Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Presumed Guilty, by James Scott Bell (Zondervan)

(Click cover for more information)


An author like James Scott Bell has little need for a review from the likes of me—but then again, neither did Cec Murphey, or TL Hines, or Joe Hilley, or…well, you get the picture. But I’m gonna do it anyway just as a way of saying thanks for a really good read.

And Presumed Guilty was just that: a really good read.

Mr. Bell tackles several delicate subjects in this legal thriller: pornography, post traumatic stress disorder, marital infidelity, physical abuse, and—perhaps worst of all—presumption of grace. Sprinkle in shady politics and corruption in the legal system and you have all the ingredients for a hard-hitting, thought-provoking novel that balances all these evils with dogged faith and unrelenting loyalty by those who are hurt the most.

What I appreciated most about Presumed Guilty was Mr. Bell’s ability to deliver realism without abandoning hope. There seems to be a line of demarcation in Christian literature today (or fiction that presumes to be Christian; or perhaps spiritual is a better word—no matter). Off to one side of the line is the story that supports itself on theologically correct platitudes that do little to comfort the afflicted—indeed, that leave the afflicted worse off by feeling guilty that the platitudes do not satisfy, believing that somehow they should. At the other extreme is the story that, in striving to be “real,” denies (or marginalizes) faith and perseverance that are very real, through which people can and do overcome. I’ve read both types over the past few months. I’ve reviewed neither.

I thank Mr. Bell for straddling the line so well; one foot planted firmly in the reality of faith, one foot just as firmly in the reality of the mortal. And even more importantly, he then sees them through to reconciliation.

In Presumed Guilty, you feel the gut-wrenching tearing of the soul, the spirit, and the faith in the victimized. You cry, slam the wall with your mental fist, and agonize with the character whose soul is tormented beyond his desire or ability to pray it away. At the same time, you also put your emotional shoulder alongside the beleaguered heroine and strain and sweat for all you’re worth in lifting the burden you know she can’t share, carrying the load you know is hers alone. And you lay exhausted with both of them as they fall prostrate before the Almighty not because they choose to, but because they have to, because the weight of the world crushes them there. But the faith that kept them flat on their faces, when the world’s heroes tell them to get back up and fight, lifts them to a greater level than they could have ever achieved playing the stoic.

The synopsis? No, read the book. There's no risk in ordering this one.

So, thanks, Mr. Bell, for…well, for a really good—and honest—read.

6 comments:

Four Lights For Him said...

Wow! I saw this book in CBD's magazine the other day and had put a question mark by it. It sounded like a really good book and one I could possibly put on my wish list for later. But now, it sounds like a definite read for me. :) Thanks for the review!

Bruce Judisch said...

Jennifer,

Mr. Bell is quite an accomplished writer. He was also very gracious in his thanks for the review.

Prepare to be challenged in this one, though. Although it is edifying, it's also going to frustrate you at times, like any good Christian drama.

I'm going to be picking up a few more of his books myself.

Cheers! Bruce

Four Lights For Him said...

This past Saturday we went to the bookstore just to let the boys play with the train set in the children's section. While there I thought I would browse the Christian Fiction area. Didn't see Presumed Guilty but I did find Breach of Promise by James Scott Bell. I picked up and was laughing from the very beginning. :) Daniel suggested I get it since I'm in limbo with no new book to read. I ended up buying it and finished it this evening. This one I just couldn't put it down. It seemed like things kept getting worse and worse for the main character, and I just couldn't believe some of things he was thinking. I'm so glad it ended the way it did and Mr. Bell tied all everything together very well. :) I'm definitely hooked on this Mr. Bell's style of writing and his books! Thanks for the recommendation on his books. :)

Bruce Judisch said...

Jennifer,

That's great. I look forward to reading some more of Mr. Bell's, too. I'm crunching to finish the editing on my final volme of A Prophet's Tale, so my pleasure reading is going to lag for awhile. I'll try Breach of Promise next.

Thanks again for commenting and have a great week!

Cheers! Bruce

Four Lights For Him said...

I just finished reading this book. The only word I can think of to describe this book is WOW! I did not see or even consider all that happened and how deeply involved this one goes. Some of it I figured out but most of it hadn't even crossed my mind. This one kept me on my toes. An excellent read!

This one reminds me of the good ole suspense movies (black and white), where you're constantly thinking it's one thing and find out it's much more involved. Kind of like Columbo and Sherlock Holmes. :)

Bruce Judisch said...

Jennifer,

Glad you liked it! I'm ashamed to admit that it's the first one of Mr. Bell's that I've read. Won't be the last. :-)

Cheers! Bruce