A Capital Offense Summary
by Gary E. Parker

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A Capital Offense Summary

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

A Capital Offense opens when bookstore owner Jack Brandon, after attending a meeting of the city council regarding gambling casinos, stops at his church and then drives his pickup to the Katy Trail, where he meets his death. Initially, the evidence (a suicide note and a mysterious twenty-five-thousand-dollar loan) points to suicide, but his wife, Connie Brandon, a devout Christian, believes that he was killed by the casino people. Other evidence surfaces: Jack died of a drug overdose, and a woman claimed that she and Jack were having an affair.

However, Connie, who has almost finished her law degree, acts as a detective: She spots a problem with the suicide note (which uncharacteristically refers to their daughter as Kate, not Katie) and points out that Jack’s office, which he never locked, was locked with the door’s deadbolt, but there were no fingerprints. With the help of a policeman friend of Jack, Tick Garner, and his wife, Tess, Connie perseveres. Police detective Luke Tyler is sympathetic but, because of Jack’s financial problems, drops the investigation. He also keeps an influential person informed about the progress of the case. Connie finds a canceled check for ten thousand dollars made out to a Reed Morrison and a one-million-dollar life insurance policy, and one of the store employees shows her drugs that were in the store. Meanwhile, Johnson Mack, Jefferson City’s mayor, offers her an exorbitant amount of money for the bookstore so that there will be a place for conventions as well as a casino.

Determined to get at the truth, Connie drives to St. Louis, where the remaining fifteen thousand dollars was deposited, and withdraws the money. She realizes that the bank’s video cameras must have recorded Jack depositing the money there, so she goes to Wilt Carver, attorney general and longtime friend, for help. Wilt gets the video but first shows it to Luke, who then shows it to Connie. The video shows Jack and Sandra Lumsford kissing; Lumsford is the woman who claimed to be having an affair with Jack, but she has vanished. Furious with Jack and with God, Connie decides to go to Las Vegas, where Morrison lives. A hit man, Brit, however, has been tapping her phone and, knowing her plan, meets his boss Lennie in Las Vegas, where the two kill Morrison. When Connie arrives, the killers are escaping, and the only thing she finds at the private detective’s house is a body and a picture of Jack, Sandra, and an elderly man. When she returns home, she is despondent, ignoring her children and wallowing in despair. Tess, her close friend, gets her to go to church, where she finds Jack’s black book, which was not found with the other books in his book bag at the murder scene. (The night of his murder he had left it there for her to find.)

Connie follows the enigmatic directions Jack left in his black book to his favorite possession, a baseball with autographs and a barely decipherable note that sends her to the Miller High School yearbook, where she finds photos of Jack and Sandra. Through Tess, Connie traces Sandra to Black Canyon, near Las Vegas, and flies out there. She does not realize that Brit and Lennie are tapping her phone and plan to meet her in Black Canyon. By the time she arrives at the telephone address, a house owned by Justin Longley, the house has been ransacked by Lennie and Brit, and she meets Luke, who has unofficially (after the mayor shut down the investigation) followed other leads to Black Rock. Luke and Connie return to Jefferson City, but Connie is upset by Luke’s romantic attention and decides to act on her own. She gets a phone call from Sandra, who comes to take her to Longley, who is near death. Longley explains that Jack’s father, who had a gambling problem, promised to kill a man in order to pay off his gambling debts but could not go through with it and ran. The gamblers finally tracked him down, killing him and his wife (Longley’s daughter), but Jack got away. When Lennie and Brit appear, Connie, Sandra, and Longley barely escape. Brit, who has abducted Katie, then calls Connie about meeting him at the Katy Trail. Connie agrees. When she arrives, she discovers that Lennie and Brit are acting on the orders of Wilt’s father, Robert Carver, who is determined to protect his son’s political future. Jack had learned that Wilt had raped Sandra, and Wilt’s father feared that Jack would disclose the information if Wilt did not give up his political ambitions. When he orders his men to kill her, he is stopped by Connie’s religious community, hundreds of people her pastor recruited to go with her to Katy Trail. Even Wilt appears and admits all, finally receiving the spiritual cleansing he has sought. Brit, however, does not stop, but wounds Wilt before he is shot by Luke. The novel ends with Connie at Jack’s grave, assuring him about the future.


(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Hudak, Melissa. Review of A Capital Offense. Library Journal 123, no. 6 (April 1, 1998): 78. A sympathetic review of Parker’s novel, noting the book’s Christian emphasis.

Nelson, Marcia Z. “Publishing Faith Fiction: Reeling in the Readers.” Publishers Weekly 251 (August 4, 2004): S6-S8. Examines the booming business in Christian novels and discusses the book buyers’ preferences and the reasons for the growth of the genre.

Parker, Gary E. Dark Road to Daylight. Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson, 1997. Another Christian novel by Parker, this one featuring Burke Anderson, a former pastor who is forced to act as a detective to solve a murder case.