Cover image for The innocence game
Title:
The innocence game
Author:
Harvey, Michael T.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, [2013]

©2013
Physical Description:
241 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi book."
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780307961259
Format :
Book

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Summary

Summary

From Michael Harvey, Chicago's best-known crime writer and author of the popular Michael Kelly series, comes something different: a leap forward into a dark world where the lines between innocence and guilt disappear altogether.

They're young, brilliant, beautiful . . . and naïve enough to believe they can make a difference. For three graduate students, the exclusive innocence seminar at the nation's most esteemed journalism school is supposed to teach them how to free the falsely accused from prison. Little do they know the most important lesson they'll learn is how to stay alive.

The first day of class for Ian Joyce and Sarah Gold starts like any other, until a fellow student, Jake Havens, pulls a wrinkled envelope from his backpack. Inside is a bloodstained scrap of shirt from a boy murdered fourteen years ago and an anonymous note taking credit for the killing. The only problem is the alleged murderer is already dead.

Suddenly, the class has a new assignment: find the real killer. As the case unfolds, the bodies and questions begin to pile up. 

Why are innocent men being framed?

Who's been getting away with murder?

Drawn into a web of deceit and corruption, the students realize they, too, are being hunted. Ian, Sarah, and Jake are smart . . . but are they smart enough to stay alive?

From Northwestern's idyllic campus, to the grittiest corners of Chicago, to the frigid depths of Lake Michigan, The Innocence Game is irresistible, harrowing suspense from a writer at the top of his form. 


Author Notes

Michael Harvey is a writer, journalist, and documentary producer. He is the co-creator, writer and executive producer of the Prime Time Emmy-nominated television series Cold Case Files¿ and a former investigative producer for CBS in Chicago.

Harvey's work has won numerous national and international awards, including multiple Emmys and an Academy Award nomination for the Holocaust documentary Eyewitness.

Michael's novels include The Innocence Game, We All Fall Down, The Third Rail, The Fifth Floor, The Chicago Way, and The Governor's Wife.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Journalist and documentarian Harvey is known for his race-the-clock thrillers starring Chicago private eye Michael Kelly (e.g., The Chicago Way, 2007, and The Third Rail, 2010). This time he offers a stand-alone thriller, still set in Chicago and environs but starring an unlikely trio of journalism grad students. Three students are enrolled in the Medill School of Journalism's Innocence Seminar. This program has received a great deal of both positive and negative press (in the real world) for having students, guided by a professor, work to exonerate wrongly convicted death-row inmates. Harvey doesn't mention the controversy surrounding the program, which seems odd since his mystery is set in the present. The students choose their own case, a 14-year-old cold case in which a young boy was murdered. On their visit to the forest-preserve crime scene, they stumble upon another young boy's body. The trio's pursuit of both cases is sometimes intriguing but more often improbable. For Harvey fans.--Fletcher, Connie Copyright 2010 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

In this ambitious stand-alone from Harvey (The Chicago Way and three other Mike Kelly PI novels), three Northwestern journalist students-Ian Joyce, Jake Havens, and Sarah Gold-enroll in a special course that requires them to investigate cases that strongly suggest the accused were wrongfully convicted. One case concerns the murder of 10-year-old Skylar Wingate. The man convicted of the crime has long since died, but new evidence supports the theory that the real killer is still alive. On a visit to the site where Skylar was found buried, the three students discover the body of another boy in a cave. When their search for the killer brings them into contact with the corrupt underbelly of the Chicago police, they realize they must solve the crime-not only for the sake of justice but to save their own lives. Although Harvey makes some far-fetched connections in the wrap-up, the suspense remains high throughout. Author tour. Agent: David Gernert, the Gernert Company. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

