And not just any witness, either--burned-out N.Y.C. reporter Neal Schacker watches his most ruthless enemy kill a man while he (Neal) is having an out-of-body experience, in this first novel by consumer- advocate Smith (The Doctor Book, The Lawyer Book). Hard-bitten Schacker--on the skids since his charges of powerful politico Franklin Grady's heavy involvement in drug-dealing backfired into a thumping libel suit--first gets interested in astral projection as part of a do-or-die assignment to investigate the claims of messianic spiritual leader Tefuni Hagama. Initially skeptical (``what was all of that God stuff about, anyway?''), Schacker changes his tune--and, eventually, his soul's address--under the tender ministrations of Hagama's gutsy follower Rachael Moore. But Schacker's unwonted new tenderness (``the icecaps of his soul had melted'') is devastated when his soul happens to witness Senator-elect Grady's murder of a slightly less crooked colleague--especially when his phone call to the police ends in his own arrest for murder, his only defense against the ensuing legal threats and notoriety (``his life was literally being lived in a fish bowl'') the looniest testimony of the season. Fortunately, after he's perverted his abilities for soul- travel in order to spy on Grady and torment him, Schacker's final astral projection merges his soul with redemptive Rachael's just in time to avoid his witnessing his own murder. An inspired premise freighted with sincere melodrama.