CBA Record July-August 2020
REVIEWS, REVIEWS, REVIEWS! TurowBrings BackDefense Attorney Sandy Stern in Latest Legal Thriller
I n May 2020, Scott Turow published his latest Kindle County novel, “The Last Trial.” This book, like every novel that Turow has written, features Sandy Stern. Turow notes in the Acknowledgements: “I initially started writing about Sandy Stern in the mid-1980s, and he has appeared as a character, some- times center stage, usually in the background, in every novel I have published.” Turow first introduced us to Sandy in his 1987 book, Presumed Innocent , when Sandy is hired to defend a prosecutor accused of murdering his colleague. Stern is the central character inTurow’s second novel, The Burden of Proof , published in 1990 as a sequel of sorts to Presumed Innocent . With these two books, Turow rightly is credited with the creation of a new fiction genre, the legal thriller. In the ensuing 33 years, many have joinedTurow in the arena, but nobody has emerged to better him. He is a masterful writer and brings to life even topics that are not easily described, such as the central case in the current book. InTurow’s most recent work, Sandy Stern is working on his final case, which concerns a Nobel Prize–winning doctor who developed a cancer treatment that may have killed patients. There are accusations of insider trading and research data manipulation and even murder. As Turow writes: “For many reasons, the regulatory framework that governs the clinical testing and approval of new medica- tions is one of unrivalled complexity that makes even the Internal Revenue Code seem straightforward.” Yet, with Turow’s pen, the trial and its strategy become a page turner. Sandy is 85 years old and determines early on that he no longer has the stamina or abilities to try cases, so this will be his last trial. Working with his daughter, Marta, who also has decided that this will be her last trial, Sandy must deal with his health issues as well as with a
tight-lipped client and witnesses who may have other motives. As the book begins, Sandy has collapsed in the courtroom, and his granddaughter, Pinky, runs to get the defibrillator. When approached by his 78-year-old client, to whom “[h]e owes…his life,” Sandy tries to dissuade the doctor from retaining him and encourages the doctor to find someone younger. However: “He was distressed for Kiril but thrilled for himself. A lawyer called upon to salvage the entire social existence of a person formerly held in the highest esteem is like a sorcerer being asked to turn back time.” Turow mentions the concept of hearsay at one point, explaining the concept to the reader in terms that anyone can digest, then noting “Stern would estimate that at least a third of the judges before whom he’s tried cases don’t understand the hearsay rule thoroughly.” Woven into the trial are discussions about Sandy’s children and his two marriages, while also exploring humanity and values. At one point, after describing the difficult relationship Sandy has with his son, Peter, Turow writes: “So again, Sandy Stern confronts a fundamental truth of his existence: The law is humanity’s sanctuary, where we retreat from unreason. And humans need the law, because they need to believe there is some justice to their interactions…” With this book, we see the end of a charac- ter we have loved over the years, at least as the featured character. For while this might be Sandy Stern’s “last trial,” we read an interview that Turow gave ahead of the book’s publica- tion that he has begun on his next novel, this time focused on Sandy’s paralegal daughter, Pinky. We are glad that The Last Trial is not the last word from one of the great authors of our times, Scott Turow.
By Scott Turow Grand Central Publishing (2020) Reviewed by Daniel A. Cotter
Daniel A. Cotter is Attorney and Counsel at Howard & Howard Attorneys PLLC, a member of theCBARecordEditorial Board, and Past President of the CBA.
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