PAPERBACKS: Innocent reminds us how good Turow can be

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Twenty-odd years after he was accused (and acquitted) of the murder of a former lover, prosecutor-turned-judge Rusty Sabich is again put on trial -- this time, for killing his wife. Innocent (Vision, 542 pages, $11), by American Scott Turow, is as compelling and daring as its hugely popular predecessor, 1987's Presumed Innocent.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/02/2012 (4018 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Twenty-odd years after he was accused (and acquitted) of the murder of a former lover, prosecutor-turned-judge Rusty Sabich is again put on trial — this time, for killing his wife. Innocent (Vision, 542 pages, $11), by American Scott Turow, is as compelling and daring as its hugely popular predecessor, 1987’s Presumed Innocent.

The story here is at least as complex, and Rusty, who wasn’t the most likable guy in the first book, comes across as even more cold and self-absorbed — until we realize there’s a lot more going on in the shadows that we had suspected.

Turow, who lives in Illinois, has always been an elegant and crafty storyteller, but Innocent reminds us just how good he can be.

AP Scott Turow reminds us how good a writer he can be.

— — —

Speaking of crime, here’s In the Still of the Night (Pocket Books, 439 pages, $10), by Seattle’s Ann Rule. It’s the true story of a dead woman, her widow and the almost laughably flimsy claim that she took her own life.

Rule, as true-crime aficionados know, is one of the best writers in the genre, able to take what is essentially a gory story and turn it into something dramatic and moving.

Rule, who makes no secret of her own opinions here, focuses on the victim’s immediate family, and on the investigation into her death — which was, if the author’s portrayal of it is accurate (and she’s usually scrupulously accurate), flawed to the point of incompetence.

There is no tidy conclusion to the story — a recent jury ruling puts the investigation back to square 1 — but, as with most of Rule’s books, the story itself is so well told that you don’t mind that it’s open-ended.

— — —

The Woman in Black, the new movie starring Harry Potter actor Daniel Radcliffe, is based on the 1983 novel of the same name by British novelist Susan Hill. Vintage Hammer has reissued the book (200 pages, $14), and, if you’ve never read it, you really must.

It’s a ghost story that begins when Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer, is sent off to a remote part of England to sort out the estate of a recently deceased client of his firm.

The tiny town of Crythin Gifford seems like a homey enough place, until Arthur begins to catch glimpses of a pale, thin, sickly woman who, it seems, is visible only to him.

Hill writes in a visceral gothic style (“It was a yellow fog, a filthy, evil-smelling fog, a fog that choked and blinded, smeared and stained”), and her narrator, young Arthur himself, is a pleasant sort of fellow, not given to wild fantasy or over-dramatic behaviour.

When the story gets going, we are completely taken over by it, because we believe Arthur, and we believe this really happened to him. An exceedingly well-told tale.

— — —

The Fourth Wall (Orbit, 416 pages, $16), by New Mexico’s Walter Jon Williams, is a cracking good near-future adventure.

Dagmar Shaw, the game-designer heroine of some of the author’s previous stories, is here, but this time she doesn’t take centre stage. That belongs to Sean Makin, a former child actor whose career is on the skids.

When Shaw offers Sean the lead role in a big-budget series of movies, he doesn’t see how he could possibly turn it down. When the murders start, however, he wishes he had been a little bit more cautious.

This is an ambitious novel, blending elements of science fiction, thriller and Hollywood epic into one wildly inventive narrative. It’s the kind of genre-bender that you can spend a lot of time trying to describe, or you can simply say: go read it, right now.

Halifax freelancer David Pitt’s paperbacks column, which runs on the first weekend of the month, has appeared in this space since 1996.

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