Robert Whitlow returns to his roots with his latest character-driven legal thriller The Confession. After giving us a couple of novels that stretched both him and his readers, it’s nice to see Whitlow get back to a well-told legal story that is easily on par with some of his best works.
Years ago, Holt Douglas made a mistake — and his best friend died. Holt lied at the time and has been carrying around that guilt since that time. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at Holt’s life today. He’s an assistant DA in a rural Georgia county whose star is on the rise, he’s dating a successful and beautiful business-woman and he’s got a nice home complete with a friendly, lovable dog. But when a cold case is left on his desk, Holt begins to put his personal and professional future on the line as he begins to do a bit of digging into a mysterious death in the town’s history.
To help him dig into the past, Holt asks Deputy Trish Carmichael to delve a bit into the details of the cold case. Like Holt, Trish is dealing with some issues from her past that are clouding her present. And she’s also got a bit of a crush on Holt, which could be holding her back from a potential new boyfriend in her life, Keith.
Whitlow weaves the stories of Holt and Trish together in a believable way, allowing both of them to have their strengths and weaknesses. Holt can be a bit short sighted — having a quick bite with Trish to discuss the case away from their offices sets the small-town gossip-mill to spinning and creates complications for the two of them. Whitlow played with this reader’s expectations, zigging when I expected him to zag and not allowing the story or the characters to become predictable. And while the novel doesn’t necessarily end on a cliffhanger, I having a feeling that Whitlow plans to visit these characters again in the near future.
As with all of Whitlow’s work, the characters ring true and feel authentic. Holt’s journey is a believable one and it’s nice to see a Christian author who allows his characters to be nuanced and have shadings to them both before and after they’re saved. It’s also nice to see that those who start the novel in the fold (as it were) have flaws and foible as well and that becoming a Christian doesn’t miraculously cure all the ails facing these characters. Trish faces problems of bitterness and unforgiveness related to the death of her father and her mother being crippled after a wreck with a drunk driver. And her struggle between the man who is interested in her and her crush on Holt is nicely played since Whitlow makes Keith (her suitor) out to be a nice man and he’s not put in there as an obstacle to she and Holt getting together.
Whitlow is one an author who has long been on my “must read” list and any new offering is immediately put on the to-be-read list. For the most part, his books don’t stay there long.
The Confession is among his best.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.