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Directed Verdict

by Randy Singer
2002 / 486 pages

There are lots of layers in this intense courtroom drama. When the Saudi religious police uncover a secret church, Charles Reed, the American pastor, is tortured and killed, and his wife Sarah is beaten and deported on trumped-up drug charges. From there the action takes place both in an American court where lawyer Brad Carson helps Sarah bring suit against her torturer, and in Saudi Arabia, where the small church struggles to continue, their members fearful and shaken. The large law firm defending the torturer is willing to cheat, so what might their murderous client be willing to do? Sarah Reed’s team is growing to admire her courage but none of them share her Christian scruples, so what might they be willing to do behind her back to help her get justice?

I was struck by the missing obligatory conversion scene that is central to so much Christian fiction. Sarah’s legal team of Brad Carson and Leslie Connors weren’t Christian at the beginning of the book, and still weren’t at the end. That might not seem a feature in a Christian book; fictional though they may be, we don’t want our favorite characters heading towards hell. But because it happens so often, it’s quite the twist when we witness someone planting and watering, but don’t get to witness the harvest.

This quick read got me picking up the sequel Self Incrimination where Leslie is handed a copy of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity. It turns out that Singer wants the best for his characters too, but he’s more patient about it, waiting until book two for the reaping.

I wasn’t as fond of this sequel, not so much because it had the obligatory conversion scene, as that it had our two favorite lawyers defending a murder suspect who seemed guilty, guilty, guilty. And they are trying to get her off! Is that what the heroes of the story are supposed to do?

I don’t want to give too much away, so all I’ll note both lawyers aren’t Christian during most of the trial and trial preparation. So if they aren’t acting entirely right, maybe it’s because they don’t know what the right thing to do might be. Still, author Randy Singer doesn’t really help readers figure it out either, and ultimately the resolution is tainted by what seems sentimentality over justice.

To sum it up, I absolutely loved the first book and wasn’t as impressed with the sequel. If Directed Verdict has you looking for another great Singer courtroom drama I’d steer you to Rule of Law instead

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Adult fiction, Book Reviews

The Auschwitz Escape

by Joel C. Rosenberg 2014 / 461 pages Joel Rosenberg is a fantastic writer, a New York Times best-seller, but his political thrillers are based in large part on premillennial views that I don't share, and that does take away from some of the fun. But in The Auschwitz Escape he's having a go at historical fiction, so his end-times eschatology doesn't factor in, even as his mad story-telling skills still do. Jacob Weisz is a seventeen-year-old Jew in Germany in 1938. His parents are passive, hoping that if they just stay the course, eventually it will turn out alright. His uncle is a member of a Jewish resistance group that knows things will only get worse unless people start fighting to make it better. Jacob isn't as naive as his parents, but he does respect them. But when the Nazis come for his family, Jacob escapes and begins to fight alongside his uncle...for a time. As the title indicates, soon enough he gets caught and sent to Auschwitz. There he meets a Protestant pastor, imprisoned for helping Jews, and Jacob can't understand why the man was willing to risk his life when he could have stayed out of it and stayed safe. Jacob has a hard time trusting a man whose Christian motivations are so hard for him to understand. Rosenberg makes clear that while the two principal characters are fiction, their experiences were not – he researched the actual escapes, as well as the escapees' attempts to let the world know what was going on in these death camps. That research, along with his impressive writing chops, give the book its authentic feel. And speaking of authenticity, Rosenberg has inserted a gospel presentation in the book, but his is more subtle and more natural than what most other Christian writers manage. I really enjoyed it and am keeping it on my bookshelf because I can imagine reading it again in a few years. I'd recommend it for older teens and up....