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Socialist Review, December 1993

Judith Orr


Cops and robbers

From Socialist Review, No. 170, December 1993.
Copyright © Socialist Review.
Copied with thanks from the Socialist Review Archive.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

Pleading guilty
Scott Turow
Viking £15.99

This latest novel by the author of Presumed Innocent and Burden of Proof takes us for another adventure into the nether world of the American legal system. This time we see it through the eyes of Alcoholics Anonymous member Mack Malloy, a 50-ish Irish ex-cop turned corporate lawyer who is past his peak. His future in the company depends on him finding his partner Bert, who has apparently done a runner with $5.6 million of the major client’s money.

His search takes him from the grimy Russian baths on New York’s West Side, where deals are struck around the steaming coals, to the sunshine paradise of a little known Latin American tax haven. As he gets pulled deeper into an underworld of secret bank accounts, big time gambling and the obligatory stiff he bumps into his one-time partner in the force, Pigeyes.

There is no love lost between them as Pigeyes still has a score to settle and has the policeman’s knack of being totally unconcerned about the contradiction of investigating corruption while being deeply involved in practising it.

Mack is disdainful of the values of his circle – financial greed and self preservation – yet is sorely tempted too. His personal anxieties are less interesting than his sharp and ultimately damning descriptions of this world where legal and illegal transactions conveniently blur.

His language is crude, cynical and self deprecating but never dull. He prefers to refer to his 18-year-old son as the ‘Loathsome Child’ ‘... he was my only kid and his insular ways as a little boy had led me to refer to him with what I thought was tenderness as the lonesome child. When adolescence set in, however, the consonants migrated.’

The plot has enough twists to keep you guessing to the final pages. This is one of those unputdownable books that you both want to get to the end of yet regret it’s finished when you do! Watch out for the paperback edition and the inevitable big screen adaptation.

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