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Legal thrillers often veer between the demands of plot and the nuances of the law --- too much of the former interferes with what makes a story compelling and memorable. Scott Turow has always walked a little closer to nuance than many of his peers. In TESTIMONY, he adds yet another layer of complexity: the story is set in present-day Europe, but refers back to events that took place more than a decade earlier.

An American lawyer, Bill ten Boom (the name is Dutch), leaves his career and family in Kindle County to accept a position on the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Charged with prosecuting cases against humanity, the ICC is investigating the disappearance of 400 Roma during the Bosnian war, and Boom, with the help of an improbably named Australian, Goos, must examine the claims of the one surviving witness to determine who massacred them. The potential murderers include organized crime gangs, the Serbian militia led by a notorious thug with the “Rasputin gleam,” Laza Kajevic, and the American Army.

"...much of the book is a fascinating analysis of the tangled loyalties and enmities that propelled the war..."

A thoughtful and introspective man, Boom nevertheless soon finds himself in bed with Esma Czarni, the Roma lawyer who represents the witness Ferko, thereby compromising the entire investigation. Ironically, before moving to The Hague, Boom had met Layton Merriwell, the major general in charge of the US troops during the war, and saw from his experience --- “Merry” had an inappropriate relationship after which he humiliated himself in an effort to win her back --- exactly what price lust can exact. There are several instances in this book where a character takes one path that another chooses to avoid, or whose journey has a very different outcome. Turow seems to argue that one’s nature --- not reasons or experience --- determines both the path and the outcome.

Tracking down the truth to the Roma's disappearance brings with it danger, the severing of longtime friendships, and the unearthing of numerous falsehoods, false identities and organized cover-ups. Given a plot that takes the reader from Kindle to The Hague, Bosnia, DC and London, it’s at times exhausting to have to keep up with the plot twists along with the locales. Also, Boom’s personal life gets increasingly complicated when he decides to look into his own parents’ secretive past.

The denouement of this long novel unfolds on the last pages and delivers on almost every front. Still, though much of the book is a fascinating analysis of the tangled loyalties and enmities that propelled the war, reading it requires a focus that seems at times a bit too much like work.

Reviewed by Lorraine W. Shanley on May 19, 2017

by Scott Turow

  • Publication Date: February 27, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455553530
  • ISBN-13: 9781455553532