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BookMark - Trial and Error
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A presentation of latest Christian books to hit the stores

Title: Trial and Error

Author: Robert Whitlow

Genre: Christian – Fiction

Publishing Date: February 2021

Availability in London: Creation Bookstore.

Available in: Paperback


A small-town lawyer has been searching for his daughter for eighteen years. Now another young woman is missing, and he’s determined to find them both—no matter the cost.

Buddy Smith built his law practice around tracking down missing children. After all, he knows the agony of being separated from a child. Not long after his daughter’s birth, her mother ran away and Buddy never saw either one again.

Gracie Blaylock has known Buddy her entire life, and now that she is clerk of court for the county, their paths cross frequently. When Gracie hears that a teenager in town, Reagan, has gone missing, she knows Buddy is the one for the case.

Reagan’s parents are desperate for answers. Together with Gracie and Mayleah—the new detective in town—Buddy chases all leads, hoping to reach Reagan before it’s too late. And as he pursues one teen girl, he uncovers clues that could bring him closer to the girl he thought he lost forever: his own daughter.

Master legal writer Robert Whitlow will keep you guessing in this gripping legal drama while reminding you of the power of God’s restoration.

Reader Reviews

Dana Michael rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
This is a wonderful story with wit, wonderful characters, a bit of romance and a captivating story line. I was sad, happy, and anxious while reading the book. This book had me feeling many emotions and I was very satisfied with the happy ending.

Jessica Higgins rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
Suspenseful, intriguing, and makes readers cheer for the protagonist!

Eighteen years ago, Buddy Smith’s girlfriend skipped town with their newborn daughter and he hasn’t found them since. Now a defense lawyer back in his hometown, he often takes cases where one of the parents has fled with a child.

Gracie Blaylock is the county clerk and coach of the local girls’ softball team. She and Buddy have been friends for years, but never had a romantic aspect to their relationship. When one of the girls on the softball team abruptly stops attending practice, the other teammates know that something is wrong and confirm that she has runaway. She knows it’s not the same as an abduction case but feels that Buddy would be best to pursue it.

As Buddy and Gracie work together to find out what happened to the missing girl, clues start to show up that could lead Buddy to find his own estranged daughter.

Robert Whitlow has such a great ability to blend faith, suspense, and legality into his stories. It’s easy to get lost in the story, even when there is not much of a legal thriller aspect. With cases of parents abducting their own child on the rise, this book fits right in for current times. I love the rural small-town Georgia setting to this book. It made me to want to have porch conversations with some of the main characters. I also loved all the characters throughout this book. Everyone contained some sort of flaw that was able to improve through the course of the book. Gracie is such a role model for me, similar to other characters he has written. No one took a step backwards and it worked out for the better by the end. We need more books like this in our library today! I’ve always loved his writing and will continue to read his books!

Nora St Laurent rated “Trial and Error” a 4 out of 5 Stars
Readers first meet 18-year-old Buddy Smith sitting in a hospital waiting room in Milton county, GA. Buddy anxiously awaits his daughter Elise’s arrival, connecting with her was important. Little did he know after that day she would go missing.

Buddy tried to track down the whereabouts of his daughter. All the leads had dried up years ago. He went away to law school, came back home to keep a close eye on his mom. Sadly, Buddy was losing hope of ever finding Elise until one day he makes a discovery that changes everything.

Gracie grew up with Buddy and became the first female clerk of court in a small southern town where the community valued familiarity over the unknown (it can be a good thing and a bad thing) Both, Buddy and Gracie have a passion for helping parents find their missing children. Buddy had a soft spot for clients whose children were kidnapped by a parent he says, “To wrongfully deprive a deserving parent of the right to be with his/or her child was inexcusable.”

This story strolls along as the author shows readers around a small town in GA introducing them to its surrounds and people. This is not a fast-paced legal thriller but one that gets readers emotionally vested and connected to the characters and their situations. I enjoyed sitting alongside Gracie and friends on the porch and indulging in hot peach cobbler (it sounded yummy!). This is a cozy drama with an interesting cast of characters I enjoyed hanging out with.

A sweet romance is intertwined in the story as Buddy and Grace track down clues to find missing kids. I enjoyed seeing the transformation of Buddy as he lets go of his past and finds a deep faith, he never knew was possible. I like how the author shows this personal aspect of faith without it being preachy or making the reader feel alienated.

The author focuses themes of family, justice, not giving up on fighting the good fight, and how faith plays into it all. The natural faith element is seen through Gracie and Buddy’s mother’s eyes. They support one another in prayer. I liked how the author gives a peek into Gracie’s prayer life and what she does with her prayer journal. Readers see Gracie marking down prayer requests and then write the date a prayer is answered (even if it’s years later). It was fun to see Gracie coaching a girl’s baseball league. This is an inspiring, tender story that will warm your heart.

Emma Filbrun rated “Trial and Error” a 4 out of 5 Stars
This is the first legal thriller I have read. I really enjoyed it. The action was not too intense for me, and I loved that the romance was very low-key, with no kissing and not even any hand-holding. I predicted part of the ending from near the beginning of the book, but I was not sure about part of it until near the end—and I like that, too. There were several different plots all woven together, and it was done so well that I really liked it. This is a good book!

