Personal Injuries

( 38 )

Overview

To Robbie Feaver the law is all about making a play-to a client, a jury, or a judge. But when the flashy, womanizing, multimillion-dollar personal injury lawyer is caught offering bribes, he's forced to wear a wire. Even as the besieged attorney looks after his ailing wife, Feaver must also make tapes that will hurl his friends, his enemies, his city, and a particular FBI undercover agent into a crisis of conscience and law. Now Robbie Feaver is making the play of his life.

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Overview

To Robbie Feaver the law is all about making a play-to a client, a jury, or a judge. But when the flashy, womanizing, multimillion-dollar personal injury lawyer is caught offering bribes, he's forced to wear a wire. Even as the besieged attorney looks after his ailing wife, Feaver must also make tapes that will hurl his friends, his enemies, his city, and a particular FBI undercover agent into a crisis of conscience and law. Now Robbie Feaver is making the play of his life.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
More than any other writer — and that includes John Grisham — Scott Turow is responsible for the recent popular resurgence of the legal thriller. His 1987 bestseller, Presumed Innocent, is a stylish, hugely assured courtroom drama that set a new standard for the form and opened the door to an endless procession of lawyers-turned-writers, most of them considerably less gifted than Turow.

In the 12 years since, Turow's own career has been marked by his admirable refusal to replicate that initial success. His four subsequent novels, the latest of which is Personal Injuries, have all been radically different from one another; their only common denominator is the author's abiding interest in depicting the lives of the people who serve — and represent — the law.

Personal Injuries is set in Turow's by-now familiar fictional venue, Kindle County. Its narrator is George Mason, a well-bred, upper-crust defense attorney who, as the novel opens, has just taken on a volatile new client: Robbie Feaver, a slick, fast-talking lawyer who specializes in personal injuries litigation and who now faces indictment for tax evasion and bribery. Given the choice of cooperating with the government or spending several years in prison, Robbie becomes a confidential informant for U.S. Attorney Stan Sennett and agrees to wear a wire to all future meetings with the judges he has paid off, as well as with their various intermediaries and bagmen.

Robbie thus becomes the focal point of a protracted sting operation known as Project Petros, which forms the dramatic centerofthis beautifully constructed story of betrayal, personal responsibility, and difficult — sometimes impossible — choices. During a period of six months, Robbie and his new masters gradually gather evidence of judicial malfeasance, slowly making their way toward the elusive figure who is the ultimate target of Project Petros: Brendan Tuohey, the corrupt former cop who is now the corrupt presiding judge of the Common Law Claims Division of Kindle County, and who has spent the bulk of his career manipulating the law for his own personal profit.

In spite of the considerable excitement that the slowly unfolding sting operation provides, Personal Injuries is primarily a novel of character and is largely concerned with demonstrating the ways in which very different people change, grow, and reveal themselves under the stress of traumatic events. Through the course of the novel, Turow brings to vivid life an entire gallery of characters, among them the narrator, George Mason, who ends up learning as much about himself and his own personal limits as he does about his client, and Stan Sennett, the United States attorney who orchestrates Petros, and whose implacable, sometimes inhuman, pursuit of justice gives him an ironic resemblance to the very people he is determined to destroy.

But Personal Injuries draws its greatest strength from Turow's empathetic presentation of his two central characters: Robbie Feaver, the hapless hustler caught up in Stan Sennett's schemes, and Evon Miller, the pseudonymous FBI agent assigned to guard him. Evon is a former Olympic athlete who has never — outside of her brief career in sports — felt at home in the world. Lonely, susceptible to powerful attacks of unfocused longing, and dominated by sexual confusion and a sense of disconnection from the human mainstream, she reaches a believable and moving accommodation with herself during the course of her involvement with Robbie Feaver and his wildly disordered life.

Robbie, by contrast, is a flashy, philandering con man who has built his life on a series of lies and false foundations. But he is also a man capable of kindness, loyalty, and extraordinary fortitude. It's impossible not to be appalled by him at times, and it's equally impossible not to admire his stoic acceptance of a devastating series of losses, both personal and professional. His legal and financial problems, staggering as they are, are overwhelmed by the central fact of his daily life: His wife, Rainey, is being eaten alive by the final stages of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Turow's unsparing description of the effects of ALS on both its victims and their families is one of the book's most memorable and painful elements.

In the end, it is Robbie — whose flawed humanity remains intact in the face of almost unendurable pressures — who delivers the novel's most fundamental message: Everyone hurts, to some degree. Everyone is in pain. And the only answer, as Robbie tells Evon, is to "stick with each other, do for each other, and build up the world. Because misery does love company, and another soul's comfort is the only balm for the wounds."

This deceptively simple vision permeates the narrative and accounts for a great deal of its considerable emotional force. Personal Injuries may be David Shenk's most accomplished novel to date, and it is certainly his most moving. It is the work of a man who is both a master of the legal thriller and a natural-born novelist. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Bill Sheehan

Bill Sheehan reviews horror, suspense, and science fiction for Cemetery Dance, The New York Review of Science Fiction, and other publications. He is currently working on a book-length critical study of the fiction of Peter Straub.

