The Burden of Proof

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Scott Turow’s last novel, PRESUMED INNOCENT, defense lawyer Alejandro Stern successfully defended prosecuting attorney Rusty Sabich (who has since become a judge) on a murder charge. Now, it is Stern’s world that is turned upside down, when his wife, Clara, commits suicide. Stern must face some of the same censure that Sabich did as he imagines people pointing at him and whispering about what he must have done to make Clara kill herself.

Soon, however, the gossip fades and Stern becomes just another eligible bachelor. He has problems adjusting to his new life, however, especially the sexual aspects of it. Work on an important case also demands his attention, as his brother-in-law, Dixon Hartnell, is in danger of being indicted before a grand jury on racketeering charges. As devoted to his sister, Sylvia, as he is, Stern is obsessed with not allowing any harm to come to Hartnell, even though Dixon is a brutal businessman.

THE BURDEN OF PROOF is not a sequel to PRESUMED INNOCENT, though Stern did appear in the latter. Rather, Turow has decided to concentrate on the development of Stern’s character to the exclusion of other PRESUMED INNOCENT characters (intriguingly, however, they do occasionally pop up in conversation). Turow gives most of the novel to Stern’s introspective musings rather than to the actual riddle of why Clara killed herself--though he does ultimately provide a satisfying solution both to that mystery and to the grand jury problems of Stern’s brother-in-law.


(The entire section is 619 words.)