Presumed Innocent by Scott Turrow

PresumedInnocent by Scott Turrow

Literaryworks have always been important for the growth and development ofthe city in both the contemporary and traditional human societies.Indeed, a large proportion of growth and change may be attributed toliterary works of varied types, which are often based on the societyin which the authors live and are usually aimed at underlining thevaried ills and negative elements that cripple the dynamicity of thesociety. Once highlighted, they would then call for action from theindividuals in the society, which could revolve around changing theirmentality or even going beyond their fears and standing against theiroppressors. More often than not, it has been well acknowledged thatthere are themes that are more prevalent than others in literaryworks. These could include romance, betrayal, murder and love amongothers. This is the case for Scott Turrow’s mystery novel “PresumedInnocent”,which was written at a time when it tradition in America to writecrime novels. This novel launched Turow’s writing career as one ofthe most pre-eminent thriller writers in America. The novel beginswith the brutal murder of Carolyn Polhemus, who was a successfulgovernment lawyer in her flat. It was apparent that Carolyn had beentied up, sexually abused and then killed using a savage blow to herhead. Like a large number of murder cases, the crime does not haveany obvious suspects, although it is well known that Carolynincorporated numerous ways of making enemies particularly as a resultof her job. Since she was a government prosecutor, she had the taskof presenting government cases against a large number of criminals incourt, thereby facilitating their being incarcerated. In essence, itis thought that any of the former criminals or felons could have comeback with the sole aim of revenging. On the same note, it is wellacknowledged that her love life could also have endangered her. Shehas been an independent woman who had an easy-going attituderegarding sex, in which case she could have been murdered by anindividual that she met in a bar or a jealous ex-boyfriend.Essentially, Rusty Sabich, a prosecutor who was also working inCarolyn’s department is takes up the solving of the case. As hetried to do this, he becomes immensely entangled into the deep andstrange secrets pertaining to Carolyn’s life. However, the mostdevastating secret is the fact that he also used to be Carolyn’slover, a secret that shines the light inevitably at his life. Thisdirects the finger of suspicion in his direction.

Perhapsone of the major strengths of the book is the alignment of the storywith the fullness and reality of the world, while still managing tocreates compelling and supremely suspenseful works. Indeed, scholarshave acknowledge that the book managed to hold the reader’sattention as a result of the fullness, as well as reality pertainingto the world that Turow managed to create (Pederson andBenbow-Pfalzgraf 42). This is a distinguishing factor in the novel,particularly considering that few books of law manage to reveal theinner workings of the same, its logic, drama and psychology, withsuch an immense magnitude of intelligence and verisimilitude or evenmanage to bring to life such memorable and rich characters (Pedersonand Benbow-Pfalzgraf 87).

Inaddition, it is evident that the writer manages to create a literarywork that is in line with the realities of the contemporary Americansociety. Indeed, the world pertaining to Kindle County has numeroussubtle moral shadings, as well as fierce and conflicting loyalties.It is a world in which truth is generally cloudy, while guilt comesas an almost universal burden (Pederson and Benbow-Pfalzgraf 56).This comes out clearly in the title which resonates well withmeaning, that there exists no real innocence rather it is only apresumption of the same. While this may be a legal term, it alsocomes as an acknowledgement pertaining to the ineffability that comeswith human motive and, essentially, the difficulty of establishingclear-cut decisions and judgments regarding culpability ofindividuals (Mote 54).

Ofcourse, some readers may find the book as comprising of immenselyflawed storytelling particularly with regard to the fact that theresolution of the novel incorporates a troubling moral ambiguity.However, this should be seen as one of the author’s expertrenditions pertaining to verisimilitude (MacDonald and Macdonald 78).Indeed, Turow manages to forge the identification of the reader withthe protagonist, which, coupled with the insightful characterizationof legal colleagues of Sabich and the immense sense that he conveyspertaining to being present in the courtroom come off as the mostsatisfying and brilliant contributions of the novel to the literarycrime classic (MacDonald and Macdonald 82).

Oneof the major conversations that comes out in the novel must be theone between Barbara and Rusty. In the initial chapters, Rustyrecounts that “I told her about the affair…she keeps herselfapart from me in anger” (Turow 9). The fundamental aspect of thisstatement is the fact that it arouses the suspicion of the reader tothe possibility that the murder may actually not have been committedby Rusty but by any another person who may have been feeling thatCarolyn was stealing Rusty’s love and attention from her. In thiscase, Rusty’s wife would be among the main suspects in the novelbut in keeping with the title of the book, she is still presumedinnocent until evidence can be found implicating her for the crime(Gray 71). This comes to be a few years after the case has turnedcold and relegated to the “unsolved case” files, when Rusty comesacross a small crowbar that has hair and blood on it, which heimmediately realizes to be Carolyn’s. Rusty, however, goes ahead towash the tool and even confront Barbara about the crime andeventually she admits to the crime and relates how she did it, aswell as the reason for the same, which in this case is that Rusty wascheating on her with Carolyn.

Inconclusion, Scott Turow’s “PresumedInnocent”exemplifies the reality of the world of law, where deceit comes offas necessary and universal among all people. Perhaps the majorstrengths of the book is the fact that the book comes with a healthydose of suspense, twists and turns that would normally characterizeAmerican contemporary realities. It lays emphasis on the fact that itis difficult to determine or make clear cut judgments regarding theculpability of individuals rather one has to look at the finerdetails before making any decisions.


Gray,Paul. Who killed Carolyn Polhemus? Presumed Innocent”Time,20thJuly 1987: 71

MacDonald,Gina and Macdonald Andrew F. ScottTurow: A critical companion. Greenwood Press,2005. Print

Mote,Dave. Contemporary Popular Writers. Detroit: St James Press, 1996.Print

Pederson,Jay P and Benbow-Pfalzgraf, Taryn. StJames Guide to Crime and Mystery Writers. Detroit:St. James Press 1996, Print.

Turow,Scott.&nbspPresumedInnocent.NewYork: Routledge. 1986. Print


Literaryworks and contemporary human society

Commonthemes and how the novel fits in.

of the novel

Strengthsof the novel

Intensesuspense in the novel

Alignmentof the novel with the reality and capacity to recreate reality


Flawedmoral ambiguity


Howthe conspicuous conversation aligns itself to the title of the bookand the overall theme.