Newsweek
Every page of this tale about a sting operation bears the stamp of a born storyteller.
Scott Tobias
Personal Injuries has enough well-calibrated turns to fill a stack of best-selling also-rans. Though Turow holds the dubious distinction of being the first in a long line of attorneys to exploit their profession for literary intrigue, he still proves himself without peer.
The Onion A.V. Club
Jonathan Groner

Lawyer-turned-writer Scott Turow caught the elusive bubble of fame in 1987 with the publication of Presumed Innocent, an intense, taut mystery narrated by a first-person, morally ambiguous attorney. Set in fictional Kindle County, clearly a stand-in for Cook County (where Turow still practices law), that novel practically invented the late 20th century genre of the legal thriller. (John Grisham gets some credit as well, but Grisham -- an earnest, plodding moralist with an acute feel for the American hatred of large law firms and corporations -- has inspired fewer imitators.) After two middling follow-ups, The Burden of Proof (1990) and Pleading Guilty (1993), Turow again fulfilled his potential with The Laws of Our Fathers (1996), a thriller that evoked the streets and straits of the urban ghetto with a darkness that few novelists from outside the ghetto would even attempt.

Now, with Personal Injuries, again set in his favorite county of the imagination, Turow turns to a new topic: the casual corruption that can infect a big city's court system. The novel marks a watershed for Turow: All the legal twists and turns are still there, but this time the author focuses his fullest attention on character, scene and subplot. His Kindle County is an urban mélange of venal court clerks, self-righteous prosecutors, corrupt cops and judges who sit on the bench only because they once knew the right politician. It's an almost Dickensian fictional world -- and indeed, on his Web site Turow calls Dickens a "profound influence" who "created robust characters without giving up his principal mission as a storyteller." (His other major influence, he says, is fellow urban chronicler and Chicagoan Saul Bellow.)

Into this morally compromised environment Turow drops Robbie Feaver, a personal-injury lawyer who has been bribing judges for years. The name is pronounced as in "Do me a favor," Feaver quickly tells us, and that phrase just about sums up his legal career. Cornered at last by prosecutors and the FBI, who persuade him that his only way of avoiding prison is to wear a wire, Feaver makes his tortuous way through a labyrinth of corruption as he and the feds try to trap the elusive leader of the bribery ring. An inveterate womanizer, a nonstop wisecracker and a man with plenty in his past to hide, Feaver still retains his unshakable sense of loyalty and his own style of fidelity to his wife, Lorraine, who is slowly dying of Lou Gehrig's disease.

The novel intertwines three tales: of Robbie's adventures as an undercover agent in an extremely elaborate sting; of FBI agent Evon Miller's transformation after she is assigned to keep an eye on him; and of Lorraine's slow, sad deterioration. As the three strands come together toward the end, each character deepens and grows in humanity.

The book doesn't pack much mystery, though. Once the main action is under way and Feaver, wired for sight and sound, has set out among the judges and the courtroom lackeys, there are few surprises. But Personal Injuries succeeds as a long look at a world where greed, sloth and lust hold sway despite the efforts of some good men and women.
Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Unlike most of his fellow lawyer-novelists, Turow has always been more interested in character than plot, and in Robbie Feaver, a lawyer on the make who ends up fighting for his life, he has created his richest and most compelling figure yet. For years, Robbie has been paying off judges and squirreling away part of the riches he earns as a highly successful trial lawyer. When the IRS happens upon the money trail, and a top prosecutor leans on him to turn state's evidence and finger some of the corrupt justices, Robbie calls on George Mason, veteran Kindle County lawyer, to represent him and win the best deal he can. A complicating element in the case is Evon Miller, Mormon-born FBI agent in deep undercover, who is assigned to watch Feaver and finds herself, against her better inclinations, drawn to him--for Feaver is a character of almost Shakespearean contradictions. A charming, brash womanizer who nevertheless shows superhuman reserves of love and patience to his dying wife at home, he is always several jumps ahead of the prosecutors, the FBI and the reader, winning sympathy, even admiration, where there should be none. This patient account is fascinatingly detailed in the ways of the law and the justice system, of how Robbie zeroes in on the biggest target of all, only to be trumped at the last moment. It is also a deeply understanding look, in its portrait of Evon, of the motives that drive a solitary woman into police work Thomas Harris's Clarice seems shallow by comparison. There are some remarkable narrative strategies--Turow deftly alternates a first-person and omniscient-author point of view, for example--but readers will not be concerned with technical details, only with the rare revelation of a paradoxical personality so compelling he makes the very adroit plot almost superfluous. Oct. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Think of a stereotypical sleazy lawyer, and you have Robbie Feaver. Overdressed, too loud, a compulsive womanizer without an honest bone in his body, Robbie has also been caught bribing judges and has agreed to wear a wire to implicate his associates. Think of an upright prosecuting attorney and you find Stan Sennett, humorless, brilliant, driven. Think of a female FBI agent, and, voil , meet Evon Miller, an Olympic athlete, a straight arrow whose job comes above all else. If you think you know these people, you don't know best-selling author Turow, among the best in the business at pulling the rug out from under your expectations. Add actor Joe Mantegna, an inspired choice as reader, and you have as good an audiobook as will be released this year. The abridgment shifts the book's focus from an extended character study, contrasting Feaver and Sennett, to a more plot-driven story that holds up nearly as well. If some of Turow's fine prose is sacrificed to brevity there is still plenty left here to recommend highly.--John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Talk Magazine
Scott Turow is to courtroom literature what Harrison Ford is to action-adventures: the class of the field. Thirteen years and four novels after he left the U.S. Attorney's office, he has written a novel based on his work as an Assistant U.S. Attorney with Operation Greylord, a six year federal undercover operation that plumbed Chicago's courts for corrupt judges, lawyers, and cops...Taking a writer's liberties,he has re-created the entire Greylord landscape in Personal Injuries and produced perhaps his best book.

