Trial by Ordeal
Having devoured Craig Parshall's Chambers of Justice series, I was naturally disappointed to hear that it had come to an end. Regardless of how much we would like to have our favorite series continue indefinitely, we understand that writers need freedom to go where their creativity takes them. So we reluctantly let go and move on. Besides, when a writer with Parshall's talent takes us on a new adventure, we can be sure that it will be a good one. As an attorney for many years and an advocate for religious freedom, his latest book combines a realistic story, characters who are carefully drawn, and an underlying force that people of faith portray so well.
As it often happens, lives can be completely changed by seemingly insignificant events. In the case of Kevin Hastings it was a chance comment by Dr. Harvey Albright, the professor responsible for recommending tenure at Essex College where Kevin had been teaching for five years. Dr. Albright let it be known that he probably would not be recommending Kevin for tenure despite his popularity and ability to make any class interesting. This information set Kevin on a path that would lead him to the brink of financial ruin, to the loss of his home and ultimately to having his life threatened by mobsters who did not make idle threats.
To compensate for the loss of financial stability he would have gotten through tenure, Kevin decides to invest in real estate. He would search for a property in downtown Chicago that was undervalued, buy it and then market and sell it for a tidy profit. Unfortunately, the "perfect" property he found also was being sought by Vito Mangiorno, old school mobster who had only one way of solving problems: he buried them. So, before the ink dries on his purchase contract, Kevin is made an offer for the property that would almost double his money --- with the exception of one slight problem.
It seems that the property is a designated historic site and the building on it cannot be demolished, making it useless to Mangiorno, who wants to use the property for a parking garage so that he can launder his illegal money through a legitimate cash business. He wants Kevin to fix it. The lawyer who Kevin hires to help him out of this legal mess only makes things worse for him, if that can be possible. Horace Fin seems to be the lawyer from Hell; if this was an allegory, Horace Fin definitely would be Satan. And, as a result of Fin's machinations, Kevin finds himself seeking shelter at the Windy City Mission, sharing a room with a weird guy named Douglas who warns that the do-gooders who run the place were surely going to be "bringing you to Jesus."
As Kevin begins to find time to think and to meditate, he discovers that there are those who can help him and who will do so without ulterior motives. Above all, he begins to understand the passion of those who run the mission, and his spiritual awakening is inspiring. Enter Dan Petranelli, a lawyer who is fearless in his pursuit of justice. He has experience with tangles like the one in which Kevin is enmeshed and begins to develop a plan to untangle it and to put Mangiorno behind bars for the rest of his life. Through Petranelli, Parshall reveals the brilliance of a legal mind at work in a way that never ceases to amaze.
Once again Craig Parshall has delivered a powerful story filled with good versus evil, resolution, redemption and justice that restores our faith in our beleaguered legal system.
Reviewed by Maggie Harding on May 1, 2006