantial evidence points to his overdosing the wife, he stands in trial. A confluence of events and witness testimony also help prosecution build a persuasive case.
Two story lines that dovetail with implacable momentum keeps the pages turning. One involves events leading to Barbara’s death; the other recounts what constitutes a terrible case of déjà vu for Rusty. Unlike its predecessor, it doesn’t foray into a look at how justice system is intertwined with politics and municipal corruption. But Turow does pull off the whip-sharp courtroom exchanges and the twist and counter-twist. The last-minute revelation does turn everything on its head. I have the feeling that sometimes it’s unnecessary to uncover the absolute truth because the courtroom is like a roll of dice “where the million daily details of a life suddenly get elevated to evidence of murder.”
539 pp. Vision. Pocket Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]