Talk Magazine's 10 Best Books of November

Newsweek
Every page of this tale about a sting operation bears the stamp of a born storyteller.
Tom DeHaven
Scott Turow presents the best book of his career with Personal Injuries a riveting, impeccably crafted legal thriller...Legal Fiction has turned depressingly formulaic and melodramatic lately, but Scott Turow's just gets richer and smarter. Funnier, too. Personal Injuries is the best work of his career.
—Entertainment Weekly
Deirdre Donahue
Everything Scott Turow writes breathes with intelligence, acute observation and wisdom. And his new novel, Personal Injuries, offers an extraordinary look at the complicated realities of running an undercover operation designed to ensnare corrupt judges.
USA Today
Kirkus Reviews
The undisputed dean of legal intrigue (The Laws of Our Fathers, 1996, etc.) burrows deep into the muck surrounding the attempt to turn a dirty lawyer into an informant against the judges he's been bribing. Now that the feds have discovered the secret bank account he's been using to pay off some of the Kindle County judges who've been ruling on his cases, Robbie Feaver is ready to roll over on Their Honors. He'll wear a wire to his meetings with their bagmen, hoping to get enough evidence to persuade at least four judges—party hack Barnett Skolnick, alcoholic Gillian Sullivan, scholarly Silvio Malatesta, and aggressive black ex-athlete Sherm Crowthers—to testify against the big fish the Feebs are really after: Brendan Tuohey, Presiding Judge of the county superior court's common law claims division and uncle of Robbie's benighted partner, Mort Dinnerstein. And while he's waiting for the chance to get the goods on his former co-conspirators, Robbie will accept the constant companionship of FBI agent Evon Miller, disguised as one of the paralegals he can't stop chasing even as his beloved wife Rainey is descending into the excruciating final stages of Lou Gehrig's disease. It all sounds simple, and in the hands of a lesser storyteller the pivots of suspense would be utterly predictable: Will Robbie get found out? Will the bugging equipment actually work? Will the little fish he lands agree to turn on the big fish? All these problems come up here, all right, but, as usual, Turow is less interested in creating dangers for his hero than in exploring the ethical dilemmas of ambiguous legal situations—in particular, the morality of undercover work, whether theundercover ops are FBI agents or bogus lawyers the government can't make parties to defrauding innocent clients, and whether it involves lying about your political debts, your sexual preferences, or your personal loyalties. The result is a revelation—a subtle, densely textured legal thriller stuffed with every kind of surprise except the ones you expect. Turow is well on his way to making Kindle County the Yoknapatawpha of American law.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446584142
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 4/5/2011
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • Sales rank: 264,190
  • Product dimensions: 7.32 (w) x 4.26 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Scott Turow is a writer and attorney. He is the author of seven best-selling novels: Presumed Innocent (1987), The Burden of Proof (1990), Pleading Guilty (1993), The Laws of Our Fathers (1996), Personal Injuries (1999), Reversible Errors (2002) and Ordinary Heroes (2005). A novella, Limitations, was published as a paperback original in November 2006 by Picador following its serialization in The New York Times Magazine. His works of non-fiction include One L (1977) about his experience as a law student, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on the death penalty. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy and The Atlantic. Mr. Turow's books have won a number of literary awards, including the Heartland Prize in 2003 for Reversible Errors and the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award in 2004 for Ultimate Punishment and Time Magazine's Best Work of Fiction, 1999 for Personal Injuries. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies world-wide and have been adapted into one full length film and two television miniseries.

Biography

In addition to writing cinematic legal thrillers like Presumed Innocent (1987), Reversible Errors (2002), and Limitations (2006), lawyer Scott Turow has also drawn upon his personal and professional experience for thought-provoking nonfiction that includes One L (1977), an account of his freshman year at Harvard Law, and Ultimate Punishment (2003), a reflection on capital punishment. His essays and op-ed pieces have appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and other distinguished publications. In 2005, he forayed into historical fiction with Ordinary Heroes, an emotionally resonant novel inspired by his father's experiences in World War II. A practicing attorney with experience in both civil and criminal law, Turow has become involved in extensive pro bono work on death penalty cases.

Good To Know

Turow rarely writes his novels in a linear fashion from beginning to end. Instead, he sketches out individual scenes and then figures out where they fit into the grand scheme of a story.