Doug Yonce rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
This author is one of my favorites, and this book may be my favorite of all I’ve read. A couple of major storylines are developed and they keep lawyer Buddy busy. Both involve finding missing girls, and one is his daughter whom he hasn’t seen since the week she was born. Three ladies interact with Buddy: his mother, a police detective, and a court clerk/softball coach.. These relationships are well developed and vital to this story. The power of prayer is also evident, important, but not overbearing.

Josh Olds rated “Trial and Error” a 2 out of 5 Stars
Although I’m a big fan of legal thrillers—I’ve read everything Randy Singer has ever offered and am currently working my way through John Grisham’s oeuvre—I had only read a couple of Robert Whitlow novels, and none recently. I decided to remedy that with Trial and Error and the end result is a little bit like the title.

I’m not sure that I’d classify Trial and Error as a legal thriller. A lawyer is the main character and there are some scenes in a courtroom before a judge, but it’s mostly a series of interlocking stories about finding lost children. Buddy, our lawyer and protagonist, works primarily in the field of finding runaways, dealing with domestic kidnappings, and other sorts of family law. In Trial and Error, Buddy is dealing with two cases—one involving a kidnapping and one involving a runaway—and working on his own personal case.

Personally, Buddy is trying to track down his high school girlfriend and their daughter. Shortly after the baby’s birth when they were both seventeen, Amber took off with the baby and hasn’t been seen in seventeen years. When Buddy discovers that his late father had given money to Amber throughout the years, it serves as the catalyst he needs to track her down.

This was a storyline that had a lot of possibility for substance and nuance, but I didn’t feel like Whitlow explored it as thoroughly as he should have. The story is too straightforward, too easy, and the various characters never consider the implications of Buddy suddenly showing up. All these are handwaved away in favor of a happily-ever-after reconciliation that’s just too easy to be satisfying.

The other two stories involve a kidnapping where a father has left suddenly with his son and a runaway that have been lured into trafficking. Any one of these stories could have consumed a whole novel, but Whitlow jumps back and forth dipping a toe into each story without really giving readers a robust look at the whole. In particular, the runaway/sex trafficking storyline is all superficially handled and has little suspense value. It leads to the book’s biggest twist, but in a rather contrived, inorganic way. The only value to the kidnapping storyline, which is again easily resolved, is to set up the visiting judge as an arrogant curmudgeon. (No worries, that character flaw is also resolved easily.)

There’re hints of romance and major elements of faith. Again, there’s little conflict and everything is resolved easily. I enjoyed the characters. I enjoyed their story arcs. But the lack of obstacles as they moved along those arcs left the story with little suspense or believability. I’ll give Whitlow another shot in the future, but this one wasn’t for me.

Gretchen Garrison rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
Lawyer Buddy Smith has gained a reputation for helping find missing children. Particularly those situations where one parent flees away to avoid sharing custody. He understands what it feels like. After finding out his girlfriend left town with their daughter seventeen years ago, he hasn't stopped looking for them.

Just like her former classmate, Gracie Blaylock also stuck around town after high school She works as the county clerk, and she coaches girls softball. (Her relationships with her team are also a lovely part of the story!) She sends cases Buddy's way. When a girl on her team goes missing, she can't help but get involved. The new local detective sheriff is also prepared to help. Will the three of them find the girl? Will Buddy ever find his daughter?

In reading this book, I felt like I stepped into Milton County, Georgia, and was sipping sweet tea on the porch while watching the storyline play out across the street. This book ambles along in all of the best way. While there was definitely a mystery to be solved, this book did not present itself as a fast paced legal thriller. The characters are so compelling that you will want to keep reading until the end. But you will not be looking around every corner and feel tense as the chapters developed. By feeling like a part of the story, I felt personally invested in the story and appreciated the ending.

The emphasis on family relationships also played a part in the story. We got to know Buddy's mom. We also got to know Gracie's family. And we were able to see connections between characters. I loved how the relationships continued to develop.

One of the strongest elements was the power of prayer. I loved how Gracie and Buddy's mom were prayer warriors. Their emphasis on personal faith drew others in without making them feel judged or alienated. To be able to look back and see when specific prayers were answered was definitely inspiring.

There is so much more than I could say about this one, but I definitely do not want to ruin anything. If you enjoy books that feature faith, family, small town and the law, this is the perfect book for you. The storyline is unique, compelling and heart warming. I have really enjoyed Robert Whitlow's books in the past, and this one is definitely another winner.

Lisa Johnson rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
The opening scene sets the stage for a story filled with suspense that will touch the heart of readers. Two expectant fathers are awaiting the arrival of their babies, sitting together talking. They share just a tidbit to the other before being interrupted by a nurse. When the audience turns the page, it fast forwards the story to one of the fathers named Buddy and his endless search for his daughter. Buddy is a lawyer whose own personal experience leads him to take cases that have in one way or another a focus on parents and their children. Enter Gracie who coaches the girls fast pitch softball league and is clerk for the courts. Add to the mix a new detective, Mayleah from Oklahoma who focuses on finding missing and exploited children. As the story progresses, we see how these three characters’ lives are going to be entangled in finding a recent disappearance of a young teenager named Reagan. Reagan is the daughter of the other expectant father who was in the room with Buddy many years ago.

