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Gale ResearchTurow told Publishers Weekly that his book is "a comment on the different kinds of truth we recognize. If the criminal-justice system is supposed to be a truth-finding device, it's an awkward one at best. There are all kinds of playing around in the book that illuminate that, and yet by the same token, the results in the end are just. And that's not accidental. . . . Absolutely everybody in the novel is guilty of something. That's a truth of life that I learned as a prosecutor. We all do things we wish we hadn't done and that we're not necessarily proud of."
Fellow attorney-turned-author George V. Higgins notes in the Chicago Tribune that Presumed Innocent is a "beautifully crafted tale. . . . Packed with data, rich in incident, painstakingly imagined, it snags both of your lapels and presses you down in your chair until you've finished it." Likewise, Toronto Globe & Mail correspondent H. J. Kirchhoff contends that the novel is "surprisingly assured," adding: "The prose is crisp and polished, every character is distinct and fully realized, and the dialogue is authentic. Turow has blended his experience in the rough-and-tumble of the criminal courts with a sympathetic eye for the vagaries of the human condition and an intimate understanding of the dark side of the human soul." Jeff Shear concludes that the criminal- justice system Presumed Innocentportrays, "without tears or pretense, has seldom appeared in literature quite like this."