Turow may be a bestselling author who has sold roughly 25 million books worldwide, but this crusading attorney has yet to give up his day job!

Don't let that "F" on your report card deter you from a writing career; just look at Turow, who flunked freshman English in high school, but whose shelves are currently lined with literary awards.

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    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Education:
      B.A. in English, Amherst College, 1970; M.A., Stanford University, 1974; J.D., Harvard University, 1978
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One

HE KNEW IT WAS WRONG, AND THAT HE WAS going to get caught. He said he knew this day was coming.

    He knew they had been stupid, he told me—worse, greedy. He said he knew he should have stopped. But somehow, each time he thought they'd quit, he'd ask himself how once more could make it any worse. Now he knew he was in trouble.

    I recognized the tune. Over twenty-some years, the folks sitting in that leather club chair in front of my desk have found only a few old standards in the jukebox. I Didn't Do It. The Other One Did It. Why Are They Picking on Me. His selection, I'm Sorry, made the easiest listening. But they all wanted to hear the same song from me: Maybe I Can Get You Out of This. I said it usually, although I knew it would often prove untrue. But it's a complicated business being somebody's only hope.

    This is a lawyer's story, the kind attorneys like to hear and tell. About a case. About a client. His name was Robert Feaver. Everyone knew him as Robbie, although he was getting old for that kind of thing, forty-three, he'd said, when I asked his age. The time was 1992, the second week in September. The pundits had finally stopped predicting that Ross Perot was going to be the next President of the United States, and the terms "dot" and "com" had not yet been introduced to one another. I recall the period precisely because the week before I had returned to Virginia to lay my father to rest. His passing, which over the years I'd assumed I would take as being in the natural order of things, had instead imbued all my waking moments with the remotequality of dreams, so that even my hand, when I considered it, seemed disconnected from my body.

    Robbie Feaver's troubles were more immediate. Last night, three Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Intelligence Division had visited him at home—one to talk and two to listen. They were, as you would expect, rumpled men in inexpensive sport coats, grave but polite. They had handed him a grand jury subpoena for all of his law partnership's financial records and tried to ask Robbie questions about his income tax returns. Wisely, he had refused to reply.

    He could suit himself, responded the one agent who spoke. But they wanted to tell him a couple things. Good news and bad. Bad first.

    They knew. They knew what Robbie and his law partner, Morton Dinnerstein, had been up to. They knew that for several years the two had occasionally deposited a check they received when they won or settled one of their personal injury cases in a secret account at River National Bank, where the firm transacted no other business. They knew that out of the River National account Dinnerstein and Robbie had paid the usual shares of what they'd earned—two thirds to the clients, one ninth to the referring attorneys, odd amounts to experts or court reporters. Everyone had received his due. Except the IRS. They knew that for years now, Feaver and his partner had been writing checks to cash to draw down the balance of the account, never paying a dime in tax.

    You guys are cold-cocked, the agent added. Robbie laughed now, very briefly, repeating the words.

    I didn't ask how Robbie and his partner could have ever believed a scheme so simpleminded would work. I was long accustomed to the dumb ways people get themselves in trouble. Besides, the fact was that their scam had operated smoothly for years. A checking account that paid no interest was unlikely to come to the Service's attention. It was, frankly, noteworthy that it had, a development that would inevitably be traced to freak coincidence, or, if things were spicier, betrayal.

    Feaver had heard out the agents in his living room. He was perched on a camelback sofa smartly upholstered in bleached silk, trying to contain himself. To smile. Stay slick. He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the unexpected sensation of a single cold rill of his own sweat tracking the length of his side until it was absorbed in the elastic waistband of his boxers.

    And the good news? he asked on second effort.

    They were getting to that, the agent said. The good news was that Robbie had an opportunity. Maybe there was something he could do for himself. Something that a person with his family situation ought to consider.

    The agent then walked across the marble foyer and opened the front door. The United States Attorney, Stan Sennett, was standing on Robbie's doorstep. Feaver recognized him from TV, a short man, slender, kempt with a compulsive orderliness. A few gnats zagged madly under the light above the careful part in Sennett's head. He greeted Feaver with his in-court expression, humorless as a hatchet blade.

    Robbie had never practiced a day of criminal law, but he knew what it meant that the United States Attorney was standing in person on his front stoop late at night. It meant the biggest gun was pointed straight at him. It meant they wanted to make him an example. It meant he'd never get away.

    In his terror, Robbie Feaver found a single useful thought.

    I want a lawyer, he said.

    He was entitled, Sennett finally responded. But perhaps Robbie should listen to him first. As soon as Sennett set a polished brogan across the threshold, Robbie repeated himself.

    I can't promise the deal will be the same tomorrow, Sennett told him.

    Lawyer, Feaver said again.

    The agents took over then, offering advice. If he was going to an attorney, find a good one, someone who'd been around. Talk to that lawyer—and no one else. Not Mom. Not the wife. And certainly not his law partner, Dinnerstein. The U.S. Attorney passed one agent his card, and the agent handed it to Feaver. Sennett would be waiting for Feaver's lawyer's call. About to step down into the darkness, the prosecutor asked over his shoulder whether Robbie had anyone in mind.

