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Presumed Innocent - Scott Turow

Presumed Innocent

Paperback

Published: 28th April 2010
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It's gray, gritty early spring in the midsize Mid-western city that is the setting for Scott Turow's spellbinding book, already widely hailed as the most brilliant novel about lawyers and the law to appear in many years.

Rusty Sabich, Kindle County's longtime chief deputy prosecutor, has been asked to investigate the rape and murder of one of his colleagues. Carolyn Polhernus was strong, sensuous, and magnetic; she was also clearly ambitious and quite possibly unscrupulous. Her murder has been an embarrassment to Rusty's boss, Raymond Horgan, who is facing a serious challenge in the upcoming election and who looks to Rusty for a fast solution to the case that will help save him politically. What Horgan doesn't know is that, only a few months before she was murdered, Carolyn Polhemus and Rusty Sabich were lovers.

Rusty is a passionate, brooding, fundamentally lonely man. As he nears forty, both his marriage and his career seem to be stagnating. His feelings are focused on his love for his son, Nat, and his desperate, enduring fantasies about Carolyn, who had abruptly ended their affair six months ago. Rusty's investigation allows him to indulge relentlessly in his obsession, but he apparently makes little progress in finding the killer. Then, when Horgan loses the election, Rusty suddenly, incredibly, finds himself accused of Carolyn's murder.

New York Times critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, reviewing One L, Scott Turow's "wonderful" account of his first year at law school, wrote that he "read the book as if it were the most absorbing of thrillers, losing track of the time I spent with it and resenting the hours I had to be away from it." Presumed Innocent has had precisely the same effect on everyone who has read it in manuscript. It is a supremely suspenseful and compelling novel; but beyond the powerful tensions and reverberations of its plot, Scott Turow's book holds the reader because of the fullness and reality of the world he has created. Few novels about the law have revealed its inner workings, its psychology and drama and logic, with such verisimilitude and intelligence, or have brought to life such rich and memorable characters. The world of Kindle County is a world of subtle moral shadings and fierce, conflicting loyalties, where the truth is generally cloudy and guilt is a close-to-universal burden. It is a world that bears a striking resemblance to our own, and it will haunt the reader long after the central mystery of Scott Turow's masterful novel has been solved

This 'insider' book by a Chicago lawyer was one of the great novels of the 1980s, and a huge international bestseller as well as a successful film starring Harrison Ford. It's a supremely suspenseful and compelling courtroom drama about ambition, weakness, hypocrisy and American justice.

'Impossible to put down.' Evening Standard

The ultimate thriller – with a killer twist.

One thing is certain: if you start Presumed Innocent you will finish it – it grips like an octopus, and Scott Turow unwinds the plot with brilliant cat-and-mouse meanness.' Sunday Times

'A riveting performance.' Observer

If you start Presumed Innocent you will finish it - it grips like an octopus, and Turow unwinds the plot with brilliant cat-and-mouse meanness Sunday Times Phenomenal... a powerful study of ambition, weakness, hypocrisy and American 'justice' Sunday Express Impossible to put down Evening Standard A riveting performance Observer Politics, sex and death. Who could ask for anything more? Washington Post

Excerpt from Chapter One:

"I should feel sorrier," Raymond Horgan says.

I wonder at first if he is talking about the eulogy he is going to deliver. He has just looked over his notes again and is returning two index cards to the breast pocket of his blue serge suit. But when I catch his expression I recognize that his remark was personal. From the rear seat of the county's Buick, he stares through the auto window toward the traffic thickening as we approach the South End. His look has taken on a meditative cast. As I watch him, it strikes me that this pose would have been effective as The Picture for this year's campaign: Raymond's thick features fixed in an aspect of solemnity, courage, and a trace of sorrow. He shows something of the stoic air of this sometimes sad metropolis, like the soiled bricks and tarpaper roofs of this part of town.

