Books

Scott Turow’s new book ‘Suspect’ displays the longtime Chicago author in ferocious form

CHICAGO — There is often comfort to be had in the familiar.

You can wear that old sweater. Grab a stool at your cozy corner tavern. Order the “usual” at your favorite restaurant. Call a friend from high school. Or you can pick up a book with the name Scott Turow on the cover.

You can do that now, as his latest novel is formally released and sits in piles at your neighborhood bookstore. Piles, because Turow has proven himself to be a reliable bestseller. When the piles vanish, more will arrive.

So, get one. You will be able to easily find “Suspect” (Grand Central Publishing) and across its 440-some pages you will find Turow in fine form. Comforting, yes, but also satisfyingly fresh and creative.

He has never been a flashy writer. As I have written before, “one of the admirable aspects of Turow’s work is that he is no showoff. As literate and smart as anyone in the writing biz, he is not given to fancy literary flourishes.”

But he will make you turn a book’s pages, so forceful is his plotting, so eye-popping its twists and surprises, and so colorful his characters. The star of this new novel is one we have met before.

Clarice “Pinky” Granum was in Turow’s previous novel, the terrific “The Last Trial” (Grand Central Publishing) in 2020. She was the granddaughter of one of Turow’s great characters, lawyer Alejandro “Sandy” Stern, who has been there since that initial blockbuster, 1990′s “Presumed Innocent,” in which Stern defended Rusty Sabich, the prosecutor accused of committing a murder in a case he was overseeing.

His books have arrived in a steady stream ever since, with Stern in roles large and small. Turow’s 11 bestsellers together have sold more than 30 million copies and there are movie versions of “The Burden of Proof,” “Innocent,” “Presumed Innocent” and “Reversible Errors.”

Turow has also found time and energy — don’t ask me how — to have a successful career as a lawyer who not only, as an assistant U.S. attorney, was lead counsel in the Operation Greylord trial but later, in private practice, helped free an innocent man from death row and worked pro bono for years on wrongful convictions and capital punishment reform.

He has also written nonfiction books, served as president of the Author’s Guild, occasionally plays music for charity with that band of famous novelists (Stephen King, Amy Tan and others) known as the Rock Bottom Remainders, and contributes op-ed pieces to a variety of publications.

Born in Chicago, raised in the northern suburbs and long living in Evanston, Illinois, his novel writing success has inspired a generation of attorneys to, so to speak, put pen to paper. Results have varied, with only a few finding Turow-like success and praise (John Grisham and David Ellis come most quickly to mind). As the Wall Street Journal has written, “Scott Turow set the gold standard for the modern legal thriller.”

In “The Last Trial” Pinky was, after overcoming a drugged-out youth, working as a paralegal for her grandfather’s law firm and “a frequently infuriating employee.” Sandy’s “love for his granddaughter exceeds his understanding,” but he still thinks that she “has a solid future as a private investigator.”

In reviewing that fine book, I wrote “I hope that Turow has more books to write. I am sure he does, and though it is presumptuous to suggest future work, he could not go wrong by expanding the character of Pinky, who is an appealingly complicated young woman.”

I take no credit for prompting her return, but in bringing her back in full color, Turow has created one of contemporary fiction’s most complicatedly arresting characters, one not easy to adore but one impossible to ignore.

She’s still quite a handful at 33, pierced and inked and working as a licensed private investigator for 52-year-old lawyer Rik Dudek, mostly on nickel-and-dime cases, bar fights and such.

Now, they’ve got a big one, handling the troubles for police chief Lucia Gomez-Barrera, who has been accused by three officers of trading sex for promotions.

It would be unfair to give away too many of the turns that this case takes. That is one of Turow’s great gifts, managing the action in a forceful fashion.

But I will tell you that Gomez-Barrera is a fascinating and finely drawn character and those three officers are a nasty bunch. Adding to this mix is a strange neighbor, mixed sexual signals from old lovers and new ones, scandals, and crimes aplenty.

One can sense the fun Turow must have had writing this, returning to fictional Kindle County, which bears an unmistakable, welcome resemblance to Chicago and Cook County. He is comfortable there and knows the territory, a place that contains dark sides teeming with secrets and sins.

And it comes as a pleasant surprise to again see Sandy Stern. He’s no longer practicing law and is in assisted living. But he has a lady friend and sees Pinky every week. He loves her and she loves him. As she tells us in “Suspect, “I’m not sure I believe in the afterlife or mediums, but somewhere in my inner fibers I’m sure he’ll be showing up long after he’s gone, when I really need him.”

Here’s hoping.

©2022 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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This story was originally published September 28, 2022 4:30 AM.

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