Turrow’s ‘Testimony’ packs a punch

Andrew Moyo Beyond the Cover
IF you are a fan of legal and political thrillers, then Scott Turrow is one of the writers you must look up.

Thirty years after the release of his first novel and 13 titles later, Turrow has established himself as one of the finest writers in the world. In his recent novel “Testimony”, which was released in March, the best selling writer tells a riveting story where a retired lawyer in his early fifties, Bill ten Boom, is called upon by the International Criminal Court to try and unearth the details of an alleged massacre.

In the apocalyptic chaos following the Bosnian war, an entire Roma refugee camp vanished and now, 10 years later for the first time, a witness has surfaced with details about what transpired. Ferko Rincic claims that armed men marched the camp’s Gypsy residents to a cave in the middle of the night and set off an avalanche with a hand grenade, burying 400 people alive.  Being the only survivor, there is a need to cross-examine the credibility of his testimony and this is where Boom comes in.

The legal expert, whose point of view the story is being told from, has to explore Ferko’s claims and determine who might have been responsible for the atrocity. There are several suspects to look into and these include Serb paramilitaries, Islamist jihadists, the Bosnian mafia, NATO and the United States forces, with all of them having various motives.

From the images of the Bosnian war to the current setup in The Hague, Turrow builds a storyline that is not only gripping but also emotionally moving. The characterisation is superb as the writer manages to create interesting personalities that readers can easily fall in love with or despise depending where they are placed into the plot.

The writer also throws in some romantic aspects in the book, with an interesting relationship brewing between the protagonist and Esma Czarini, a Roma legal advocate who also plays a significant role in the story.

Other interesting characters include Layton Merriwell, a former US major general who lost his post after a sex scandal and the lesbian Sgt. Maj. Attlia Doby, who was in Bosnia with US troops when the Roma disappeared.

Doby adds a bit of humour to the story with the way she talks, the trash that comes out of her mouth and her features, which confuse Boom during their first encounter. “Attila was a male name, but the voice was thinner and sounded like a woman’s. The jacket was open but the blue button-down shirt was too loose to reveal if there were skinny breasts beneath … Attila’s racial origins were also uncertain.

“There was the freckly complexion of people who years ago were called ‘High Yeller’, but Attila’s eyes were muddy green, even if the nose had an African breadth. ‘American’ was the only biographical detail I was certain of after he or she had spoken the first words.”

The protagonist himself seems to be embroiled in a personal crisis, having left his home, family and his job but his appointment in Holland appears to be a remedy of sorts. “My exile to Holland and the International Criminal Court was not a guaranteed solution, but it was the proverbial door that opened as another one closed.”

The writer’s attention to detail is extraordinary, even the various accents that come to play are recreated in black and white. “‘Fair suck of the sav,’ said Goos, which I took it meant he was as surprised as I about Merriwell. Goos’s English had basically been preserved in amber and was spoken as if he were still nineteen, the age when he left Australia.”

Turrow’s book packs a punch, hiding the truth from plain sight and forcing the reader to turn the pages in an attempt to get to the conclusion.

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