It is a commonplace among those working around Raymond to say he does not look well. Twenty months ago he split with Ann, his wife of thirty years. He has picked up weight and a perpetual grimness of expression which suggests he has finally reached that time of life when he now believes that many painful things will not improve. A year ago the wagering was that Raymond did not have the stamina or interest to run again, and he waited until four months before the primary to finally announce. Some say it was addiction to power and public life that made him proceed. I believe the chief impulse was Raymond's outright hatred of his primary opponent, Nico Delia Guardia, who was until last year another deputy prosecuting attorney in our office. Whatever the motivation, it has proved a difficult campaign. While the money lasted, there were agencies involved and media consultants. Three young men of dubious sexuality dictated as to matters such as The Picture, and saw to it that this image of Raymond was applied to the backside of one in every four buses in the city. In the picture he has a coaxed smile, meant to show a toughened whimsy. I think the photograph makes him look like a kind of sap. It is one more sign that Raymond has fallen out of step. That is probably what he means when he says he should feel sorrier. He means that events seem to be slipping past him again.

Raymond goes on talking about Carolyn Polhemus's death three nights ago, on the first of April.

"It's as if I can't reach it. I have Nico on one side making out like I'm the one who murdered her. And every jackass in the world with press credentials wants to know when we're going to find the killer. And the secretaries are crying in the johns. And in the end, you know, there's this woman to think about. Christ, I knew her as a probation officer before she graduated law school. She worked for me, I hired her. A smart, sexy gal. A helluva lawyer. And you think about it eventually, you know, the actual event — I think I'm jaded, but Jesus. Some cretin breaks in there. And that's how she ends up, that's her au revoir? With some demented slug cracking her skull and giving her a jump. Jesus," Raymond says again. "You can't feel sorry enough."

"No one broke in," I finally say. My sudden declarative tone surprises even me. Raymond, who has momentarily resumed his consideration of a lapful of papers brought along from the office, rears his head and fixes me with an astute gray eye.

"Where do you get that from?"

I am slow to answer.

"We find the lady raped and bound," says Raymond. "Off-hand, I wouldn't be starting off my investigation with her friends and admirers."

"No broken windows," I say, "no forced doors."

At this point Cody, the thirty-year copper who is living out his last days on the force by driving Raymond's county car, breaks into the conversation from the front seat. Cody has been unusually quiet today, sparing us the customary reverie about the burn deals and good pinches he has witnessed in gross on most city avenues. Unlike Raymond — or, for that matter, me — he has no difficulty bringing himself to sorrow. He appears to have been without sleep, which gives his face an edge of roughened grief. My comment about the condition of Carolyn's apartment has stirred him for some reason.

"Every door and window in the joint was unlocked," he says. "She liked it that way. The broad was living in wonderland."

"I think somebody was being clever," I tell them both. "I think that's misdirection."

"Come on, Rusty," Raymond says. "We're looking for a bum. We don't need fucking Sherlock Holmes. Don't try to get ahead of the murder dicks. Keep your head down and walk in a straight line. Okay? Catch me a perpetrator and save my worthless ass." He smiles at me then, a warm, savvy look. Raymond wants me to know he is bearing up. Besides, there is no need to further emphasize the implications of catching Carolyn's killer.

In his reported comments about Carolyn's death, Nico has been base and exploitative and relentless. 'The prosecuting attorney's lax approach to law enforcement for the last twelve years has made him the accomplice of the city's criminal elements. Even the members of his own staff are no longer safe, as this tragedy illustrates.' Nico has not explained how his own hiring by Raymond as a deputy P.A. more than a decade ago fit into Raymond's liaison with lawlessness. But it is not the politician's lot to explain. Besides, Nico has always been shameless in his public conduct. That is one thing that made him ripe for a political career.

Ripe or not, Nico is widely expected to lose the primary, now eighteen days away. Raymond Horgan has wowed Kindle County's one and a half million registered voters for better than a decade. This year he is yet to win the party endorsement, but that is largely due to an ancient factional dispute with the mayor. Raymond's political people — a group that has never included me — believe that when the first of the public polls are published in the next week and a half, other Party leaders will be able to force the mayor to reverse field, and that Raymond will be safe for another quadrennium. In this one-party town, victory in the primary is tantamount to election.

