Based in part on the experience Scott Turow gained while working as a white-collar criminal defense counsel in Chicago, Illinois, The Burden of Proof employs a plot involving suicide and insider trading to explore the psyche of its protagonist, Sandy Stern. Narrated in the third person, The Burden of Proof consists of fifty chapters and is divided into three parts. Throughout the book, the reader shares Stern’s point of view. Although Turow uses flashbacks to illuminate Stern’s relationship with his wife, on the whole the plot advances in a linear fashion.
The Burden of Proof opens in a somewhat unorthodox fashion for a mystery, however, revealing in its first chapter that the pivotal event of the book, Clara Stern’s suicide, has already taken place before the action commences. As the book opens, Stern, who has just returned from a business trip, discovers his wife’s body slumped in the driver’s seat of her Cadillac in the garage, dead of asphyxiation. Stern, like his children and everyone else, has difficulty coming to terms with the apparent suicide of his upright, reserved, seemingly content wife. That Clara’s death was not accidental is confirmed when Stern finds a note in her handwriting that says, “Can you forgive me?” This enigmatic clue as to the reasons for her suicide is quickly followed by other equally ambiguous discoveries: Shortly before she killed herself, Clara wrote a check to an unknown payee that reduced almost to nothing Stern’s prospective share of her estate, and prior to her death, she had been taking medication for a venereal disease.
The scant evidence Clara leaves behind strongly suggests a desire to punish her husband. As the understated Stern tells a police officer investigating the suicide, “Lieutenant, it...
(The entire section is 739 words.)