Popular murder mystery-courtroom drama

Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux. 431 pp. $18.95. It's hard to understand all the hoopla surrounding ``Presumed Innocent,'' a murder mystery - courtroom drama about a prosecuting attorney who is charged with the murder of a female colleague with whom he once had an affair. First-time novelist Scott Turow, a Chicago laywer and author of ``One L,'' an account of his first year at Harvard Law School, has reworked a familiar plot idea, the innocent man incriminated by circumstantial evidence. He has also provided an authentic look at the workings of a big city's criminal-justice system. Many of the plot elements are contrived, however, and the characters, especially the two principal women, are presented unsympathetically. The wife of the accused man is depicted as a shrill feminist with mental problems, while the murder victim is portrayed as a ruthless and immoral person who was asking for it. And worst of all, the novel's resolution contains a troubling moral ambiguity.

Jane Stewart Spitzer is a free-lance book reviewer specializing in popular fiction.

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