PUBLICATION DATE: SEPTEMBER 01, 2012
udge Oliver Finney knows he is only months away from death. After years of smoking cigars, he has lung cancer that has spread to his liver. Despite the diagnosis, his Christian faith has given him peace and he’s determined to make the most of his remaining time.
A billionaire has been given a similar diagnosis—an inoperable brain tumor. He too is months from death, but unlike Judge Finney, he is not at peace. In fact, he’s very unsettled about his eternal destination. In an effort to resolve these issues, he finances a reality show entitled Faith on Trial. Representatives from each of the major religions will defend their faith (or lack thereof) before a national audience. The religion that wins will be the one the billionaire chooses. However, as the contestants soon realize, it’s more than just the honor and viability of their religion at stake—their lives might be as well. But is the threat to their lives a reality game show ploy or an opportunity for revenge? With no direct or legitimate form of outside communication, Judge Finney must rely on his law clerk, Nikki Moreno, to decode his messages and search for the truth behind Faith on Trial.
I see the name Randy Singer on a book and I don’t even check to see what the book is about. I love his stories. They have such wonderful complex plots and present difficult material in an easy to understand manner. I want to read whatever he releases. So when I started The Judge, I didn’t have any idea what it was about. However, I quickly realized this was a re-release of a previous book entitled The Cross Examination of Oliver Finney (which happened to be one of only two of Singer’s books I had not read). While I wouldn’t rank this book at the top of Singer’s best list, it is a very entertaining story and I’m glad I finally took the time to read it.
It’s fun to watch an author develop and refine their style over time. The Judge is reflective of Singer’s earlier work which is more traditional Christian fiction. The nature of The Judge allows for the presentation of the Christian faith, but in addition to those sections, there are also parts that have the more obvious Christian living (cause and effect) message. While I’m alright with this particular style, I am certainly happy that Singer has moved in a direction that is more subtle and focuses on the story rather than on the religious aspects.
While Tyndale was repackaging this novel, I wish they would have made a few updates. There are a couple of sections that reference dates and I think they could have changed 2006 to 2012 without damaging the story. Additionally, Nikki’s need to borrow a smart phone rather than having her own definitely dates the story. These are minor issues, but it reminded me that this was an older book.
Nikki is a returning character from Singer’s Brad Carson series and it is fun to see her again. She has such a sassy, sarcastic personality that leaps off the page. I don’t remember her being quite so self-focused and somewhat careless in the Carson books, but it has been several years since I read that series. Regardless, it is fun to spend some more time with her. Pairing her with the straight-laced, geeky teenager, Wellington Farnsworth, is pure genius.
I love the cypher aspect of The Judge. I readily admit I understood virtually none of it, but it is still fun to read. At times the information is a little too involved and too deep, throwing the pacing slightly off. But over all this part of the book is entertaining and it feels like Singer had a blast writing it.
Though The Judge is an older book, it’s well worth taking the time to read or in some cases, re-read. It has a great storyline that Singer executes with grace and dignity. He could have easily turned the premise into a disassembling of world religions, but instead he focuses on the strength and truth of Christianity. By using Judge Finney’s wonderful Christian character, this book nicely portrays Christianity less as a religion and more as a lifestyle.