Wednesday, January 17

Limitations By Scott Turow

Review by Theodore Feit


Originally published serially in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, some additional material has been added to this slender volume to flesh it out.  Like Turow himself, the novel has a legal background.


George Mason is an appellate judge sitting on a three-member panel in Kindle County (revisited, perhaps for nostalgic reason because there does not seem to be any other reason)  hearing an appeal by four defendants convicted of raping a 15-year-old girl many years before.  There are apparently three possible decisions: affirmation, backed by one judge, reversal based on inadmissible evidence favored by a second, or reversal because of the statute of limitations, to which Mason leans.


Mason is the swing vote; he can decide to affirm or go with one of the other two choices.  While he wrestles with his decision, he confronts his past.  While a young man he participated in a similar incident and he has to face his guilty conscience.   Meanwhile, he has been getting threatening e-mails and text messages and his wife is being treated with nuclear medicine for a thyroid condition.  Life is complicated, as are the decision-making process and his need to file papers for reelection.


It all comes together in the end, with Mason writing the decision.  One would have expected a soaring writing worthy of a Brandeis or Holmes.  Instead, we read a fairly pedestrian and somewhat disjointed draft.   At least the discovery of the person issuing the various threats is an unexpected surprise.  Despite these objections, the novel reads well and the tale is well-told.


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