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Turow’s sixth Dickensian legal-eagle melodrama reminds us forcibly that ‘Scott Turow is to John Grisham as Dashiell Hammett is to Mickey Spillane – pros vs. amateurs.

Oddly this solid novel, also somewhat stolid, Turow has abandoned the frisky sense of humour that kept his fifth book PERSONAL INJURIES afloat, was panned in THE NEW YORK TIMES on Oct.29 and raved over on Nov.03.

The truth about it lies somewhere in between these two extremes. PERSONAL INJURIES was a truly compellingly vivid novel that almost leapt off the page as its protagonist ‘Robbie Feaver’ was an unstoppable force of nature, a mover and a shaker of dubious ethics. In REVERSIBLE ERRORS the hero ‘Arthur Raven’ is a nondescript late 30s shrinking-violet and male wallflower – shy dogged and devoted to his sister, a deep-dish schizophrenia sufferer.

Plodding and pathetic in his romantic delusions Arthur perseveres in the defence of the mixed-breed mongrel half-wit accused of slaying three in the "Fourth of July Massacre" at an American-Greek greasy spoon in 1991. When the death-row inmate is given a second trial in 2001 Arthur has to contend with the wily ‘Muriel Wynn’,who prosecuted the original case, and her ex-lover and sidekick – or is it co-conspirator ? police detective ‘Larry Starczek’ .
Or was this double-dealing duo right about the accused in the first place ?

Turow’s virtues as a popular novelist of the first-rank rest upon his incisive portrayals of a gallery of plausible personalities and upon his acute unforgiving depiction of the contradictions with contemporary U.S. society.Its monstrous legal and economic inequalities, growing larger and more counter-productive every day under the Bush regimen. The rich get greedier and the poor more desperate.A born storyteller within this niche of fiction Turow is entirely predictable in his humanism purveying comfort-food fiction for the masses.That is the role of today’s genre literature and he puts the wimpy Grisham’s efforts to shame.

© Alex Grant November 2002

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