    Interesting choice, Sennett told Feaver with a shallow smile when he heard my name.

    "I'm not a rat," Robbie Feaver said now. "That's the play, right, George? They want me to dime somebody out."

    I asked if he had any idea who.

    "Well, it better not be Mort. My partner? Never. There's nothing to say about Mort."

    Feaver and Dinnerstein were lifelong friends, he told me, next-door neighbors as boys growing up in the Jewish enclave of Warren Park, here in DuSable, roommates through college and law school. But their secret account was joint, both men had made deposits and written the checks to cash, and neither had reported the income. There was enough damaging paper that it seemed unlikely the IRS was going to need anyone's assistance to install either one of them in the trophy case.

    I asked if there might be something else the government wanted Robbie to tell them about Mort, or any other person, but Feaver hitched a shoulder limply, looking lost.

    I did not know Robbie Feaver well. When he'd called this morning, he'd reminded me that we'd met several times in the lobby of the LeSueur Building where we each had our law offices, and of the committee work he'd done for the Kindle County Bar Association a couple of years ago during my term as president. My memories of him were vague and not necessarily pleasant. Measured according to the remaining reflexes of a proper Southern upbringing, he was the kind of fellow who'd be described simply as `too much.' Too good-looking in the sense that he was too well aware of it. Too much stiff, dark hair that reflected too much fussing. He was tanned in every season and spent too much money on his clothes—high-styled Italian suits and snazzy foulards—accompanied by too much jewelry. He spoke too loudly, and too eagerly to strangers in the elevator. In fact, in any setting, he talked too much—one of those people who went one up on Descartes: I speak, therefore I am. But I now saw one apparent virtue: he could have told you all of that. Diminished by fear, he maintained an air of candor, at least about himself. As clients went, therefore, he seemed, on first impression, better than average.

    When I asked what the agent had meant about his family, he sagged a bit.

    "Sick wife," he said, "sick mother." Waging a running war against the medical establishment, Feaver, like many personal injury attorneys, had absorbed the lexicon of physicians. His mother was in a nursing home. "CVA," he said, meaning a stroke. His wife, Lorraine, was worse. She had been diagnosed nearly two years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis—ALS, or more commonly Lou Gehrig's disease—and was on a certain downward course toward total paralysis and, eventually, death.

    "She's got a year maybe before things get really hairy, no one knows for sure." He was stoical but his black eyes did not rise from the carpet. "I mean, I can't leave her. Not practically. There's nobody else to take care of her."

    That was the agent's point. Feaver would talk or be in the penitentiary when his wife reached the point of total helplessness or passed. The dark shroud of that prospect fell over us both.

    In the resulting silence, I picked up Sennett's card, which Feaver had laid on my desk. Without it, I might have questioned whether Robbie had identified the right man on his doorstep. The United States Attorney, with ninety-two assistants and several hundred cases to supervise, would ordinarily have no direct role in a straightforward tax case, even one against a successful personal injury lawyer. Whatever Stan Sennett had come to Robbie's house to say last night must have been a mouthful.

    "What did it mean," Feaver asked, "when Sennett said that George Mason would be an interesting choice? Does he hate your guts or think you're a pushover?"

    It was complicated, I responded. I believed in some moods Stan would say I was a close friend.

    "Well, that's good, then, isn't it?" Feaver asked.

    When it came to Stan Sennett, I never knew the answer.

    Sometimes friends, I told Feaver. Always rivals.

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Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

He knew that it was wrong, and that he was going to get caught. He said he knew this day was coming.

He knew they had been stupid, he told me -- worse, greedy. He said he knew he should have stopped. But somehow, each time he thought they'd quit, he'd ask himself how once more could make it any worse. Now he knew he was in trouble.

I recognized the tune. Over twenty-some years, the folks sitting in that leather club chair in front of my desk have found only a few old standards in the jukebox. I Didn't Do It. The Other One Did It. Why Are They Picking on Me. His selection, I'm Sorry, made the easiest listening. But they all wanted to hear the same song from me: Maybe I Can Get You Out of This. I said it usually, although I knew it would often prove untrue. But it's a complicated business being somebody's only hope.

This is a lawyer's story, the kind attorneys like to hear and tell. About a case. About a client. His name was Robert Feaver. Everyone knew him as Robbie, although he was getting old for that kind of thing, forty-three, he'd said, when I asked his age. The time was 1992, the second week in September. The pundits had finally stopped predicting that Ross Perot was going to be the next President of the United States, and the terms "dot" and "com" had not yet been introduced to one another. I recall the period precisely because the week before I had returned to Virginia to lay my father to rest. His passing, which over the years I'd assumed I would take as being in the natural order of things, had instead imbued all my waking moments with the remote quality of dreams, so that even my hand, when I considered it, seemed disconnected from my body.

Robbie Feaver's troubles were more immediate. Last night three Special Agents of the Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Intelligence Division had visited him at home -- one to talk and two to listen. They were, as you would expect, rumpled men in inexpensive sport coats, grave but polite. They had handed him a grand jury subpoena for all of his law partnership's financial records and tried to ask Robbie questions about his income tax returns. Wisely, he had refused to reply.

