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Church, McBrearty's characters are thoroughly real and almost always likeable. The author's genial wit and his acute sense of what it means to be human make this book a good read— and a noteworthy debut. (JS) Personal Injuries by Scott Turow Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999, 403 pp., $27 When the Internal Revenue Service begins to question personal-injury attorney Robbie Feaver about a secret bank account, the stage is set for an elaborate sting operation that reaches deep into the Kindle County Courthouse . It's familiar turf for Scott Turow, who revisits his fictionalized Cook County, Illinois, for the fifth time in this novel. Personal Injuries draws on Turov/s experience with Operation Greylord, a full-scale purging of the Chicago criminal justice system that took place during his tenure as assistant U.S. attorney. In methodical, pointby -point fashion, Turow lays out the evidence, using blue-blooded defense attorney and former bar president George Mason as his primary mouthpiece . George presents himself with a "casual, highborn manner" and holds his nose against the stench of personal-injury law, all the while trying unsuccessfully to maintain his distance. Eventually his own sense of self, like that of virtually every other character in the novel, falters; in this fictional world identity is always open to question. The target of the sting operation is dirty judges and their bagmen, chief among them the uncle of Robbie's law partner. The plot involves an alphabet soup of governmental agencies: UCORC, 1RS, FBI, PA. Defendant and stoolie is Robbie Feaver. A would-be actor of Shakespearean bent, Robbie is an admirable and likeable shyster, a personal injury lawyer who pays daily visits to the home where his aging mother lingers in the aftermath of a stroke and takes sensitive and sympathetic care of his terminally ill wife at home. At Robbie's side, brought in as watchdog, is FBI Agent DeDe Kurzweil , who plays the role of Mormon paralegal Evon Miller. Filling out the cast are the Kindle County regulars. U.S. Attorney Stan Sennett, sometime friend and always rival to George Mason, has a strong supporting role, and Prosecutor Raymond Horgan and Sandy Stern make cameo appearances . The novel may center on the criminal justice system, but the message is couched in the vocabulary of theater. The U.S. attorney concocts scenarios, FBI agents play roles, snitches develop characters and improvise lines. Even George Mason comes to speak of the case's "plot." Turow's skill with convincing detail helps move the story along. His primary strength is character, however , and he can produce scenes of intimacy so convincing as to almost take your breath away. My favorite sentence in the book describes a kiss, focusing on the moment when lips meet: "Dry from sport and the anxiousness of the moment, they felt like the fragile crust formed on an orange section left in the air, and, like the orange, some thrilling sweetness lay below." QS) The Missouri Review · 187 ...


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