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Monday, May 01, 2017

Testimony by Scott Turow

It has been a long time since I've read a book by Scott Turow, and I had forgotten how good his books can be.  Testimony is a complicated and complex novel.  Complicated because finding evidence and prosecuting war crimes often involves an intricate, convoluted maze that leads to unexpected discoveries.  Complex because of all of the human emotions and relationships involved.

This is not a courtroom drama, but the International Criminal Court's investigation of a war crime  makes Testimony a suspenseful legal thriller.  Bill Ten Boom, embarks on a new phase of his career when tasked with investigating an event that occurred ten years previously.  

During the turbulent conclusion of the Bosnian war, approximately 400 Roma disappeared from a refugee camp and none have been heard of since.  That much is beyond refute, but what happened to these people is still unknown.  No mass grave has been found, but friends and family members have not heard from any of the refugees from the camp in the ten years since that April night. The stories about the missing refugees are rife and opinions vary widely.  

Afraid of retaliation, the lone survivor of the camp, Ferko Rincic has only recently been persuaded to come forward to give his account.  Rincic testifies that he was in an outdoor privy when armed men in masks descended on the camp at midnight, herded the refugees into trucks, disgorged them into a cave, then set off an avalanche burying  the refugees alive.  In order for the ICC to prosecute the case, however, Ten Boom and his investigator Goos must discover evidence that the event actually happened.   

Only when factual evidence of the massacre is discovered, can the investigation move to determining who was responsible. 

There are plenty of twists and turns as Ten Boom and Goos plunge into a rabbit hole of partial information, deliberate deception, and inadvertent misconceptions.  Bosnia is still a dangerous place in 2015, and as Ten Boom and Goos investigate, their opinions about whom to believe and whom to trust change as the investigation progresses.  

(I wish Esme had been omitted from the plot; while she does offer more mystery, she really was not necessary and becomes a sort of side story.  Someone else could have been responsible for discovering Ferko Rincic.  She is my only quibble about the book--just a personal thing.) 

The information about the ICC in the Hague, the way the investigation is carried out, the aftermath of all of the ethnic violence in Bosnia, and the cover-ups --  make fascinating reading. This is another fine example of Turow's work, but it is also another of those uncomfortable novels that make us uneasy.  Black and white and shades of gray.

from the Author's Note:
"So how much of this is true?  Every novelist wants to answer that question the same way:  All of it--and none."
Turow says that none of the  characters represents "anyone who has lived" and that he altered actual occurrences  for dramatic effect, but he does list some of the sources of inspiration, often from Human Rights Watch Reports.  

Now, I have to go back and see if my library has copies of some of the books I've missed in the Kindle County series.

Read in February; blog post scheduled for May 1, 2017

NetGalley/Grand Central Publishing

Legal Thriller/Crime.   May 16, 2017.  Print version:  496 pages.


  1. I've not read a legal thriller for a while and this one sounds like an intriguing read with the complicatedness and complexity.

    1. I've always liked Scott Turow's books and this one was interesting on several levels!

  2. You had me at war crimes. I don't think I have read anything by Scott Turow. At least not that I can remember. I will have to add this one to my wish list. I think I would like it too.

    1. Presumed Innocent is probably the best known of his books. The film starred Harrison Ford. I've read a couple of his other books as well and enjoyed them.

  3. While court room thrillers aren't my favorites this sounds fascinating from a historical perspective. I can't remember if I've read anything by him or not.

    1. This wasn't really a courtroom drama, more of an active investigation of war crimes for the International Criminal Court. Plenty of action. :)