Review of “Testimony” by Scott Turow


Scott Turow writes intelligently, but I found myself a little bored with this one. The complexity of the number of parties to the legal action – a farrago of actors involved in the Bosnian War, was confusing, and sorting it out wasn’t all that exciting. The ongoing lapse into the protagonist’s sexual exploits was a little overdone, in my opinion, and didn’t seem to me to be all that essential to the plot.

Most of the action takes place in The Hague, where 54-year-old Bill Ten Boom (his family was Dutch, hence the unusual name) has gone to take a position as prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (the ICC). This is the venue where mass atrocities are examined. In Bill’s first case, he is investigating the (fictional) alleged 2004 massacre of 400 Roma in Bosnia. Possible perpetrators in the area at the time included Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims, organized criminals, jihadis, NATO troops, and U.S. contractors brought over by the military.

Complicating Bill’s job is the fact that the U.S., alone among NATO countries, did not sign the treaty establishing the ICC; they did not want to submit to criminal penalties controlled by foreigners for possible war crimes. Moreover, the American Service-Members’ Protection Act (ASPA, Title 2 of Pub.L. 107–206, H.R. 4775, 116 Stat. 820, enacted August 2, 2002) actually prohibits American assistance in ICC investigations. (These are non-fictional aspects of the story.)

Other impediments to prosecuting the case include that the alleged event took place eleven years before, “when memories are stale and records are gone,” and pretty much everyone involved had a reason to lie about what may or may not have happened.

Discussion: I thought that the author’s insistence on using his old writing conceit of fictional Kindle County and the fictional Trappers baseball team served no purpose whatsoever except to allow the main character to name-drop a few of the characters from Turow’s previous legal procedurals, which also seemed totally gratuitous.

Also, I felt Turow could have expanded a bit more on the role of contractors in recent military engagements by the U.S. instead of wasting so much narrative space with sex and scenery. The conclusion left me feeling like not all that much had happened.

Evaluation: I give this one a “meh.”

Rating: 3/5

Published by Grand Central Publishing, a division of Hachette Book Group, 2017


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2 Responses to Review of “Testimony” by Scott Turow

  1. I really liked Presumed Innocent but was a bit bored with Burden of Proof. And that was the last Turow that I tried. Your review doesn’t make me want to try again!

  2. Joan McDaniel says:

    I am reading this book now and I love it. I became interested in this era after reading “The Unquiet Dead.” To my amazement, I did not know what had happened to Yugoslavia. I have done a lot of reading about this genocide since then and have found good imfo about our roles
    In his book.
    He’s doing a great job with Boom (esp his marriage, his feelings about)

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