When a bizarre houseboat explosion rocks the close-knit community of Baxter, firefighters, friends, and neighbors stand powerless as the McConnells' blazing hull sinks to the bottom of Heron Lake. Grief turns to outrage as new evidence proves there was one survivor -- and points to murder, something this sheltered community has never faced in its hundred-year history. In a race with the FBI, Jed sets out to track down the sole survivor, coping meanwhile with his own painful marital struggle. Baxter's mystery and Jed's dilemma are ones only God can solve in this suspenseful, surprising story of redemption amidst despair in small-town America.
Herman's debut novel begins a series based in the small lakeside town of Baxter, near Atlanta. This first effort capably fulfills the series' promise to create "an absorbing story with biblically satisfying solutions" based on recurring characters. The story begins with a shocking tragedy when Mike McConnell's houseboat inexplicably explodes and sinks right before the neighbors' eyes, apparently killing all five members of his young family. But the plot takes a sinister turn when evidence suggests there is a lone survivor and the deaths may have been murder. The small town is beset with loss, trauma, the FBI and the modern media circus, and each character from the big-hearted county sheriff to the morally scrupulous local newspaper editor is faced with difficult choices in the aftermath. Jed Wilson, Mike McConnell's best friend and ardent drinking buddy, sets out on his own in search of the truth. Jed's life has been sadly warped by guilt from a past transgression, and his search for the truth of the mysterious explosion leads him down a path of spiritual discovery. The novel's sermons about God's limitless grace are nicely integrated with believable and sympathetic characters. Herman does wax mystical when she introduces Secret Service like guardian angels dressed in plaid shirts and jeans, and her prose sometimes feels like a cross between the television scripts for Touched by an Angel and Law and Order. Still, she also spins an occasional line of real beauty, hinting at the poet that she is.