Three bright, ambitious, and naive journalism students enrolled in the exclusive "innocence graduate seminar" struggle to clear the name of a seemingly innocent man convicted of the murder of a young boy. Even though the crime occurred 14 years ago and the accused was killed in prison, Ian, Sarah, and Jake pursue the case, but someone with connections in the police department attempts to stop their investigation. Robbie Daymond and Robertson Dean do an excellent job reading the book. Their voices are very different, and the change in reader is disconcerting at first, but listeners will get used to it. Both readers keep the suspense and excitement level high. Verdict Recommended for fans of legal thrillers and those interested in the pursuits of organizations such as the Innocence Project.-Ilka Gordon, Aaron Garber Lib., Cleveland (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 The seminar met in Fisk Hall, one of the oldest buildings on Northwestern's campus and the crusted, beating heart of the university's Medill School of Journalism. I took a seat at a table in the back. The pile of red hair at the front shook itself like a dog shaking off the weather. A hand beckoned. Won't do, Mr. Joyce." I sighed, grabbed my backpack, and found a place up front. The pile of hair parted itself, revealing a considerable length of nose and eyes of violent blue. "My name is Judy Zombrowski. You can call me Z. Do you know Ms. Gold?" The hand directed my attention to a woman sitting directly to my left. She had a perfectly square chin, high cheekbones, and long, brown hair that turned crimson in the late--afternoon sun. Sarah Gold waved. I felt queasy. Gloriously so. "We know each other from undergrad," Sarah said, smiling at me as if we'd exchanged more than three words during our four years together. "Of course you do." Z cast a look toward the back of the room. "We're waiting for one more." A door banged open. The third student in the summer graduate seminar was tall and angular. He had thick shoulders and a long jaw covered by a blond scruff of beard. His eyes were shaded and hard to read. "Jake Havens?" Z's voice rang down the empty aisle and echoed off the walls. Havens took the same seat I'd picked out for myself. "What is it with you people?" Z waved Havens forward. "Up here." "I'm good, thanks." His voice was ragged, like a car knocking through its low end of gears. He looked older. In his thirties, even. "Fine. Sit where you want." Z poked at the mass of papers piled up around her. From underneath a legal pad she pulled out what looked like a Big Mac and unwrapped it. She took a bite, then found a Coke with a straw and sipped. "So, can someone tell me what we're here for?" Z took another bite and watched us as she chewed. "We're here to work on wrongful convictions." Sarah Gold tapped a pen lightly against the table as she spoke. "Men who've been sentenced to death for crimes they didn't commit." "You mean murder, Ms. Gold." "Yes, ma'am." "Z." "Yes, Z." "And what if, heaven forbid, the son of a bitch is guilty?" A pickle dropped out of Z's Big Mac. She ignored it. "What if you spend the quarter working a file and, at the end of the day, he raped the little girl, cut her into pieces, and stuffed them all into Hefty bags. Just like the state said he did." Sarah opened her mouth to speak. "I'm not finished," Z said. "What if you work a case and are convinced the poor bastard is innocent? Not a doubt about it. But you don't have the evidence. Or you do have the evidence, but for some reason it's tainted. Inadmissible. What then?" Z took another bite of her sandwich, put it down, and held up her hands like she was a doctor getting ready to operate. "I'm not supposed to eat this stuff, but I love it." She wiped her fingers with a napkin, wrapped up what was left of the burger, and stuffed it into its paper bag. "My point is this. We have a lot of files. And a lot of possible outcomes. But we don't root for one result over the other." "What do we root for?" Sarah said. "The truth, if we can find it. And a good story. As for the actual workings of our legal system"---a flick of hands to the heavens---"sometimes it's necessary to let things fall where they may. Do you understand what I'm getting at?" We all nodded. "Like hell you do. But that's all right. Just keep in mind rule number one. The evidence is what it is. Allow it to tell its own story. Don't shape it to support a certain outcome. We'll talk more about all of this later. For now, why don't we get started?" Z gestured to the stack of brown files climbing the wall behind her. "These are just a few cases you can look at. We have another roomful down the hall." "Do we start anywhere in particular?" I said. "Or just dig in?" "This seminar is all about instinct, Mr. Joyce. And who has it. In fact, our very first case relied on little more than a hunch. Have any of you heard this?" We all shook our heads. Z seemed pleased. "Our first case involved a man named Charles Granger. He was convicted of shooting a man dead over a drug deal and sentenced to die by the state of Indiana. In the spring of 1999, we read through the file in this very classroom. None of us bought it. No one was sure why, but the facts just didn't hang together. So we ordered up Granger's trial transcripts and began to work the case. We eventually zeroed in on the state's eyewitness. At first, she was scared to talk to us. We sent her some letters from Granger. Then we sent her a calendar with Granger's scheduled execution date circled. She wound up recanting her testimony, and the whole thing came apart. Charles Granger spent fifteen years on death row. At one point, he was forty--eight hours from being killed. And we saved his life. This seminar has saved eight other lives since then. And gotten at least that many released from decades of prison time for crimes they didn't commit. This will be the best work you'll ever do. It will also be the most demanding. And a lot of it will depend on you trusting your gut." Z rattled the ice in her Coke and sucked on the straw until she hit bottom. Then she threw the cup in the vicinity of a barrel. "You've been chosen for this seminar because you're the best. At least that's what they tell