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Saturday, June 3, 2017


5 stars out of 5

Warning: If you're bothered by settings in war-torn countries, or refuse to believe (even when it's mostly fiction) that the U.S. Government is capable of wrongdoing, or don't like endings that may not bring total closure, this probably isn't the book for you. On top of that, I dare anybody to speed read through this one; it took me the better part of five days to finish, although in fairness, we were enjoying the company of a house guest for two of those days and I barely was able to finish half a dozen chapters then. And that brings up another point: Don't even think about zipping through this one. It's as close to tedious reading as I've seen in a while although, as evidenced by my 5-star rating, well worth the effort.

Although he's written a number of best-sellers, this is my first Scott Turow novel. And based on other reviews, it sounds as if it deviates from the courtroom-focused work (almost none of the action takes place there) - so I suppose some who are more familiar with his past work than I might disagree with my very positive opinion. To be sure, there's a court involved - the International Criminal Court in The Hague, where lead character, former prosecutor Bill Ten Boom, has been chosen to take on prosecution of whoever is responsible for the massacre of some 400 men, women and children in a Roma Refugee camp in Bosnia in 2004. That prosecution, however, depends on first determining not only who did the dirty deed, but whether or not the deed actually happened.

"Boom," as he's called, arrives with some baggage of his own; Now 2015, at age 50, he's without a wife, has two grown sons with whom he has a somewhat shaky relationship, and in many ways, he's looking for some direction in his life and hoping to find it here. A survivor of the massacre, himself a bit on the shady side, claims that heavily armed men showed up in the middle of the night and forced the Gypsy residents - refugees from Bosnia - into trucks that dropped them off in a nearby cave with instructions to stay put. After the trucks took off for parts unknown, the cave suddenly exploded - burying all the refugees. The survivor, a man named Ferko Rincic, reluctantly agrees to provide testimony before the court as to what happened.

Ferko is assisted by a drop-dead gorgeous attorney named Esme Czarni, who claims to have come from Gypsy stock. As Boom and his team of experts begin to gather evidence, they begin to suspect there's much more going on than anyone - including top muckity-mucks in the U.S. government - is willing to admit. The investigation takes Boom far from the courtroom, including to Bosnia and Washington, D.C., and puts him directly in the sights of the very dangerous and elusive Laza Kajevic, a Bin Laden-type character who once led the Bosnian Serbs and remains in hiding as a most-wanted war criminal.

I'd say the whole thing is a merry chase, except that there's not much merry about it (well, I'm overlooking a couple of Boom's fairly graphic but seemingly mutually enjoyable liaisons with a couple of lovely ladies). In the end, all the details are pretty well sorted out - none of which I can reveal, of course, leaving me no option besides referring you to my first-paragraph caveats and saying that I'm really glad I read it. 

Testimony by Scott Turow (Grand Central Publishing, May 2017); 497 pp.

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