Now as I was reading, I kept trying to figure out where the author was taking me. I was entertaining possible avenues the plot line was going to take, but the ending took me by surprise. In the novel, is a very heart touching story of two fathers searching for their daughters for two different reasons. However, by the end of the book the two fathers’ lives and those of their daughters intersect in an amazing way.

I loved how Gracie’s character was developed as a woman of faith, how she lived that out and was a model for other young women. The main character, Buddy, was interesting and how God used what he went through to touch Buddy’s heart and change his life. The story takes place in Georgia and having never been there I enjoyed the many descriptions of the area and time where the author sets the stage.

Whether you have read other Robert Whitlow books or not, this one is definitely one to share with family and friends. Grab a copy, read and enjoy!

Chevron Ross rated “Trial and Error” a 3 out of 5 Stars
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’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.

Debbie Rozier rated “Trial and Error” a 5 out of 5 Stars
There is so much that I love about this book! I love the southern feel of this book- Brunswick Stew (one of my favorite foods), fast pitched softball and a focus on faith are all elements that I can relate to!

It was fascinating to learn about what the Clerk of Court’s responsibilities include and other aspects of the court and legal systems like visiting judges and parameters for detectives.

The secondary characters were all so richly woven into the story-from Buddy’s mom who kept the most wonderful prayer notebooks to a visiting retired judge and his pet bird, Baliff and Gracie’s sister, Lauren, who is trying to help Gracie find her soulmate through a dating site.

I highly, highly recommend this book! It was a different feel than a normal legal thriller that I usually read but the multifaceted plot, characters and setting all really clicked to make this a great read for me!

Connie Carpenter did not provide a rating
Trial and Error by Robert Whitlow is a Christian Legal thriller. This is the first book that I have read by this author and I enjoyed it very much. The author did a great job in laying out the foundation and characters so that you feel like you have gotten to know them throughout the book. Buddy was a teen dad. He becomes a father at a young age. However shortly after his daughter's birth the child's mother takes off with her and disappears. This has affected Buddy greatly. He builds a career on tracking down missing children. He becomes highly recommended by a long time friend who is now working as a clerk at the courthouse. He also is well known in the small Georgia town. While Buddy is not only searching for his client's children - he is also searching for his daughter. He takes on a case of a runaway teen girl. The runaway girl shares a birthday with his missing daughter. You will see a journey of Buddy trying to help the girl's parents try and find her before she is lost forever. They feel like she is possibly trafficked. The author writes clues so that you can help solve the mystery also.

Kelly Underwood rated “Trial and Error” a 4 out of 5 Stars
The storyline for Trial and Error is a touching one. Readers see the transformation of Buddy as he lets go of his past and finds true faith in God. The mother of his child took off with no warning, and Buddy hasn’t seen his daughter since she was born. There are several interesting characters, including Maleah, a detective who helps Buddy on his quest to find missing children. The story is more of a cozy drama than a legal thriller. Not much action in the courtroom, and not much action in general. It’s overall a good storyline but not if you are looking for a suspense-filled legal drama.

Randi Sampson rated “Trial and Error” a 4 out of 5 Stars
Trial and Error is the first book that I have had the chance to read from Robert Whitlow, but it most certainly be the last.

In this story, we meet Buddy-- a lawyer who has made it his mission to help track down lost kids, much like his own daughter who disappeared as an infant with her mother. When town clerk Gracie brings him a case for a missing teen, it seems this search might be leading him closer to his own daughter too.

This isn't the super fast paced story one might expect to find in a crime/legal novel... there aren't a lot of big moments that keep you jumping and uncertain what will happen next. Instead we were drawn into the lives of the characters and wanted to see how their stories played out in the end. Beyond the mystery of it though, I really liked the faith aspects of this book. They were beautifully written and again really just drew me into the characters and their journeys in faith.

Overall, this was a really good read and one that enjoy legal stories with elements of faith are sure to enjoy.

Becca-Rae Weidel rated “Trial and Error” a 3 out of 5 Stars
I've read one other novel by Robert Whitlow in the past and I thoroughly enjoyed it, so after reading the premise for this one I was quite excited to pick it up. I have to admit to finishing with some mixed emotions though. The premise was interesting, and as I was reading I truly wanted to know how things would work out, but there was "too much and too little" going on all at the same time. There was so much going on that the author wasn't able to dig too deeply into any specific element before moving onto the next. It took away from the overall depth of the story and made things come easier than they should have just to keep things moving forward. I liked the story, and for the most part I liked the characters, but overall I needed more depth with a more focused plot. I'd still read another book from this author in the future (especially since I liked the other one so much), but this one wasn't a personal favorite for me. I would highly recommend checking out some other reviews as well, since there are others that absolutely loved it as well.