Attorney Kent "Mac" MacClain is on the brink--nine years earlier, he was at the wheel in a horrible accident that took the lives of his wife and children. Mac is having a spiritual crisis--feeling unable to deal with the deep pain and hurt the accident placed upon his heart and soul and decides the time has come to end his own lfie, when the phone rings in his office. He has been asked to take on the case of Pete Thomason, a man who is accused of killing Angela Hightower, the daughter of a family of high power and prestige in the small town in which Mac lives and works. Against Pete is not only a mountain of compelling evidence but also the fact that he cannot recall any details of the events leading up to the death of Angla.
Both men face a spritual crisis. Both men are fighting for thier lives.
So begins Robert Whitlow's second novel, "The Trial." After thoroughly enjoying his work on "Lfie Support" I was eager to find more of Mr. Whitlow's work. I'm happy to say that the great storytelling, character development and page-turning suspense of "Life Support" are also very much at work here in "The Trial." Whitlow balances a lot of separate story threads--Mac's spiritual crisis, his budding relationship with Anna Wilkes, a pyschologist who evaluates Pete, the story of Pete and what is happening to him in the prison and the pain and suffering of the Hightowers as they try to make sense of what happened on that night to take their daughter. "The Trial" is more than just a legal thriller, it's also a murder mystery that will keep you turning the pages to find out who did it and why.
But, as with "Life Support" the greatest parts of "The Trial" are not the moments in which we have the stunning revelations of who commited these acts and why, but insted Whitlow's character creations and the building of his setting for the novels. As with "Life Support" it's the little details that make this books so compelling to read. It's easy to see bits and pieces not only of yourself but people you might know in your daily walk in the characters who inhabit Whitlow's novels. Mac is a man who goes to church on Sunday, but his attendance is dictated on how the Gerogia football team did the following day and he has a Sunday School class full of fellow fans (and despite my beign a die-hard Tennessee fan, I didn't mind this too much...esp. since the Tenenssee-Georga game that Whitlow tells about his book has the Vols winning...but I digress). We see prayer circles that pray for Mac, we see Mac meet Anna and her young son, who awaken some long forgotten feelings deep inside him.. We see Mac serve as a mentor to a new young attorney and we see him fight for the life of his client. All of this while struggling with his own internal demons. Mac is a compellng character, as are all the characters in this novel. "The Trial" resists the urge to give us one-dimensional characters. Instead, each character is uniquely human with his or her own strengths and weaknesses, all of which are on display here in the novel.
"The Trial" of the title not only refers to the court case that Mac wants to win but the spiritual war that goes on in both his and Pete's soul. The novel features a lot of twist and turns, but Whitlow always keeps them grounded and feeling authentic, something that can be difficult to do.
The other great strength of this novel is that Whitlow superbly uses the elements of a typical Christian thriller and makes them fresh and new. He never strays into the cliches. As the novel progresses and certain events happen, they feel natural, coming out of not only the flow of the narrative but also on what we know about the characters from the previous chapters.
All in all, "The Trial" is a compelling and dynamic read. It is a novel that I heartly recommend to anyone looking for a great legal thriller inhabited by compelling and interesting characters. Whitlow has captured the imagination of this reader and I cannot wait to read the next of his novels. If I wasn't a fan before, I most certainly am now...