Identical by Scott Turow

“We came into the world like brother and brother…”

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

identicalThe lives of the Kronos and Gianis families have been entangled for decades, first as friends and then divided by a feud that has lasted for over twenty years. But when the Gianis boys – identical twins Cass and Paul – grow up, Cass falls in love with Dita, daughter of the head of the Kronos family, a man who calls himself Zeus. During a picnic at which both families are present, Dita is killed and a few days later Cass confesses to the crime.

The book has a double time-line. The main one takes place in 2008 and begins just as Cass is about to be released from prison. The events of the day of the picnic in 1982 are told in flashback, in occasional chapters cut into the main narrative. By 2008, Zeus has been long dead, and the Kronos business empire is now headed by his son Hal. Hal has never been satisfied that the full story of his sister’s death has been told and publicly accuses Cass’s twin, Paul, of having been involved. Paul is campaigning to become mayor and is left with little option but to sue for slander, which he does, but with great reluctance. Hal tasks Evon Miller with the job of seeking evidence to back up his accusation.

“After Cass was sentenced, Paul was in actual physical agony for weeks at the prospect of their separation. But they had adjusted to life apart. People adjust to loss. And now he found dealing with Cass every day, and the similar ways their minds worked, with the same lapses and backflips, often unsettling. He had forgotten this part, how it inevitably felt like they were opponents on an indoor court, basketball or squash players, throwing their back ends at each other as they fought for position.”

There’s much less courtroom stuff in this than in most of Turow’s earlier books, and there’s been a bit of a generational shift in the characters. We catch brief glimpses of the old guard – Raymond Horgan and Sandy Stern both put in cameo appearances – but the focus of the book is on the investigation carried out by Evon and ex-cop Tim Brodie, both on the payroll of Hal’s firm. Evon is an ex-FBI agent who first appeared in, I think, Personal Injuries. Through the feuding families, Turow takes us into the Greek community of Kindle County – a close-knit group of immigrants and their descendants, holding to old traditions, and with bonds and enmities that are passed down through the generations.

Turow’s skill is in telling a story slowly, concentrating on each character in turn and giving a complete picture of them. Here he shows us Evon, struggling still in middle-age to find love and acceptance and dealing with a relationship that has reached breaking point. Through Tim and a couple of the oldest of the Greek immigrants, he looks with great empathy and insight at how differently aging can affect people. Love is a major theme in the book – family love, romantic love, lost love and, not least, the unique bond that binds the twins so closely that sometimes it is as if they are two parts of the same identity.

“All in all, his wife was the kindest person he had ever known – love seldom left her and she had filled their house with love like light. But in dying she became ornery and sharp-tongued, and frequently raised her voice to him, telling him that whatever he did was not right. It was a grief impossible to bear at the time, the raw unfairness that she had to die and leave as final memories ones of her being somebody else.”

The investigation rests mainly on forensic evidence, with the now familiar story of advances in DNA technology that make it possible to revisit old crimes. By a third of the way through, I was convinced I knew what had happened. By halfway through, that idea was blown out of the water, but again I felt I was on the right track and partially I was. However the end, when it came, did surprise me – but this isn’t really a thriller in the sense of a big explosive action-packed climax. With Turow, it’s more thoughtful than that – more of a concentration on the impact of the people involved and of the legacy in broken lives. I have long considered that Turow writes literary fiction rather than thrillers and this book strengthens that view.

Scott Turow
Scott Turow

I don’t think this is Turow’s best plotted novel, but as always loved the quality of his writing and the depth of his characterisation. Oddly, the weakest characters for me were the twins themselves and I found the resolution of their part of the story stretched my credibility a bit more than I like. But the Greek theme was handled very well, giving a genuine feel to this community within a larger society. And I loved the concentration on the older age-group – it means these characters have fully-finished lives; they are who they are, not what they might become. Although this is not, for me, Turow’s absolute best it is nonetheless an excellent book: thoughtful, a little nostalgic and of course beautifully written. Highly recommended.

NB This book was provided for review by the publisher, Grand Central Publishing.

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