“Personal Injuries”

Writing at the top of his game in a thriller about the corruption of the courts, the author delves deeper into character than he ever has before.

Topics: Books,

Lawyer-turned-writer Scott Turow caught the elusive bubble of fame in 1987 with
the publication of “Presumed Innocent,” an intense, taut mystery narrated by a first-person, morally ambiguous attorney. Set in fictional Kindle County, clearly a stand-in for Cook County (where Turow still practices law), that novel practically invented the late 20th century genre of the legal thriller. (John Grisham gets some credit as well, but Grisham — an earnest, plodding moralist with an acute feel for the American hatred of large law firms and corporations — has inspired fewer imitators.) After two middling follow-ups, “The Burden of Proof” (1990) and “Pleading Guilty” (1993), Turow again fulfilled his potential with “The Laws of Our Fathers” (1996), a thriller that evoked the streets and straits of the urban ghetto with a darkness that few novelists from outside the ghetto would even attempt.

Now, with “Personal Injuries,” again set in his favorite county of the imagination, Turow turns to a new topic: the casual corruption that can infect a big city’s court system. The novel marks a watershed for Turow: All the legal twists and turns are still there, but this time the author focuses his fullest attention on character, scene and subplot. His Kindle County is an urban milange of venal court clerks, self-righteous prosecutors, corrupt cops and judges who sit on the bench only because they once knew the right politician. It’s an almost Dickensian fictional world — and indeed, on his Web site Turow calls Dickens a “profound influence” who “created robust characters without giving up his principal mission as a storyteller.” (His other major influence, he says, is fellow urban chronicler and Chicagoan Saul Bellow.)

You Might Also Like

Into this morally compromised environment Turow drops Robbie Feaver, a personal-injury lawyer who has been bribing judges for years. The name is pronounced as in “Do me a favor,” Feaver quickly tells us, and that phrase just about sums up his legal career. Cornered at last by prosecutors and the FBI, who persuade him that his only way of avoiding prison is to wear a wire, Feaver makes his tortuous way through a labyrinth of corruption as he and the feds try to trap the elusive leader of the bribery ring. An inveterate womanizer, a nonstop wisecracker and a man with plenty in his past to hide, Feaver still retains his unshakable sense of loyalty and his own style of fidelity to his wife, Lorraine, who is slowly dying of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The novel intertwines three tales: of Robbie’s adventures as an undercover agent in an extremely elaborate sting; of FBI agent Evon Miller’s transformation after she is assigned to keep an eye on him; and of Lorraine’s slow, sad deterioration. As the three strands come together toward the end, each character deepens and grows in humanity.

The book doesn’t pack much mystery, though. Once the main action is under way and Feaver, wired for sight and sound, has set out among the judges and the courtroom lackeys, there are few surprises. But “Personal Injuries” succeeds as a long look at a world where greed, sloth and lust hold sway despite the efforts of some good men and women.

Jonathan Groner is an editor at Legal Times in Washington.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>