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IDENTICAL by Scott Turow: Book Review

Scott Turow’s latest novel, Identical, is as exciting a thriller as his debut mystery Presumed Innocent, and that’s saying a good deal.

Identical opens in an unidentified midwestern city with a substantial Greek-American population.  The year is 1982, and multimillionaire Zeus Kronon is holding his annual picnic on the vast grounds of his home.  Virtually the entire congregation of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church is there to celebrate the ecclesiastical New Year, including twin brothers Cass and Paul Gianis; their mother Lidia; Zeus and his wife Hermione; their daughter Dita; their son Hal; Zeus’s sister Teri, who is Lidia’s best friend; Paul’s girlfriend Georgia; and Sophia, a neighborhood girl now in medical school.  It’s quite a cast of characters.

Like a Greek tragedy, strands are woven and woven again, until it’s hard to tell where relationships begin and end.  Cass and Paul seem almost to inhabit one mind, they are so close.  Dita, Cass’s girlfriend, is disliked by all of his family, particularly his mother.  Lidia hasn’t spoken to Zeus in more than twenty years, leaving her sons to wonder why she has agreed to attend this party.  And Paul, whom everyone thought was going to get engaged to Georgia, is suddenly smitten by Sophia.

After the party ends and the guests disperse, Dita is in her room waiting for Cass.  When morning comes, Dita’s bloodied body is discovered by her parents.  Cass admits to the murder, never giving a motive for the slaying, and spends the next twenty-five years in prison.

Twenty-five years later, Cass is applying for early release from prison.  Hal, who as Zeus’s only surviving child has inherited his father’s corporate empire, is appearing before the parole board to prevent this.  When the board approves Cass’ release, Hal orchestrates a crusade against Paul and his recently launched mayoral campaign, saying that Paul had lied under oath at the trial about his twin’s whereabouts the night of the murder and therefore doesn’t deserve to be mayor.

Using his vast wealth and his undying anger at both Cass and Paul, Hal orders his security chief and a former city detective to investigate what really happened the night of his sister’s murder.  He’s never had any doubt that Cass is guilty, but now he’s determined to discover Paul’s involvement as well.  With the unlimited resources at his command, he sets out to find what the Gianis twins have been hiding for over two decades.

Not only are all the characters extremely well drawn, the picture of the close-knit Greek-American community is compelling.  Like many other first or second generation ethnic groups, the Greek-Americans in Identical have formed their own community within the larger city.  Disputes brought over from the old country still resonate within families, sometimes even without the children or grandchildren of the immigrants knowing the reason for the original disagreement.  And the transliterated Greek comments that Turow has inserted at various point in the novel somehow bring the reader closer to the people in the book.

As expected of the author of eleven previous books, including Presumed Innocent and Reversible Errors, Identical is a page-turner, a mystery that will keep you engrossed until the last page.

You can read more about Scott Turow at this web site.

Check out the complete Marilyn’s Mystery Reads blog at her web site.