Monday, June 8, 2009

Scott Turow: Reversible Errors

Guest Review by Kit Bradley
May 25, 2009

I don’t seem to settle on a favorite type of book, so this time it’s a legal thriller. I’d read Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow years ago, and I was a little surprised to find Turow’s Reversible Errors on my to-read bookshelf recently. It has a sticker on the back identifying it as an “ Bargain Book.” It must have caught my eye once. Well, fortunately it was a good read!

I’ve read a few complex novels with dozens of characters and multiple story lines, where I sure wished the book included a summary of the significant characters. (Some Neil Stephenson novels come to mind.) Well, Reversible Errors has only one story and only a handful of characters, but they are all listed just ahead of page 1. So there’s no excuse for forgetting who Genevieve is! Actually there is one character missing from the list. I wondered why for quite a while.

In summary, Rommy Gandolph was sentenced to death for a triple murder in 1991, and in 2001 he is making his very last appeal. Arthur Raven has been court-appointed to represent Gandolph, and Gillian Sullivan, the judge in the 1991 trial, gets involved, but not in that role. On the other side, Muriel Wynn, the prosecutor in 1991, and Larry Starczek, the detective who arrested Gandolph in 1991, come back to defend the original conviction.

As the story unfolds, Erno Erdai, another convict who knew Gandolph in 1991, comes forward at the last minute and asserts Gandolph is innocent. But do you believe someone like Erdai? The story takes us step by step through revelations from the various characters that help us learn what actually happened on that Fourth of July night in 1991 when three people were murdered. It’s a good story with a reasonable (albeit not “thrilling”) ending.

But wait, that’s perhaps less than half of the excitement and tension in Reversible Errors. The observant reader might have noted I listed two male/female pairs above – Arthur and Gillian on the defense side, and Muriel and Larry on the prosecuting side. Aha, will there be chemistry between them? Arthur has always been sort of geeky and unsuccessful in relating with women. Gillian has personal problems that have kept her out of relationships. Muriel and Larry have been hot for each other for years, but Muriel has ambitions and married a man that will help her succeed. And Larry has a faithful and overly patient wife. Did they or will they make the right choices?

The attraction between Arthur and Gillian, and Muriel and Larry, builds as the story goes on, and often overshadows the fate of poor Gandolph. Eventually we reach two emotional climaxes, each quite different in style and outcome. And then their lives go on, either on new paths or on the same old paths. You’ll have to read the book to see if Gandolph’s life goes on.

It’s a good story. The characters are well developed and act out their roles as you’d expect. You get to think like a cop, and like a lawyer, and like a prosecutor, and sometimes like a judge. I’ll read more Turow novels if they come my way. (And now I’m going to quickly read Angels and Demons while it’s still timely! It’s been sitting on my to-read shelf for quite a while.)