The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney
In the prologue to this page-turning novel, you meet "The Patient," a billionaire who's dying of brain cancer. With an estimated year left, he stares at the face of death yet doesn't believe in God. While watching an episode of "Survivor," he decides to create the ultimate reality show with the world's religions. With powerful proponents for each religion, the contestants will match wits on a remote island with the prize being millions to their favorite charity, and even the Patient would join the religion of the winner. For the bulk of the rest of the novel, the Patient disappears but is ever-present in the background watching the reality show "Faith on Trial."
Crusty cigar-smoking Judge Oliver Finney wonders why he has tried out for this reality show; then, to his amazement, he's selected to defend Christianity. Finney has a persistent cough, a constant reminder that he is dying of liver cancer. With the other candidates, Finney is spirited off to an island where in the Paradise Courthouse he defends Christianity in the face of a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Muslim and a young female scientist, Dr. Victoria Kline. As typical for the "Survivor"-type reality show, the contestants form alliances and Judge Finney makes his with Dr. Kline.
While the contestants have access to the Internet to research and prepare their religious defense, their every keystroke is monitored. Finney creates a complex code method of communicating with his former law clerk, Nikki Moreno, who is preparing to take her LSAT. With the aide of Wellington Farmington, a young techno-geek, Nikki breaks the coded messages from Judge Finney. The code is tied to an out-of-print apologetics book that Finney wrote called THE CROSS EXAMINATION OF JESUS CHRIST. Moreno learns about Christ as she helps her former boss prepare for his defense of Christianity. The interaction between the characters in this suspense thriller teaches insight into faith in action as well as creates a riveting story.
Like a regular trial, the reality show includes a judge and jury with each proponent of their faith trained in legal jostling. The contestants examine and cross-examine each other. The show producers have investigated each person and discovered a secret about each one that they use as leverage to keep them in the contest.
In a unique manner, attorney Randy Singer has turned the reality show craze on its head as a means to draw the reader into a deeper faith in Christ. Well-drawn characters and interesting dialogue combine to make this thriller one that is hard to put down.
Reviewed by W. Terry Whalin on March 21, 2006