By Joshua Graham
(Dawn Treader Press, 2010, 430 pages.)
Book Review by Dennis Moore
Joshua Graham has written a riveting and supernatural legal thriller, Beyond Justice, that at times has spiritual and religious overtones to it. Beyond Justice is the story of Sam Hudson, a reputable San Diego attorney that descends into a hell not of his making, when he learns that authorities wrongfully convict him of the brutal rape and murder of his wife and daughter, and sends him to death row. There he awaits execution by lethal injection, while he agonizes over the fate of his young son Aaron, who was beaten into a coma during the rape and murder of his wife and daughter.
While incarcerated, Sam fights for his life from the natural and usual elements and suspects in prison, while his pro bono attorney works frantically on his appeal. It is then and there that he embraces the faith of his departed wife and begins to manifest supernatural abilities. Abilities which help him save lives – his own, those of his unlikely allies – and uncover the true killer’s identity, unlocking the door to his exoneration, and his reuniting with his son, who is still in a coma. The author describes prison life in his book, as if he had actually been there as an inmate. It is that realistic and believable!
San Diego Union-Tribune reporter, Brent Stringer, an award winning journalist, and best-selling writer, is one of the central characters in this fictional account of horrific tragedy, faith and redemption. The author himself, describes his book as “more than a mystery novel, but an exercise in faith, understanding, joy and mercy in their purest forms.” I found that to be so in the twists, turns and surprises to be found along the way in my reading of the book. There are victims in this book, starting with Sam Hudson and his family, to society as we know it, along with our criminal justice system.
A book worthy of a feature length Hollywood movie, Beyond Justice strikes every chord in the area of mystery, romance between the accused and the one defending him, and heightened suspense. The author meticulously carries us along in this journey, keeping us breathless along the way.
Set in “America’s Finest City,” San Diego, Graham describes in his book landmarks and scenes all too familiar to those living in the San Diego area, such as the San Diego Union-Tribune Newspaper, the San Diego Superior Court Building, the San Diego County Jail on Front Street, and I-15 and the 805 expressways, which traverses through San Diego County. I, personally, have driven down this 805 freeway numerous times while going to minister to inmates at the George Bailey Center Jail and RJ Donovan Prison. This depiction of these landmarks and surroundings by Graham gives the reader a feel for the community in which these horrific acts occurred, in a way that leads them along through each scene of this legal thriller.
Graham’s fictional novel has elements of cyberspace and internet intrigue, in that the theme of the murder mystery revolved around the murderer accessing and infiltrating the confines of his victims’ computers. Graham has intricately woven together these elements of cyberspace and our criminal justice system, in a way that keeps avid mystery readers spellbound.
As with most murder mysteries, the least likely of suspects is not revealed until the end of this hypnotizing novel. Graham is brilliant in how he weaves in a love story with faith and religion, in the midst of horrific acts of murder and intrigue. Perhaps that is attributed to the author professing to me his affinity for noted author John Grisham. He is certainly headed in that direction! I have read Robert Ludlum’s The Ambler Warning and The Matarese Circle, and Graham’s Beyond Justice is the best mystery novel that I have ever read.
To add to the intrigue in this book, one of the police detectives that seemed absolutely convinced that Sam Hudson was the killer, and seemingly had a personal vendetta against him, was inadvertently having a sordid cyber-affair with the person she later discovered to be the actual “Kitsune” killer. It would also turn out that not only was Sam Hudson being purposefully framed for the murder of his family, but there were other family murders in the San Diego area that followed that same pattern, making it serial murders by the so-called Kitsune killer. And, there was an actual “method to the madness” of this serial killer.
Once becoming a free man, after a hellish ordeal in prison, Sam’s newfound faith confronts him with the most insurmountable challenge yet. A challenge beyond vengeance, beyond rage, beyond anything Sam believes himself capable of: to forgive the very man who murdered his family, according to his faith. But this endeavor reveals darker secrets than either Sam or the killer could ever have imagined. Secrets that hurtle them into a fateful collision course. Truly, Hollywood stuff, told by a fantastic author with a deft touch and feel for intrigue! Also, this newfound faith has Sam getting “Burning Bush” visions of Christ, telling him to forgive the killer for murdering his family, which actually brought about a spiritual and religious conversion for the killer.
This book is full of actual irony, which I pointed out to the author, in that a particular scripture from Isaiah in the Holy Bible, used in my Church’s Prison Ministry agendas, is also used by Graham word for word in his book. Graham responded to me that it was not irony, but Divine Appointment.
For someone that actually shunned religion while his wife was alive,
it would be this newfound faith and religion that would get him through
prison, and the subsequent ordeals he would have to endure, once released
from prison. This is a powerful testament to faith and religion, woven
into a murder mystery.
Dennis Moore is a member of the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild. He has written for LifeAfter50 Magazine in Pasadena, California, and the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico. He is also the President of Bethel A.M.E. Prison Ministry in San Diego, California. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.