If this is it, he sure goes out with a bang.
Alejandro “Sandy” Stern has appeared in pretty much all of Turow’s books over the years, though he’s only starred in one, which was nearly three decades ago. Now, at the age of 85, Sandy is back in the lead role for one final case, and it’s a doozy.
Though his body is frail and ravaged from cancer and the drugs coursing through his system that are charged with killing the disease, Sandy’s mind remains one of the sharpest in the country when it comes to understanding the legal system from top to bottom. So, when his close friend Dr. Kiril Pafko, a former Nobel Prize winner in Medicine and the man treating his cancer, is arrested and charged with everything from insider trading, fraud, and even murder, Sandy agrees to enter the gauntlet one final time and defend his client.
As the case unfolds, though, it becomes clear that the charges against Pafko aren’t just an unfounded attempt at character assassination. For Sandy, that means some deep soul-searching, as he navigates the moral conundrum of helping someone beat the charges even if they aren’t completely innocent.
Whereas Turow’s last book, Testomny (2017), missed the mark, he hits his target with this one—reminding readers why he’s long been one of the premier legal thriller novelists working today, alongside the likes of John Grisham and Michaell Connelly (Mickey Haller, not Harry Bosch). The brilliance of the writing here is that Turow forces readers to ask themselves tough questions about the presumption of innocence versus guilt. Just because someone didn’t commit the crime they’re accused of doesn’t make them innocent of other sins and transgressions, leading to complex moral conversations that drive the heart of the story. That’s not to say Turow doesn’t put on a show, which he most certainly does. The fireworks in the courtroom draw readers in, but it’ll be the deeper conversations that stick with them long after turning the final page.
If The Last Trial is indeed a curtain call for Sandy Stern, its sure is nice to see him soak up his time in the spotlight one final time.
Author: Scott Turow
Pages: 464 (Hardcover)
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Release Date: May 12, 2020
Real Book Spy Rating: 7.5/10
Praised as “One of the hardest working, most thoughtful, and fairest reviewers out there” by #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Scottoline, Ryan Steck has “quickly established himself as the authority on mysteries and thrillers” (Author A.J. Tata). Steck also works full-time as a freelance editor and pens a monthly thriller column for CrimeReads. For more information, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He curently lives in Southwest Michigan with his wife and their six children.