Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow knocked my socks off when I first read it. And I wasn't the only one. I've read a couple of his other novels that while I thought they were good, they didn't even remotely compare to the truly great read of Presumed Innocent.
I just picked up his latest novel, Identical, and I can't really recommend it, even though parts of it are nicely done. The DNA stuff is great, as are the political power plays in what is obviously a Chicago-like setting, and, no surprise, he really shines when describing courtroom scenes. But the story itself has far too many twists and turns, so many that at some point the story loses its credibility. So much of the story hangs on an initially inept police investigation of a murder, but then we have the same investigator revisiting this crime, and while he seems to have made a number of pretty lame mistakes the first go around, twenty-five years later, he seems to the one guy who has the smarts to solve this crime. Huh?
Also, the characterizations are extreme and over the top. The murder victim isn't just a bitch, she is a bitch on steroids. The aunt isn't just earthy and matter of fact, she's a little bizarre. The detective is fantastic at what he does. Add a gratuitous lesbian relationship that had nothing to do with the story and seemed to be shoehorned in an attempt at being politically correct, and we have a mishmash of characters that all have a story but none of these stories move the novel forward. And, of course, then there are the twins and their dynamic.
I didn't buy much of the "reveal." It felt tacked on and was played out far too long as Turow tried to stuff this book with a bunch of personal stories. Part of the problem is that one of the most dynamic characters in the book is dead, and all we are left with is hearsay about him. Turow tries to address this issue (and that of the murder victim) with flashback scenes that only partially work. Another problem is that crime novels work best when we identify with both the killer and the victim. In this case, neither the victim or the murderer deserve any sympathy, so the reveal falls flat.
But I think the most glaring problem with this book is that it is written from an omniscient point-of-view. I've never been a big fan of omniscient POV for the very reason that undermines this book. You have all these different characters with different backstories and none of it works as a whole. I can't really say that there is a theme to this novel other than a seemingly strange fascination with twins. Initially it seems like a novel about family, then we have a brief foray into a novel about marriage, and then God knows where it goes because none of these individual stories lean against a core theme. It's like Turow found the dynamic between twins fascinating and then crafted a crime novel around them.
Read Presumed Innocent. It's a great book.