He could suit himself, responded the one agent who spoke. But they wanted to tell him a couple things. Good news and bad. Bad first.

They knew. They knew what Robbie and his law partner, Morton Dinnerstein, had been up to. They knew that for several years the two had occasionally deposited a check they received when they won or settled one of their personal injury cases in a secret account at River National Bank, where the firm transacted no other business. They knew that out of the River National account Dinnerstein and Robbie had paid the usual shares of what they'd earned -- two thirds to the clients, one ninth to the referring attorneys, odd amounts to experts or court reporters. Everyone had received his due. Except the IRS. They knew that for years now, Feaver and his partner had been writing checks to cash to draw down the balance of the account, never paying a dime in tax.

You guys are cold-cocked, the agent added. Robbie laughed now, very briefly, repeating the words.

I didn't ask how Robbie and his partner could have ever believed a scheme so simpleminded would work. I was long accustomed to the dumb ways people get themselves in trouble. Besides, the fact was that their scam had operated smoothly for years. A checking account that paid no interest was unlikely to come to the Service's attention. It was, frankly, noteworthy that it had, a development that would inevitably be traced to freak coincidence, or, if things were spicier, betrayal.

Feaver had heard out the agents in his living room. He was perched on a camelback sofa smartly upholstered in bleached silk, trying to contain himself. To smile. Stay slick. He opened his mouth to speak but was interrupted by the unexpected sensation of a single cold rill of his own sweat tracking the length of his side until it was absorbed in the elastic waistband of his boxers.

And the good news? he asked on second effort.

They were getting to that, the agent said. The good news was that Robbie had an opportunity. Maybe there was something he could do for himself. Something that a person with his family situation ought to consider.

The agent then walked across the marble foyer and opened the front door. The United States Attorney, Stan Sennett, was standing on Robbie's doorstep. Feaver recognized him from TV, a short man, slender, kempt with a compulsive orderliness. A few gnats zagged madly under the light above the careful part in Sennett's head. He greeted Feaver with his in-court expression, humorless as a hatchet blade.

Robbie had never practiced a day of criminal law, but he knew what it meant that the United States Attorney was standing in person on his front stoop late at night. It meant the biggest gun was pointed straight at him. It meant they wanted to make him an example. It meant he'd never get away.

In his terror, Robbie Feaver found a single useful thought.

I want a lawyer, he said.

He was entitled, Sennett finally responded. But perhaps Robbie should listen to him first. As soon as Sennett set a polished brogan across the threshold, Robbie repeated himself.

I can't promise the deal will be the same tomorrow, Sennett told him. Lawyer, Feaver said again.

The agents took over then, offering advice. If he was going to an attorney, find a good one, someone who'd been around. Talk to that lawyer -- and no one else. Not Mom. Not the wife. And certainly not his law partner, Dinnerstein. The U.S. Attorney passed one agent his card, and the agent handed it to Feaver. Sennett would be waiting for Feaver's lawyer's call. About to step down into the darkness, the prosecutor asked over his shoulder whether Robbie had anyone in mind.

Interesting choice, Sennett told Feaver with a shallow smile when he heard my name.

"I'm not a rat," Robbie Feaver said now. "That's the play, right, George? They want me to dime somebody out."

I asked if he had any idea who.

"Well, it better not be Mort. My partner? Never. There's nothing to say about Mort."

Feaver and Dinnerstein were lifelong friends, he told me, next-door neighbors as boys growing up in the Jewish enclave of Warren Park, here in DuSable, roommates through college and law school. But their secret account was joint, both men had made deposits and written the checks to cash, and neither had reported the income. There was enough damaging paper that it seemed unlikely the IRS was going to need anyone's assistance to install either one of them in the trophy case.

I asked if there might be something else the government wanted Robbie to tell them about Mort, or any other person, but Feaver hitched a shoulder limply, looking lost.

I did not know Robbie Feaver well. When he'd called this morning, he'd reminded me that we'd met several times in the lobby of the LeSueur Building where we each had our law offices, and of the committee work he'd done for the Kindle County Bar Association a couple of years ago during my term as president. My memories of him were vague and not necessarily pleasant. Measured according to the remaining reflexes of a proper Southern upbringing, he was the kind of fellow who'd be described simply as 'too much.' Too good-looking in the sense that he was too well aware of it. Too much stiff, dark hair that reflected too much fussing. He was tanned in every season and spent too much money on his clothes -- high-styled Italian suits and snazzy foulards -- accompanied by too much jewelry. He spoke too loudly, and too eagerly to strangers in the elevator. In fact, in any setting, he talked too much -- one of those people who went one up on Descartes: I speak, therefore I am. But I now saw one apparent virtue: he could have told you all of that. Diminished by fear, he maintained an air of candor, at least about himself. As clients went, therefore, he seemed, on first impression, better than average.

When I asked what the agent had meant about his family, he sagged a bit.

"Sick wife," he said, "sick mother." Waging a running war against the medical establishment, Feaver, like many personal injury attorneys, had absorbed the lexicon of physicians. His mother was in a nursing home. "CVA," he said, meaning a stroke. His wife, Lorraine, was worse. She had been diagnosed nearly two years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- ALS, or more commonly Lou Gehrig's disease -- and was on a certain downward course toward total paralysis and, eventually, death.