Cody turns back from the front seat and mentions that it is getting close to one. Raymond nods absently. Cody takes this for
assent and reaches below the dash to let the siren go. He uses it in two brief spells, almost like punctuation in the traffic, but the cars and trucks part neatly and the dark Buick noses ahead. The neighborhood here is still marginal — older shingle-sided houses, splintering porches. Kids with a kind of potato-y pallor play with balls and ropes at the edge of the street. I grew up about three blocks from here, in an apartment over my father's bakery. I recall them as dark years. During the day my mother and I, when I was not in school, helped my father in the shop. At night we stayed in one locked room while my father drank. There were no other children. The neighborhood today is not much different, still full of people like my father: Serbians, as he was; Ukrainians, Italians, Poles — ethnic types who keep their peace and their own dim outlook.

We are stopped dead in the heavy traffic of Friday afternoon. Cody has driven up the back end of a city bus, which emits its noxious fumes with an intestinal rumble. A Horgan campaign poster is right there, too, and Raymond looks out overhead, six feet wide, with the hapless expression of a TV talk-show host or the spokesman for some canned cat food. And I cannot help myself. Raymond Horgan is my future and my past. I have been a dozen years with him, years full of authentic loyalty and admiration. I am his second- in-command, and his fall would be my own. But there is no silencing the voice of discontent; it has its own imperatives. And it speaks now to the image overhead in a sudden forthright way. You sap, it says. You are, it says, a sap.

As we turn down Third Street, I can see that the funeral has become an important event for the police department. Half the parked cars are black-and-whites, and there are cops in pairs and threes moving up and down the walks. Killing a prosecutor is only one step short of killing a cop, and whatever the institutional interests, Carolyn had many friends on the force — the sort of loyal lieges a good P.A. develops by appreciating skilled police work and making sure it is not squandered in court. Then, of course, there is the fact that she was a beautiful woman and one of modern temperament. Carolyn, we know, got around.

Nearer the chapel the traffic is hopelessly congested. We stutter only a few feet before waiting for the cars ahead to disgorge passengers. The vehicles of the very important — limousines with official plates, press people looking for spaces nearby — clog the way with bovine indifference. The broadcast reporters in particular obey neither local ordinance nor the rules of common civility. The Minicam van of one of the stations, complete with its rooftop radar dish, is parked on the sidewalk directly in front of the open oak doors of the chapel, and a number of reporters are working the crowd as if they were at a prizefight, thrusting microphones at arriving officials.

"Afterward," Raymond says, as he bulls through the press horde that encircles the car as soon as we finally reach the curb. He explains that he is going to make some remarks in eulogy which he will repeat again outside. He pauses long enough to pet Stanley Rosenberg from Channel 5. Stanley, as usual, will get the first interview.

Paul Dry, from the mayor's staff, is motioning to me. His Honor, it seems, would like a word with Raymond before the service begins. I relay the message just as Horgan is pulling free of the reporters. He makes a face — unwisely, for Dry can certainly see it — before he walks off with Paul, disappearing into the gothic dark of the church. The mayor, Augustine Bolcarro, has the character of a tyrant. Ten years ago, when Raymond Horgan was the hot face in town, he almost ran Bolcarro out of office. Almost. Since losing that primary, Raymond has made all the appropriate gestures of fealty. But Bolcarro still feels the ache of his old wounds. Now that it is, at last, Raymond's turn to endure a contested primary, the mayor has claimed that his party role demands neutrality and he has designed to withhold the party's endorsement as well. Clearly he is enjoying watching Raymond struggle on his own toward shore. When Horgan finally hits the beach, Augie will be the first to greet him, saying he knew Raymond was a winner all along.

Copyright 1987 Scott Turow

ISBN: 9780141049212
ISBN-10: 0141049219
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 432
Published: 28th April 2010
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 13.4  x 2.6
Weight (kg): 19.5