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Presumed Guilty by James Scott Bell

Presumed Guilty (2006)

by James Scott Bell

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Usually I like Bell's books - you can tell that he is a lawyer and he gets the little details right. This book, however, left me confused. What exactly was the author trying to do? At times it was a murder mystery, the story of a pastor gone bad, a sermon against the evils of pornography and the first-hand glance at a woman who thought she knew her husband but had the rug pulled out from under her.

Plot aside, I also found character development to be shallow. The oldest child, Cara, never became real to the reader. She seemed to take everything in stride and was two-dimensional. The other child, Jared, was almost too over-the-top and his supposedly deep-seated problems that developed while serving in Iraq were resolved too quickly and painlessly.

Having never been married, I guess I can't really comment on the easy reconciliation between husband and wife after atrocious betrayals but as a trained marriage and family therapist I don't think it was realistic. Give this book a pass. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
I chose James Scott Bell’s book, Presumed Guilty, for my daily walk because I like fast-paced legal suspense novels to accompany me for my workout. I got what I was looking for with this look at how dangerous it is to assume your Christian faith puts you above the spiritual fray that surrounds our fallen world. I liked the mystery involved and the growth that mega-church leader Ron Hamilton undergoes following his fall.

Dallas Hamilton is a dedicated wife and mother with a past she has overcome and a ministry that means the world to her. But her life is far from perfect. Her son suffers from PTSD, alcoholism and drug abuse and her husband a vocal pastor with a large platform has grown distant and cold. When Ron is arrested for the murder of a porn star, Dallas’ fragile world crumbles. But she never gives up despite the mounting evidence against her deceitful husband. Not knowing whom to trust, Dallas increasingly turns to God for protection and the discovery of truth.

Spiritual warfare is a continuing theme throughout Presumed Guilty. But it is not of the typical kind found in some popular Christian novels. Rather it is a warfare fought in secret, coming at believers who are unaware of the dangers surrounding them. I liked this aspect because it really does describe the average Christian’s understanding of the unseen realms around them. Evil uses every opportunity to its advantage — pride and smug attitudes, gang activity, drugs and alcohol and the sex industry. Yes we have free will, but evil is determined to find a hold wherever it can. The humbling of Ron Hamilton is also a highlight. His first person story is told between the third person action of the novel. The detailing of his failures and redemption was a definite asset in rounding out the impact of the book.

While I liked the book — its plot and characterization — I was less than satisfied with the narrator of the audiobook. I did not care for the voices he used, especially for the female characters. I found their voices simpering. So, I say skip the audiobook and get the print version either in paper or ebook version. ( )
  vintagebeckie | Sep 1, 2013 |
While not quite in the same league as Robert Whitlow, James Scott Bell shows promise in the realm of compelling, well-written Christian fiction.

Dallas Hamilton's seemingly perfect world is shattered when her minister husband is arrested for the murder of an adult film star. Her husband was working with a local politician to combat the world of adult entertaiment. In the course of the investigation, secrets are revealed, including that her husband slept with the victim and had a previous affair. A hard drive full of pornography doesn't help his case and soon a media circus has erupted.

Meanwhile, Dallas' family is also falling apart in other ways. Her son is home from Iraq and appears to suffer from some kind of post combat stress issues. He can't hold down a job and has anger issues with his father. He lashes out at everyone and denies God. Dallas slowly tries to chip away at what's wrong and what happened during his time in combat to change her son.

Bell's story works well enough when it confines itself to the dealings of the legal system and the dilemma may men face in fighting the temptation of adult entertainment. The reflections by Dallas' husband, Ron, in prison on how he's gone down the path to ruin he's followed are compelling, though it doesn't fully explain a decision he makes halfway through the story.

Which is part of my problem with the story. There are a lot of twists and turns, including a vast conspiracy at the center of the story that bogs down the novel's final half. For every believable twist and turn, there was another one that left me scratching my head. And while Dallas, Ron and the son feel like authentic chracters, there are still other characters in the story who come off as too one-note and serve only as ways to advance the plot. And the journey taken by the son, while interesting, is one that is a bit predictable in the end. ( )
  bigorangemichael | Jan 27, 2009 |
With his thriving congregation and bestseller about pornography in the church, handsome pastor Ron Hamilton is a rising star in the evangelical world. But when the evidence surrounding the murder of an X-rated actress points solely to him, he's presumed guilty by everybody except his wife. Can their marriage survive until justice prevails?
  RAPS | Aug 15, 2007 |
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Other men's sins are beforeour eyes;our own are behind our back. -Seneca (Part I)
Meanwhile the passions rage like tyrants, and throw into confusion the whole soul and life of men. -Augustine (Part II)
For E. and The Chaz Man
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My life is marked by contrasts -- then and now, light and darkness. Heaven and hell. Marked too by memory. I remember the exact moment it started. (Prologue)
"Help me. Please." A note of hopelessness vibrated under the girl's voice, a soft trilling like a night bird's cry.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0310253314, Paperback)

Murder, betrayal, and a trial that feeds a media frenzy. Can one woman stand against the forces that threaten to tear her family apart? Pastor Ron Hamilton's star is rising. His 8,000-strong church is thriving. His good looks and charisma make him an exceptional speaker on family values. And his book on pornography in the church has become an unexpected bestseller. Everything is perfect. Until a young woman's body is discovered in a seedy motel room. The woman is a porn star. And all the evidence in the murder points to one man: Ron. With the noose tightening around her husband's neck, Dallas Hamilton faces a choice: believe the seemingly irrefutable facts---or the voice of her heart. The press has already reached its verdict, and the public echoes it. But Dallas is determined to do whatever it takes to find the truth. And then a dark secret from Dallas's past threatens to take them all down. As the clock ticks toward Ron's conviction and imprisonment, and an underworld of evil encircles her, Dallas must gather all her trust in God to discover what really happened in that motel room . . . even if it means losing faith in her husband forever.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:59:22 -0400)

"Dallas Hamilton's perfect world is torn apart when her husband, a rising superstar in the evangelical world, is arrested for the murder of a porn star."--Publisher description.

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An edition of this book was published by Zondervan.

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