How much do I love Scott Turow? I read tons of mysteries/thrillers, and am particularly fond of legal intrigue in that category. But I will drop EVERYTHING on my TBR list when a new book by Scott Turow is released! So when I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Testimony (release date May 16, 2017) from Grand Central Publishing and NetGalley, I basically shut off the world for a few days! (Turow’s books are definitely not in my “one night stand” category!)
I read his first novel, Presumed Innocent, when it first came out back in 1986, meeting characters in the fictional Kindle County (cough Chicago/Cook County cough) – several of whom reappear in later books in the Kindle County series. Testimony is the latest in this line, this time featuring fifty-year-old former U.S. Attorney Bill Ten Boom, who finds himself in early 2015 at a crossroads: he has left his second career as a successful attorney at a major firm (so successful that he doesn’t need to work), is fairly recently amicably divorced from his wife of many years (they were both bored), and is unencumbered by people or things.
Bill (or Boom, as he is often called) happens to run into Roger, his friend since law school, who has spent the past thirty years in the Foreign Service. Roger tells him of an opportunity he might consider, working as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (a permanent war crimes tribunal) in The Hague. Bill accepts the opportunity and very quickly, he is at work in The Hague, in the middle of what appears to be a massive war crime involving the massacre of hundreds of Roma (aka “Gypsies”) at a refugee camp in Bosnia ten years earlier. The story takes place between March and July 2015, as Bill works with locals in The Hague, the U.S. military, and Bosnia to investigate this alleged war crime.
Bill/Boom is a terrific character, and Turow reveals his character both by his actions and his words/thoughts. Boom muses “These remains, just the first sight of them, affected me more strongly than I had been prepared for. Lawyers—all lawyers—live in a land of concepts and words, with precious little physical reality intruding.” And “Someday, when I finished bringing international justice to the globe, I was going to figure out the connection between self-image and love.” There are some fascinating relationships (including romantic ones) that develop during Boom’s first months in The Hague, and they enhance the development of his character while never distracting the reader from the story. And what a story! In addition to being a terrific mystery, it turned out to provide clarification for my (mis)understanding of the events that occurred in Bosnia in the 1990s. I love it when I am simultaneously entertained and educated!!!
The plotting in Testimony is complex, as we are introduced to a variety of suspects, including the Serb paramilitary, organized crime, and the U.S. military. Along the way, Boom is enmeshed in a variety of shifting alliances and some treachery, and it’s all done in Scott Turow style: it draws the reader in and won’t let go!
We often hear advice to authors to “write what you know,” and Turow clearly knows all aspects of this story. He worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago for 18 years. He then began writing, but continued practicing law: in 1995, he won a reversal in the murder conviction of a man who had spent 11 years in prison, many of them on death row, for a crime another man confessed to – and it was a pro bono effort! Since I can’t give this SIX stars, I’ll go with five. Thank you, Scott Turow!