(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.