Nosing out the truth

This is my review of Identical by Scott Turow.

Cass Gianis is about to be released from his twenty-five year jail sentence for the murder of Dita, spoilt daughter of a wealthy Greek American tycoon, Zeus Kronon. This is bad timing for his identical twin brother Paul's campaign to be elected as Democrat mayor, not least because Dita's grief-stricken brother Hal, infuriated by his failure to stop the release, hits out with the damaging claim that Paul too "had a hand in Dita's murder".

As ever, Turow makes skilful use of legal knowledge to give an authentic ring to a story based on issues of court procedure, modern forensics and DNA. The complex plot twists will surprise even readers with a knack for working out the truth.

Despite finding this a page-turner, I was disappointed by the failure to develop the potential of an interesting drama based on a Greek myth it is best not to check out until the end. In view of his lifelong fascination with twins, Turow provides remarkably little exploration of the relationship between the identical Paul and Cass. Such focus is largely on investigators, former FBI special agent, now Hal's security manager, lesbian Evon Miller and the ageing private investigator Tim Brodie, haunted by the fear of what he might have missed in the murder case first time round. To place more of the "point of view" on the twins and Paul's wife Sofia would have made writing a greater challenge, since it would have been harder to maintain the mystery, but distancing us from these characters makes us care about them less. Why create such a subtle portrayal of minor player Judge Du Bois Lands who is anxious to prove his incorruptibility to the man who shopped his bribe-taking father, but omit do so for Paul and Cass?

Although I quite like the slick, hardboiled tone of American crime fiction, peppered with terms I don't quite understand, the jerky clunkiness of some of Turow's prose grated on me. The switching between first name and surname for minor characters is distracting – it took me a while to figure out that Mel and Tooney are the same person. Too much information is provided in rushed or condensed explanations. In a tale perhaps overloaded with characters, various members of the Kronon and Gianis families who are significant to the plot are reduced to caricatures or cyphers.

This may be one of those books that work better as a film. Did Turow have this in mind, when he created an order of scenes and often sharp dialogue readily adapatable to a filmscript?

⭐⭐⭐ 3 Stars

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