Fresh off the biggest win of his career where he put a child-killer on death row for the murder of Rachel Lighthall, star prosecutor Michael Trent is assigned to cross-examine a mysterious homeless man, known only as John Doe, who claims to be God. But as the cross-examination evolves, Doe signals to Trent that he is aware of a secret involving the last trial that makes clear that Trent has put an innocent man on death row. But how does Doe know? Is he the actual killer? Or God as he claims? Or something much worse?
It should have been the easiest cross-examination in the world—a homeless man, a John Doe who claims to be God. But Trent quickly realizes that Doe is no common vagrant. He is brilliant and manipulative. A surprisingly worthy adversary. When Doe drops a hint that he knows about Trent’s secret from the Lighthall murder trial, signaling that he knows Trent put an innocent man on death row, the game gets serious as Trent realizes that now his professional life hangs in the balance. As Trent tries to unravel the mystery of who or what John Doe is, pieces of evidence emerge, each one tantalizing ambiguous, each one suggesting that they are like chess pieces being placed and played expertly by Doe, and each one part of a bigger game that eventually threatens the lives of the people Trent loves most.
3. The Trinity Mirror
The Devil’s Advocate by Andrew Neederman. This seems like an obvious comp but there are significant differences. In Crossed Doe’s true identity remains elusive, even to the end. And the major themes—will the protagonist in DA be seduced to the dark side versus will the protagonist expose the truth, even at great professional and personal cost, are very different.
Another comparable, although a bit if a stretch, is The Testimony of Gideon Mack by James Robertson.
During a cross-examination for the ages, a prosecutor discovers that the line between God, the Devil and a psychotic killer is a fine one that should never be crossed.
Core Wound and the Primary Conflict
The primary conflict is Trent Versus Doe, first with Trent trying to cross-examine Doe to prove he isn’t really God, then Trent trying to prove that Doe Killed Rachel Lighthall without somehow destroying his career in the process and finally the winner takes all showdown between Trent and Doe on the final day of cross-examination.
There are several secondary conflicts. First, there is Trent’s only daughter falling mysteriously shortly after Trent encounters Doe. Eventually, Doe suggests that he may be able to help her, but only if Trent performs certain tasks, and does so with sincerity. Trent must decide whether it is worth sacrificing his convictions for the crazy idea that a clear madman can help his daughter.
Another conflict emerges within the team that comes together to help Trent solve the puzzle, his long time investigator and a news reporter. They each have their own theory about Doe—Trent is convinced he is a cunning murderer, the news reported becomes convinced that he may in fact be God and his investigator becomes convinced that they are actually dealing with the Devil.
The third secondary conflict is Trent quickly falling for the reporter who offers to help him find out who Doe really is. There chemistry is combustible, but Trent soon realizes that he is likely putting her in harms way. He must decide whether to hang on to the one person who is keeping him grounded during what seems like a descent into madness, or let her go because there are myriad warning signs that he is taking her headlong into danger.
The Inner Conflicts
After the Lighthall trial, Trent is giddy with success, and imagining a run for a soon to open Senate seat and then maybe a run for the Whitehouse. But now, he realizes that a crazed, homeless man knows a secret that could ruin his life and maybe even get him disbarred. And Doe’s claim that he is God has re-ignited a storm inside of Trent, who eschewed a deeply religious upbringing for what seemed a more scientifically grounded atheistic set of beliefs. With each new development, the battle between Doe and Trent intensifies, as does the war inside of Trent where he must reconcile irreconcilable belief systems. When the conflict is at its apogee, Trent must entertain yet a third option, that maybe Doe is neither God or the killer, but something much more malevolent.
Incredible Importance of Setting
Crossed takes place in Social Circle, Ga, a small hamlet east of Atlanta where the Old South and the Old Testament are still revered. From the courthouse steps to the leaf dappled streets, the town gives off a vibe that maybe spirits could still manifest themselves like ghosts of the confederacy.
The courtroom is in the historic Monroe County courthouse where one can almost hear the footsteps of generations of southern trial lawyers past echo across the hardwood floors. Like everything about the town, the modern and technology succumb to the weight of southern history. The well of the courtroom, where the primary clashes with Doe takes place, is presided over by a judge who dislikes Trent and resents is meteoric rise.
Other scenes include the historic Blue Willow Inn, The Varsity eating establishment, Trent’s mansion whose modern interior design aesthetic clashes with the home’s, and the town’s, antebellum exterior, a run-down abandoned home where the Lighthall murder took place and the GBI crime lab.