When you crack open a new legal thriller by Scott Turow, you know you’ll be in good hands. In the veteran author’s latest novel, Suspect, the hands he puts you in are those of narrator Clarice ‘Pinky’ Granum, a 33-year-old private investigator working for downmarket lawyer Rik Dudek. Pinky has acquired a bit of a reputation as a screw-up, not solely because she is one. Maybe it’s the trail of failed romantic relationships, male and female. Maybe it’s the outrageous ink. Maybe it’s the nail in her nose. Yet she’s earnest in her work supporting Rik, and it’s those very quirks and that sincere dedication that make her a character you want to root for.
This is the 12th book in Turow’s long-running series based in fictional Kindle County, Illinois, reportedly based on Cook County, which is mostly taken up by Chicago. Lucia Gomez is the police chief of the town of Highland Isle and a long-time friend of Rik’s. She asks him to represent her as she fights accusations that she demanded sexual favors from three officers when they were up for promotion. The three-person Police and Fire Commission has scheduled a hearing. It’s always satisfying when a fictional attorney nails an opposing witness to the courtroom wall, trapped in their own lies, as Rik handily does with two of the accusers.
They’re retired now and working for local property magnate Moritz Vojczek, AKA The Ritz, another former cop. When he worked in narcotics, he not only stole cash and dealt drugs, but used them too. When Gomez became chief, she canned him. Now she figures the plot to get her fired is his revenge. You can’t help but worry that his combination of money, connections, street smarts, and viciousness will be more than a match for Rik and Pinky.
The third accuser is a little more difficult to dismiss. At the hearing, he comes up with a photograph of the chief and him in a shockingly compromising position. It’s a picture that will most probably lead to Lucy’s firing, regardless of the commission’s finding. You’ll probably find the chief likeable, but you may start to doubt her. It seems she isn’t telling everything and it’s nerve-wracking to think she’s leading her legal team into serious trouble. When her accuser turns up dead, with Lucy the person most motivated to silence him, Rik and Pinky’s simple sextortion case spins out of control.
Pinky’s out-of-the-office life is going in a couple of interesting directions. She has a new neighbor who’s suspiciously quiet. Using her skills with the PIBOT (Private Investigator Bag Of Tricks), she starts tailing and tracking his middle-of-the-night spying on a nearby technology center. What’s he looking at? Or for? Fans of techno-thrillers will enjoy the deets about surveillance gear and ways to thwart it.
The strategy sessions between Rik, Pinky, and law enforcement are like watching a hard-fought game of chess. They can put all their pieces in the best positions possible, but the Ritz’s next move may be out of their control.
Suspect has a fast-moving story, and much of the enjoyment of it lies in the well-developed character of Pinky. She’s fearless, and you never quite know what she’ll do next. A master plotter like Turow, of course, knows just how to parcel out the clues and the questions to maintain a high level of tension, and Pinky is one of those indelible characters you won’t soon forget.