Friday, October 25, 2013

Identical: Book Review

I wonder what it is like to have written a perfect book, and then sit down to write another.  My guess is that it is very difficult.

Scott Turow's Presumed Innocent is as good as courtroom dramas can be.  The movie does not do it justice and changes the ending subtly but significantly--and for the worse.  The book keeps you guessing with characters who are real and multifaceted. It is just a great book which not only tells a tale but makes you look at yourself and our own professed innocence.  Turow has written several novels since his first.  One, The Laws of our Fathers, is excellent as well.

Identical, Scott Turow's most recent book, is not in the same league as his best novels. It is a page turner--the kind of book I lug wherever I go in case I have a moment or two.  (I turned the sound down in the ball games and read between football plays, so that is a sign of something positive).  But my sense as of right now is that it is missing more than something.

The book is about twins, and a murder.  One of the twins at the start of the book proper is coming out of jail after having served a twenty plus year sentence for killing his girlfriend.  The brother of the victim however believes there is more to the story and thinks the other twin was involved. The novel is centered on the victim's brother's attempt to discover what really took place on the night his sister was killed.

I am not very good at sleuthing out "whodunnit" but I got this right away. That, in and of itself, is not such a negative.  But there is more. As the reader sees how the puzzle "fits" one is likely to acknowledge that the puzzle couldn't really fit that way.  There were too many impossibilities. That is, too many times one would say that it was impossible that the events could have happened the way the author suggests.

I don't know if the author intended this, but one thing that popped into my head yesterday was that perhaps the author wanted the end to be as predictable as it was.  The twins are Greeks. Nearly all the characters in the story are Greek. Turow refers to Greek tragedies in a number of ways.  The Greek tragedies are often very predictable.

The nature of we humans is such that people behave in ways that reflect that we are flawed. The behavior that follows from these flaws is painful and destructive, but--because we are human and love-- it is inevitable that we will do things that result in tragedy. This is what happens in the book.  Nearly all the Greek characters behave in ways that reflect that they are human and the result is pain and death.

My recommendation: I was looking for a fast read when I picked the book up. If you like Scott Turow, you will find this fast and enjoyable.  It does not rank with his best. I think you will find yourself saying, this could not have happened this way when you finish the novel.

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