Jed Wilson's world has been devastated. The house boat of his best friend, Mike McCalley, has been blown to bits during the night. All family members are presumably dead. Arson is suspected, but there were no witnesses and the evidence is slim. But when the FBI hears word that Mike may still be alive and on the run, they begin a manhunt, suspecting that he was the one who started the fire. Jed leaves his failing marriage behind and decides to race the FBI to get to Mike first and discover the true story, because he does not believe that Mike murdered his own family. He embarks on a trip across the country and soon finds that God has been working on his heart, trying to draw him closer to Him. Not only is he on a race against time-he's on a journey for his soul.
Kathy Herman has spun quite a mystery in Tested By Fire, one of the best mysteries I have ever read. I liked everything about the explosion case, but there were surrounding plot elements that took this book's rating down from five stars.
The characters do not have personalities per se, but they are all imperfect. The entire book is based on their wrong choices; no one is innocent. Surprisingly, Kathy Herman completed avoided creating a villain. This is a very interesting touch because it is more realistic without a villain. Kathy definitely could have developed her characters better, but imperfection is a step in the right direction.
One would assume that Kathy would give poor Mike an out by the discovery of a serial arsonist on something of the like, but she does not, to my surprise. The rating of this book truly hinged on this factor, and she delivered. Kathy even added two key character deaths at the end to spice things up. However, she needed things like this to counter the typical plot elements she wrote in. There are a series of key character conversions, which occur in an unrealistic, simultaneous fashion. The best way to avoid conversions is to eliminate the need for them, for we should not be against people accepting Jesus into their life. However, we must write about it in a realistic way. Another major problem is a wasted series of chapters depicting Jed driving from city to city with a random child along for the ride. I assume that Kathy wrote this in merely to fill time, but the void could have been filled with something more worthwhile.
Generally, Kathy Herman is a good author, even though this is her first Elite book. She has original ideas in her books, but she muddles them with typical plot elements. With the elimination of such things, she can be a superb author indeed.