Carolyn Polhemus, a beautiful, highly ambitious lawyer working with the prosecuting attorney’s office in a large Midwestern city, is well loved by her colleagues--too well loved, according to persistent rumors. When she is found strangled in her fashionable apartment, apparently the victim of brutal rape, city officials vow to bring the murderer to justice as quickly as possible. Her boss, Prosecuting Attorney Raymond Horgan, decides that he is too busy campaigning for reelection to become actively involved and turns the case over to his right-hand man, Rusty Sabich, Sabich welcomes the assignment. Six months earlier he had been secretly engaged in a romance with Carolyn; he knows that a routine investigation will uncover his fingerprints throughout the victim’s apartment and find his telephone number in her little black book. Rusty fears that any reminder of his affair will infuriate his moody wife, Barbara, who has already threatened to divorce him. To avoid a confrontation, he decides to suppress any evidence connecting him with Carolyn. Horgan’s political opponents learn of the cover-up, however, and Rusty suddenly finds himself the number-one suspect in the case.
Although Sabich narrates the story, he never offers a convincing alibi, and the reader is not informed about what really happened on the night of the murder. The evidence against him is overwhelming, but, during the course of the trial, it becomes obvious that Rusty was by no means the only city official who Carolyn seduced and compromised. In fact, the more one learns about Carolyn, the more likely it seems that her death may have been simply the unexpected outcome of an evening of kinky sex.
Scott Turow, a lawyer himself and author of the nonfiction best-seller ONE L, demonstrates an easy mastery of several fictional genres in the first novel. PRESUMED INNOCENT combines elements of the police procedural, the courtroom drama, and the psychological thriller; it is filled with memorable characters, believable dialogue, and unexpected twists of plot. In short, this is popular fiction at its very best.