It’s refreshing to find writers who aren’t afraid to weave their faith into their work. Too many novelists reject God as a factor in their characters’ lives, as though He exists in a separate universe. In Trial and Error, Robert Whitlow uses the story of a small-town lawyer trying to track down three missing children – one of them his own daughter – as a stage upon which Christianity plays a major role.
Buddy Smith’s wife disappeared with their daughter when he was still in high school. While working on two similar cases he discovers evidence that his late father was secretly involved in some mysterious way. With the help of Gracie Blaylock, an old high school friend, and Mayleah Harkness, a sheriff’s detective, Buddy resumes a search that leads to romance and a life-changing epiphany.
Whitlow has much in common with John Grisham. He has a legal background and a nice gift for character development, particularly those of the principals. I wish he had shown as much interest in the missing girls, as we don’t learn much about their personalities until late in the story. It would have added more urgency to the investigation. A complication involving a visiting judge seems to fizzle out; a pity, because the author expends considerable effort developing it.
Whitlow’s digressions into Southern cuisine are mouth-watering, but they tend to clutter the story’s pacing. Considering their pressures, the characters spend an awful lot of time in restaurants. And the author seems to have an obsession with peach cobbler.
Nevertheless, he succeeds in making us care about the characters and building the story to a gripping climax. Along the way we enjoy many nice scenes, such as Gracie’s sister helping her create a dating profile on social media, and Gracie’s work with a girls’ softball team. Best of all is the pervasive assertion that prayer can work miracles in people’s lives. I encourage anyone sick of novels seasoned with depravity to sample Robert Whitlow. He’s better than a dish of peach cobbler.
Check out the Chevron Ross novels at https://chevronross.net/