"She's got a year maybe before things get really hairy, no one knows for sure." He was stoical but his black eyes did not rise from the carpet. "I mean, I can't leave her. Not practically. There's nobody else to take care of her."

That was the agent's point. Feaver would talk or be in the penitentiary when his wife reached the point of total helplessness or passed. The dark shroud of that prospect fell over us both.

In the resulting silence, I picked up Sennett's card, which Feaver had laid on my desk. Without it, I might have questioned whether Robbie had identified the right man on his doorstep. The United States Attorney, with ninety-two assistants and several hundred cases to supervise, would ordinarily have no direct role in a straightforward tax case, even one against a successful personal injury lawyer. Whatever Stan Sennett had come to Robbie's house to say last night must have been a mouthful.

"What did it mean," Feaver asked, "when Sennett said that George Mason would be an interesting choice? Does he hate your guts or think you're a pushover?"

It was complicated, I responded. I believed in some moods Stan would say I was a close friend.

"Well, that's good, then, isn't it?" Feaver asked.

When it came to Stan Sennett, I never knew the answer.

Sometimes friends, I told Feaver. Always rivals.

Copyright © 1999 by Scott Turow

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

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(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2002

    multiple injuries

    I liked this book a lot. It is the first Scott Turow book I have read, although I have read a number by John Grishum and Lisa Scottoline. The three are similar in the way they approach a story. They do not produce the shocking, high speed tales of a James Patterson, but their characterization and sense of subtle irony is outstanding. I thought the development of Robbie and Evon was fabulous and the ending was very powerful. I will definitely scout out Turow's other books, and I would recommend this book highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2000

    So much better than I expected

    This is another book that, based on less than glowing reviews, I held off reading 'til recently. I am so sorry I didn't get it hot off the press! The main character, Robbie Feaver, is a high-rolling Personal Injury lawyer with a roving eye and ego to match, a Mercedes, lovely home, and terminally ill wife whom he loves dearly. All of Robbie's success comes to a screeching halt when the IRS and U. S. Attorney come down hard on him for bribing judges. Of course, it's the judges the Government really wants, and Robbie has no choice but to become their confidential informant, with a female FBI agent named Evon to babysit him. The U. S. Attorney running the case is as ruthless as they come, perfectly willing to spend enormous sums of money and force his star witness into increasingly dangerous situations to secure the evidence to get his convictions. Robbie Feaver is, among many other things, a pathological liar, and just when it seems there is nothing else he could possibly lie about, he does. Similarly, when it looks like he can't get any more deeply into trouble, he does. Yet, he is a supremely sympathetic character and I found myself rooting for him all the way, wanting him to find a way out of the hole he'd dug himself into and turn his life around. This was a complex story with very real, multi-layered, empathetic characters and an all around great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2000

    Terrific Story - Many twists and turns

    Having read all of John Grisham's and Scott Turow's books, I held off quite awhile purchasing this book because of the previous reviews. I finally ordered it and was delightfully surprised. It was a suspenseful page-turner. The story grabs you from the first chapter. Don't be mislead by the reviews. If you are a Grisham or Turow fan, you will love this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2000

    Compelling and Moving

    One of Scott Turow's better efforts, 'Personal Injuries' unfolds slowly and deliberately, like a Greek tragedy. There are no car chases, no shootouts, just a foreboding sense of the inevitable running its course. Those who are looking for a legal thriller-diller will be disappointed, but those who are looking for a character-driven novel with background themes of big city corruption and personal redemption will be more than satisfied. Turow's mythical Kindle County, with all its sleazy politcal infighting and grimy big-city realism is again the backgound for this novel and provides it with an extra note of authenticity. This reader felt that he knew these people and where they lived and worked. In time Scott Turow's work my transcend its genre of the legal novel and become 'real literature.' 'Personal Injuries' is a more focused effort than 'The Laws of the Fathers' and ranks with this author's best.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2000

    Personal Injuries, A Good Read.

    I wrote a review of this book for the ABA Student Lawyer national publication. Like so many of Turow's other works, Personal Injuries is based upon true life--not necessarily 'fiction' in the truest sense. Although the facts of the book were messaged a bit from Turow's real-life prosecution of 'Operation Gaylord' in his hometown of Chicago, the book is nontheless thoroughly entertaining, with a sprinkling of evidentiary law for those of you who are attorneys or attorneys to be. Although not quite as stunning a book as, say, Presumed Innocent, Personal Injuries is a great read with a surprise ending. I would recommend it for anyone who enjoys the legal-thriller genre Turow created.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 5, 2013

    Interesting twists and turns in the court system.

    This novel deals with lawyers, judges, federal law enforcement, and courtroom personnel as it reveals how bribes are handled as a matter of course. Not a nail-biter but okay reading for the beach.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2012

    P

    Is this fiction

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 5, 2012

    Highly recommended

    Excellent reading.
    All work from Turow are worth reading; I always learn something significant or important.

