This Scott Turow novel has all the elements that make his other novels good and some that make them not always so good. It’s set in The Hague where the main character, Bill ten Boom (Dutch name), a former U.S. Attorney in Turow’s fictional Kindle County, has accepted assignment as a prosecutor investigating an alleged war crime. The International War Crimes Tribunal is centered there but the Americans never signed off on the treaty establishing it nor do they agree to allow it to operate in the U.S. or subject U.S. soldiers to its jurisdiction. The alleged victims are a colony of Roma (gypsies) massacred during the Bosnian War. The questions is by whom? Bill and an intrepid Belgian investigator set out to find the answer and bring the perpetrators to justice. The possible suspects: A Serbian commander with a reputation as a vicious megalomaniac, a local gang, U.S. soldiers outraged over the fact the Roma may have stolen a cache of U.S. weapons that led to the death of a cadre of U.S. soldiers. The plot is twistier than a box of pretzels and heavily dependent on a great deal of knowledge and research Turow must have done about the workings of the Tribunal, the Roma people, the Serbs, Croats, NATO, and the U.S. Military. His works are ten levels more sophisticated than the average crime novel where the author doesn’t even understand the concept of jurisdiction. I couldn’t explain it to you if I tried and don’t want to spoil it for you, but I can say it is full of many colorful characters of many different nationalities. They’re almost all very likeable, but don’t trust any of them.
So what complaints do I have? Only one: Turow can’t write about sex without making it sound terribly unappealing, but he insists on putting a lot of it in his novels. We could stop the population boom by making everyone read his books. There must be a word for the style – somewhere between tacky and tawdry. There are seven pages of words in my Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate between them but none of them seem appropriate.