About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Testimony by Scott Turow

(21. – 951.) Testimony by Scott Turow - I have been thinking about Testimony since it was published last year. I even gave a copy to my son, Michael, for Christmas. I was finally prompted to read the book when it was chosen for the 2018 shortlist for the Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. I wish I had read the book sooner.

Any book featuring a 54 year old trial lawyer as the prime character is bound to appeal to me.

At 50 Bill ten Boom, known as Boom, started walking away from his wife and his partnership in a large mid-American law firm. His departure was eased by the millions he made as a partner and the millions he inherited from his parents.

After a 4 year transition he is ready to try retirement but he is recruited by Roger Clewey, an old college friend who is almost certainly a member of an American intelligence agency by the vagueness of his government position, to become a prosecutor at the International Crimes Court in the Hague, Netherlands.

More specifically he will be tasked with the investigation of an alleged mass killing of 400 Roma in Bosnia in 2004 approximately 10 years after the civil war there had concluded. It is alleged as no bodies have been found. No one, beyond Roma advocacy groups, has investigated the disappearance of the 400 Roma. If there was mass murder and the perpetrators can be identified Boom will lead the prosecution at the trial.

Complicating the process is the unwillingness of America, which fears being drawn into international criminal courts, to aid in the investigation. Indeed, there is The Hague Invasion Act which includes a provision prohibiting any level of American government or government agency from providing information to the Court. The American military clearly has relevant information as the killings took place within a few miles of a major American army base.

Complicating Boom’s work is the lovely and dramatic Esma. An English lawyer she is a staunch advocate for the Roma people. Withdrawing from representing a Roma witness allows her to fulfill her physical desire for Boom. Her passion is reciprocated by the generally reserved Boom.

Within the investigation are layers of intrigue with regard to the reliability of forensic evidence. Turow writes so well about scientific evidence. He makes interesting such subjects as the study of the minerals absorbed by buried bones being compared to the minerals in soil specimens from where the bones were buried.

The Roma have been victims for hundreds of years. They are consistently reviled throughout Europe. The prejudice against them is intense enough to make credible that there are multiple groups who might have committed mass murder. Boom is repeatedly told the Roma are liars and thieves. It is clear their only loyalty is to the Roma community.

Could it be that 40 years after the My Lai massacre by American forces in Vietnam that a contemporary American unit could have killed the Roma? I admit I wanted the American soldiers to be innocent.

The leading suspects are followers of the former Bosnian Serb leader, Laza Kajevic. The charismatic Kajevic was clearly inspired by the real life Radovan Karadzic down to the silver streak in his elaborate hair.

Boom’s investigation is thorough. At the same time surprises await at each step.

The Balkans have been complicated for a long time. There are fierce rivalries that have endured for centuries. Boom is an honourable man in a land of treachery and deceit.

He believes in an international criminal court bringing to justice those who have committed crimes against humanity. When a colleague skeptically questions convictions deterring any future international mass murderers he states: 

      "How's this, Goos? I know this much: Justice is good. I accept 
      the value of testimony, of letting victims be heard. But 
      consequences are essential. People can't believe in civilization
      without being certain that a society will organize itself to do 
      what it can to make wrongs right. Allowing the slaughter of
      four hundred innocents to go unpunished demeans the lives 
      each of us leads. It's that simple."

The challenge in Testimony is proof. Testimony in court can be compelling but is the evidence of a massacre true?

Turow has written among the rarest of thrillers. There are complex facts. The body count is low. Challenging legal and societal issues are addressed. The characters, including Boom are multi-dimensional. Personal lives are messy. Best of all I never had to consciously suspend disbelief to enjoy the story. The twists and turns are fully credible. Testimony is one of Turow’s best books.

Turow, Scott – (2000) - Personal Injuries (Third best fiction of 2000); (2003) - Reversible Errors (Tied for the best fiction in 2003); (2007) - Ordinary Heroes; (2011) - Innocent; (2012) - One L (Michael Selnes review); (2012) - Thoughts on Reviews of One L by Myself and Michael; (2014) - Identical; Hardcover 


  1. It sounds like a truly compelling read, Bill. Like you, I much prefer that occasional thriller that doesn't rely on asking me to suspend my disbelief. This one raises complex and important issues, too. And I do like the focus on getting the evidence, and the suspense that arises from that. I need to read this.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. Tension is not dependent on the number of bodies falling. I hope you do read Testimony.

  2. That's quite a recommendation, although the subject matter sounds like tough reading.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. The subject matter will confound you. I do not want to provide spoilers. I think you will be blown away if you read the book.

  3. Wow, sounds intriguing. I thought twice about reading this as war and international conflicts are not among my favorite topics for mysteries, even legal ones.

    But to focus on the persecuted Toma people is a good theme. They were enslaved in Eastern Europe for hundreds of years and in Russia, too, and freed in the late 1800s. And the Nazis targeted them, too.

    And now the far-right officials in Italy are counting Roma people and trying to find those they can deport. It's not good.

    So, I'll think about it. I like Turow's writing and legal mysteries, so I think I'll try it out.

  4. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. The Roma people are a group not often addressed in the crime fiction I have read. It was interesting to have a contemporary look at a people who are often the poorest people in a European country.

  5. Yes, and discriminated against historically and now. They are scapegoats even now in Eastern Europe. Sarkozy had their shelters torn down in France. And now the Italian far-right is after them.

    And their lives are so difficult.

    The library has this book and I put it on reserve. I'll see how much of this I can deal with. When books go into war crimes and genocide, I turn off. There's too much going on now and I need distraction.

    By the way, Italian legal mystery writer, Giancarlo Carofiglio has a book posted at Bitter Lemon Press under "crime." I have read a few books by him featuring a lawyer and they are good. The writer was a lawyer.

    1. Kathy D.: Thanks for the comment. In Testimony the Roma are shown as determined, with few exceptions, to live independently of the nations in which they reside.