Book Review: The Truth In True Crime

Last Updated: May 6, 2024By

Full disclosure: I was sent a free Advanced Reading Copy of the book for review from the publisher, but was under no obligation to share my thoughts about it.

J. Warner Wallace has made a name for himself as “the Evidence Whisperer” – first on episodes of Dateline and then later in the pages of his written works. Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Sceneand Person Of Interest are about using the same type of reasoning detectives use to solve crimes to show that Christianity is true; how to identify qualified eyewitnesses, what counts as evidence, and the requirements for making a case. He also talks about the evidence we have for the Christian worldview.

But, Jim’s latest book is different. The Truth In True Crime: What Investigating Death Teaches Us About The Meaning Of Life is the reflections on life that can only come from a homicide detective who also happens to be a trained pastor.

In the preface of the book, Wallace gives us his intent:

“The Truth In True Crime is intended to be a practical wisdom book (the kind of book one might pen for one’s grandchildren) and a Christian evndeice book (the kind of book one might write for those who still doubt the explanatory power of Christianity).”

Most of us turn to J. Warner Wallace to talk about evidence and how to build cumulative cases for what we believe. But, this book is different. It’s mostly pastoral. Reflective. This is Wallace reflecting on old cases, telling you what he learned about humanity, and doling out pastoral advice as only a wizened detective pastor could. We get to see Jim, the thinker, reflector, and philosopher rather than just Jim, the Evidence Whisperer.

Wisdom Literature

The book contains 15 chapters – each discussing a trait of human nature. Some of the topics include our nature for community, for worship, for a relationship with our Heavenly Father, and our longing for eternity. In each chapter, Wallace picks a previous homicide case that demonstrates the characteristics he covers in that chapter. For example, in his chapter on humans being created to work, he discusses a suspect who had never worked an honest day in his life, wanted nice things, and decided to get his money the “fast and easy way” by knocking off liquor stores. He had never been violent in his robberies. But, in the heat of the moment, he ended up murdering a shop owner and is in prison for the rest of his life. Had he possessed a proper understanding of the value of work, what it was for, how it could be life-fulfilling – and also didn’t measure his success by the things he owned – he wouldn’t be spending the rest of his life behind bars.

The book is full of these stories. As I read the book, I pictured what it would be like sitting around the dinner table, listening to a veteran detective reflect on what he learned about humanity from the cases he had worked on. The book is worth picking up for that wisdom alone.

Evidence Literature

Let’s not forget, though, that J. Warner Wallace is a Christian apologist. As he likes to put it, he’s a Christian case-maker whose role is to convince the jury that Christianity is true. In that regard, Jim’s goal is to show that all of the traits he discusses are observable in human nature. And, if Christianity is false, then the way people act doesn’t matter. But, these traits are evident in all of us – even to the casual observer. They are transcendent. They unite us because we all possess them. And, the only worldview that has explanatory power to make sense of everything we see and observe in human nature is Christianity.

While the Bible is cited frequently in the book, Wallace also brings in numerous secular studies as evidence for the claims he makes. The print version of the book has over 60 pages of citations – so it is well-researched. His main point here is that scientists, researchers, and doctors are publishing findings that reflect what was written in the pages of the Bible thousands of years ago. Based on Jim’s observations, and the findings we have now the only story that makes sense of all of the evidence of these traits and desires is the Christian story.

The Truth

The final chapter in the book is about hopelessness. About how if we look at the types of things that are revealed about humanity through the crimes and homicides Wallace investigated – about how if we take an honest look at ourselves and our own motivations – it would be easy to feel hopeless about our lives and about the future. If you went out on the street and interviewed random people, the one thing everyone would agree on is that the world is messed up. Atheists may say that this world is all there is, but no one lives their life like that. Everyone feels the world ought to be better.

One of Jim’s favorite sayings about the answer to this problem is that “the Gospel solves every kind of stupid”. We all know something is wrong with the world. And, the only cure for that problem is the Good News of Jesus Christ. He’s the only one who offers a solution to the problem that actually works. Had the people in these cases understood that, their stories – and the stories of their victims – would have looked a whole lot different.

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About the Author: David W. Gilmore

Dave Gilmore is the founder and editor-in-chief of Legati Christi. Over the past few years he has developed a passion for Christian Apologetics and theology, and enjoys talking to others about the Christian world view

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