Personal Injuries, by Scott Turow
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola
This was the first time I'd read a novel by Turow. I had read his
non-fiction work before, and was impressed. Now I understand how me made
his non-fiction so compelling--he's a solid writer who understands, and
deftly uses, the elements of fiction (and non-fiction, for that matter).
Turow writes as though he's never heard of formula
books, one-dimensional characters, ghosts in the machine, or the other
slop that characterizes so much of today's fiction.
I like a good plot, and Turow surely delivered on
that score by giving this novel several twists that kept the story
moving at a fast pace. The various plot nuances were delightful.
I like Tom Clancy novels because the technical detail
is excellent--Turow delivers in that department, as well. I made a point
of checking his credits at the end of the book, just because he kept
getting these things right.
When an author fails to get these things right, you
end up with things like The DaVinci Code, which leave any
informed reader feeling cheated and lied to. Even many purported
non-fiction works, such as Kurzweil's Fantastic Voyage, are
filled with disinformation that ruins the book for any reader who has
had enough interest in the subject to have read about it already.
When an author takes the approach of a Clancy or
Turow and presents a novel that is well-researched, the reader gets a
triple bonus when that novel also exhibits tight writing and a gripping
But what most sets this book apart is the complex way
the characters interact--turning that triple bonus into a quadruple
bonus. We follow Robbie Feaver throughout the story, initially seeing
him as an opportunistic lawyer who uses the system to cheat.
We then see him as a coward who rats out on his friends. But as the book progresses,
we see those initial impressions are just part of his facade and that
deep down his sole motivation is to protect the people he loves. The way
he deceives various other characters initially gives you the impression
he's a master at deception--until we see other deceptions that fool even
him. He's the perfect character for the multi-layered plot. The story
seems to be about Feaver--yet when you finish the book, you have to
wonder if that was the case at all.
Maybe the story was about another character, a female
FBI agent assigned to stick to Feaver like glue and watch his every
move. Evon Miller is as complex as Robbie, and we find that she--like
Robbie-- is full of secrets that make this book a powerful story. A
half-dozen other characters bring their own star power to the story, and
each of them provides at least one surprise.
An interesting thing about this book is it brings up
several moral and legal issues, without ever preaching to the reader or
having the characters "do the right thing." Instead, the characters
react to those issues in their own way--thus creating much of the
page-turning tension this book provides.