me. I've won three Pulitzer Prizes in my career, so I know talent. And from where I sit, the screening committee for this course gets it right a little more than half the time. Which means at least one of you doesn't belong. But we'll see. Now, I'd like to head down the hall for a walk--through of our filing system." Z stood. Sarah and I got up with her. "I've already got a case." Jake Havens was still slouched in his chair, eyes fastened on the floor. "Name's James Harrison. Fourteen years ago, he was convicted of killing a ten--year--old kid in Chicago." Z smiled so I could see her eyeteeth. "Mr. Havens. Nice of you to check in. We tend not to focus as much on cases in Illinois since the state abolished its death penalty." Havens looked up. "What happened to 'trusting your instinct'?" "I didn't say we couldn't take a look at an Illinois case. Just that, all things being equal, it might not be a priority." "But all things aren't equal." "I'm not following you." "First of all, Harrison's dead. Fourteen months in prison and they found him stuck in the neck with a shank." Havens climbed to his feet and moved down the aisle until he stood on the other side of Sarah. He pulled a thick file from a tattered backpack and thunked it down in front of him. "This is everything I could find. Mostly newspaper clippings. And the original police report." Z ignored the paperwork. "Why would we look into a case where the convicted man is deceased?" "Does the fact that he's dead make him any less innocent?" Z licked her lips. First day and the prof was pissed. Great. "Mr. Havens, let's take this up after class . . ." Havens pulled a wrinkled gray envelope out of his pack and laid it beside the file. "You have something else for us?" Z's voice rose with her eyebrows. "It's a letter, ma'am." "I can see that." "I received it four days ago." "In the mail?" "There's no stamp," Sarah said, tilting her head to get a closer look. "It was tucked under the front door of my apartment." "When, Mr. Havens?" "I told you. Four days ago." Z nodded. "Go ahead." I could feel the shift in the room. Z was no longer the teacher. And Jake Havens, no longer just a student. "I woke up and it was sitting in my hallway. So I opened it." "Who else has handled it?" "No one." "You're sure?" "Pretty sure." "And what do you think is in there?" "I know what's in there. It's a note from the killer. The real killer." Z walked to the back of the classroom and closed the door. She returned with a box of latex gloves. We each took a pair and snapped them on. I couldn't take my eyes off the envelope. Z's cloak--and--dagger only made things better. She picked up the envelope and studied it. There was no address, just jake havens printed in block letters of black ink. "Was it sealed, Mr. Havens?" Jake shook his head. Z didn't seem surprised. She opened the envelope and eased out its contents---a single sheet of paper filled with more block lettering. Z pressed the page flat on the table and we all read. 98--2425 . . . i kilt the boy. "There's something else." Havens reached into his pack again, this time pulling out a small piece of cloth. He placed it down beside the letter. My hand picked it up before the rest of me realized what I'd done. It was a ragged cut. The fabric, white with a black stripe running through it. "Looks like it's from a shirt," I said. "It was in with the note," Havens said. "I think it's got blood on it." Sarah had taken the piece of cloth from me. Now, she let it slip from her fingers. "My guess," Havens continued, "is that it was cut from the shirt the victim was wearing." "How do you know what the victim was wearing?" Z said. Havens placed a hand on the file. "Case number 98--2425. The victim's name was Skylar Wingate. According to the cops, he was wearing a black--and--white cotton shirt. Seems to match what we've got here." Z sighed like she'd heard it all before. "You're leaving out a few facts, Mr. Havens." "You remember the case?" I said. "It was a pretty big deal in its day." "What did he leave out?" Sarah said. "As I recall," Z said, "they did DNA testing on blood found on the jeans James Harrison was wearing when he was arrested. Came back as a perfect match to the victim." Sarah and I turned our gaze back to Havens. "The DNA testing was done postconviction," Havens said. "Harrison demanded and paid for it himself." "What does that matter?" Sarah said. "Why does a guy who's filing an appeal pay for DNA testing that's going to remove all doubt of his guilt?" Havens said. "Desperation," Z said. "Do enough of these stories, and you'll learn all about it." I picked up the piece of torn fabric. "Would they still have the shirt in evidence?" "If this guy was killed in prison," Sarah said, "why would they keep anything?" We all turned again to Z, who seemed to think long and hard for a moment. She scribbled something on a legal pad and pushed it over to Havens. "The Cook County Clerk's Office takes custody of trial transcripts and physical evidence once a case is closed. Transcripts and related trial documents are stored off--site, in a permanent records center. Actual physical evidence is kept in the county's warehouse. I've given you both addresses and a couple of names. I doubt there's anything left, but if there is, they'll have it." "Will they let us in?" Havens said. "I mean if we just tell them we're from Medill?" "Not likely. I'll make a call this afternoon and e--mail you if I get an okay. Assuming I do, you guys go down there and see what you can dig up on the shirt. Show me something substantive next time we meet, something that gives us a way around the DNA match . . . or we move on. Fair enough?" We looked at one another and nodded. Z tucked the torn piece of shirt into the gray envelope and pinched it between her fingers. "Meanwhile, this stays with me. Now, does anyone else have anything they want to share? A Christmas card from John Wayne Gacy? Richard Speck's bra and panties? No? Good. If it's all right with Mr. Havens, I'd appreciate ten minutes of your precious time to talk about the five hundred or so other cases we're working here at Medill." Excerpted from The Innocence Game by Michael T. Harvey All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.