Personal Injuries, by Scott Turow

Robbie Feaver is a lawyer who's in trouble: the FBI have discovered that he's been bribing judges to get favourable judgments in compensation cases. But they don't just want him; they want the judges. So Robbie has to go undercover and try and catch his former fellows-in-crime.

I expected that this would be a John Grisham type thing - the author wrote "Presumed Innocent" which I thought was a courtroom drama in a similar vein - so I was ready for a fairly easy-to-read-but-shallow page-turner. But it wasn't like that, but it took me a while to cotton on: I kept expecting some major plot twist to happen, but nothing really did. I suppose that might make it more realistic, but it dragged a bit for me.

The novel was written in a slightly peculiar way: it was ostensibly written in the first person, by Robbie's own lawyer - who Robbie approached for help when the FBI came for him. But large sections of it were third-person descriptions of events between other characters (e.g. Robbie and his wife) which, he says, are "freely imagined". So most of the time you've got what seems like an omniscient narrator. I thought perhaps there would turn out to be some reason for this, but there wasn't, so far as I could tell. It didn't particularly spoil the story but it just left me with a nagging sense that something was odd.

I said that the novel might be more reaslistic than a Grisham, but in fact there were bits in here I found hard to swallow. Specifically the amount of effort and resources that the FBI would have to have invested in the scams that they set up to catch out the judges - fake compensation claims by fictitious litigants against fake companies: there wasn't a lot of detail on this but you'd have thought that to be safe against even a half-hearted bit of checking up they'd have to fabricate an awful lot of background and involve a lot of people.

I think the main thread of the story was Robbie Feaver, who was a bit of a paradoxical character: good in the court, loyal to his friends, but also involved in corruption and cheating on his terminally-ill wife. Because I was concentrating on the plot, didn't really pay so much attention to Feaver's character until some way through the book so perhaps I missed out as a result.

Maybe because the plot developed rather slowly, and wasn't very fast paced, it took me a looong time to read this book (I just wasn't grabbed by it, and kept falling asleep in bed after a couple of pages). It was OK I suppose, and I wouldn't rule out reading another of Turow's books given that I have a better idea of what to expect, but I'm not exactly rushing out for more.

Completed : 23-Aug-2009 (audiobook)

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