Christian Living


Missing Witness: High Drama in the Courtroom and on the High Seas

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

CBN.com - In the Old Testament, the prophet Jonah tries to find a corner in the world where he can escape the obligations that God has placed upon his life. As hard as he tries Jonah just cant seem to shake his calling. Eventually, he realizes that God has a way of closing in on him in a very loving and compassionate way so that His will is done.

This theme of realizing that no one is beyond redemption serves as a telling backdrop for Craig Parshalls new legal thriller Missing Witness. The fourth installment in his Chambers of Justice series, Parshall departs from the rigid rigors of military justice in The Accused and escapes to the breezy summer environs of North Carolinas Outer Banks.

All attorney Will Chambers wants to do is get away for a lazy, hazy stress free summer with his wife Fiona. All is going as planned until Chambers reluctantly agrees to accept a local inheritance case involving Jonathan Joppa, a down on his luck minister. He quickly finds himself embroiled in a legal fight that requires him to prove the innocence of a man who died 300 years earlier. In the process, Chambers discovers that there is a much murkier undercurrent to this case than what appears on the surface.

Sensing the challenge, Chambers jumps whole heartedly into the case by inundating himself into the romanticized folklore of piracy along the Carolina coast and its present day ancestor, drug smuggling.

"The whole idea of drug dealing and piracy on the high seas really is an issue that a lot of people aren't aware of," explained Parshall, in a recent interview with CBN.com. "The fact that the ocean, according to a lot of experts is the most dangerous place on the earth right now, we still have modern day pirates that are called drug smugglers. There have been some 1,200 acts of documented piracy over the last two years. So, that is very much still a reality."

An inherent question that presents itself very early in Missing Witnesss 400 pages is whether proving the innocence of a man who allegedly committed a crime 300 years in the past is even possible. It is only natural to think that there would be some sort of statute of limitations that would make such a case null and void. While this is certainly true for a legal matter, proving the innocence of Joppas distant ancestor Isaac Joppa falls into the realm of a civil case.

"Courts have upheld all types of things as a condition for receiving an inheritance," said Parshall. "Some testators (people who draw up the will) require somebody accept a certain religious belief or not marry a certain person. And the courts have actually upheld almost all of those conditions no matter how bizarre they are. So, as I looked into the law on this I thought it probably would not be in the realm of nonsense to believe that a court would uphold the requirement that someone prove the innocence of an ancestor from a pending charge as a condition of taking something out of the will."

At the heart of this story is a personal battle that Jonathan Joppa must overcome that reaches far beyond proving the innocence of an almost mythical ancestor. He is a broken man who has seemingly lost his soul to the ravages brought forth by the death of a loved one and the perilous drug-induced downfall of another family member. Due to his checkered spiritual background, Chambers finds himself in a position to help.

"We know that it is futile to run from Gods will and it is better to seek serving Him in the way He wants us to do it," remarked Parshall. "Will becomes sort of an unintended spiritual mentor for him. He can relate because he had to come from a background of agnosticism rather than spiritual fullness. So, they have a chance to have iron sharpen iron as the Bible says."

In Missing Witness Parshall deliberately pares down his cast of characters to hone in on Wills relationship with Fiona. This is not to say that he has eliminated his usual assortment of colorful people. Along for the ride is the books chief nemesis Blackjack Morgan, a salty, modern day pirate, whose chief motive is to prove Isaac Joppas guilt; Morgans sidekick, Orville Putrie, a sort of intellectual genius gone bad; and Virgil McPherson, an attorney who shares the same dogged pursuit for courtroom victory that Chambers does. The only difference is that he is on the opposite side of the bench.

Ultimately, this book is a legal thriller wrapped inside a very poignant love story with a twist. Simply put, it is a love story wrapped within a love story. It is not just about Chambers love for Fiona but is a metaphor for a love story that took place 300 years in the past.

I highly recommend this book for one distinct reason. Craig Parshall has the innate ability to provide fresh compelling storytelling from a Judeo-Christian perspective but with enough grit to appeal to a mass secular audience. He is a master of finding that line that exists between realism and idealized sometimes candy coated story lines that often defy contemporary modern living.

Missing Witness is a prime example of these qualities as it not only delivers legal storytelling in its finest from but more importantly it portrays people as they really are. Will Chambers is a Christian who struggles in his daily walk of faith just as you and I do. That is certainly a commendable quality that will appeal to readers from all walks of life.

If you havent done so already, do yourself a favor today and pick up a copy of Missing Witness.