    Japurol

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2003

    Good legal novel, a little slow in parts.

    I have to agree with another review in that the relationship between Evon and Robbie was very interesting to observe as it grew. There was a lot of plot development and description as the story ( and backstory ) unfolded. I do have to mark the book down in a couple of chapters as it did seem very tedious and overly verbose in some situations. Overall I must recommend it as enjoyable.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2002

    Easy to put down

    Mixed book club review - Most didn't finish it. Love the author but other books of his are better. Accurately shows how people respond to stress and choices. Almost too much description.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2001

    Don't take it personal.

    Turow and Grisham two of the best new age legal/mystery writers. I say new age because I started my legal/mystery reading with Erle Stanley Gardner (Perry Mason). Honestly, I like all three writers. I would not call Turow¿s Personal Injuries a legal thriller. The characters are too well developed for this to be a thriller and the pacing seems too slow. In Personal Injuries Turow has given his fans a superbly plotted and methodical yarn. A yarn told step by step much the same way a lawyer would plan and strategize for a case. For me to enjoy a story I have to care about the stories characters. And while Turow has developed his characters very well I didn¿t give a flip about them. Maybe I wasn¿t supposed to care? We all have our own reading preferences so I would not take it ¿personal¿ if you disagreed with me when I say, I liked Personal Injuries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2001

    Pleasant surprise, enjoyable read.

    With the exception of some tedious passages and a little nonbelievability, this was a very enjoyable, worthwhile pastime. I've read all of Grisham and most Turow and I'd rate this in the top 25% of what I've read. Definitely more than worth the ten bucks to download it as an eBook.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2001

    Intrigue from the Start

    The first chapter begins in a place we can all relate to and the story quickly sweeps you up. Clever juke box figure of speech at the beginning and funny Descartes reference. Great pathos with the entrance of the family illnesses builds the depth of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed the book so far and plan to finish reading it asap.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 5, 2001

    worst book of it's kind ever?

    I can't believe I read this all book all the way through. It was only because I was sick and didn't have anything else to do. I was hoping it would get better, but it never did. If you like these types of books, all of Grishhams are much better

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2000

    Will it ever end?

    The detail in this book is very descriptive but much is unnecessary. Unlike other books that incorporate all the copius details in the ending, this book did not. I wanted to find out what happened but suffered through the 400 pages to get to the non-melodramatic ending.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2000

    Better than most

    I have read all of Turow and all of Grisham and this was one of my favorites. The time Turow took on character development was well spent. I can't believe the disparity in the reviews I have read. Maybe it's not a super achievement but it certainly is not as bad as some seem to think.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 23, 2000

    Intelligent and Well-thought Out

    <P>I don't have much time to read books, so I try to choose them carefully. 'Personal Injuries' was a successful selection.</P> <P>Turow has written a very intelligent, believeable story with a plot that keeps you guessing around all of the little twists along the way.</P> </P>I was suprised by the level of the author's observations about the settings and the characters. The detail was impressive. And each of the main characters felt very well developed.</P> </P>If you're looking for a good beach read, 'Personal Injuries' ought to fit your bill.</P>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2000

    'I Tried to Write a Great Book About Bad Attorneys'

    It is amazing how disappointing this book is. Turow uses every cliche and soap-opera scene ever said and done. Sadly, the events are beliveable, but the characters elicit no empathy or sympathy. After a few chapters they become booooring. Maybe the movie will be better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 9, 2000

    formulaic

    After having read all of Turow's books, particularly his last triumph 'Laws of our Fathers', I was extremely disappointed that this book was a simple formulaic plot, without anything to make it stand out. Turow has obviously settled into complacency and, I do admit, I read mediocre reviews of this novel prior to purusing it, but the critics were correct. Read Scott's previous tomes...He apparently has not motivation to excel anymore.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 29, 2000

    A Great Read!

    If you are looking for a simple read with a formula plot, cardboard characters, and a writing style that can be cut-and-pasted into a first grade primer, forget about reading Personal Injuries. This is a novel to be savored like a good chardonnay. Turow¿s characters have flesh and blood. Robbie Feaver is the Willie Loman of the Millennium. Just about everything about him is phony. His whole life has been a string of lies and, what¿s more, he has convinced even himself that they are true. But Turow doesn¿t stop there. He gives us glimpses of Robbie¿s soul and allows the reader to see the spirit of an otherwise merely sleazy man. Likewise, another character, Evon, who is tied up in knots in her own identity crisis, is easy to dislike. But, as Evon's character develops, a vulnerable human being releases itself from the anonymity of layers of camouflage. These people show redeeming qualities that pave the path to redemption for their shortcomings. Personal Injuries is not a fast read. It is advisable not to read certain chapters at bedtime, or (as I did) you will awaken in the middle of the night with the bed light still on and the book opened to the page you were reading when you fell asleep. To those who found it boring, I give this bit of advice: read it again¿this time as an intelligent piece of literature. Appreciate the richness of the plot, the texture of the characters, the craftsmanship of the way Turow puts his words on paper. This was my first Scott Turow novel. If this latest book is an indication of a downhill spiral, then his writing career has many, many years to go before it hits bottom.

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