Like Presumed Innocent (1987), The Burden of Proof is a mystery with the death of an enigmatic woman at the center. Both books force the protagonists on a journey of outward and inward exploration to probe their lives and their relationships with these dead women. In both the case of Rusty Sabich and Sandy Stern, each is so intent on creating a semblance of "normal" life that he refuses to acknowledge the darker influences in his life until compelled to confront them in a dramatic fashion. With Clara's suicide, Sandy must examine his own failings in his relationships with his wife and with his children. At the same time, he comes to realize that the interpretations he has made of other people or events are flawed.