Tested by Fire

by Kathy Herman
Series: Baxter #1
320 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Kristi

A pleasant read with strong values, but some weak plot elements


The small town of Baxter is shaken when a houseboat inexplicably bursts into flame, apparently killing a family of five. But things aren't adding up. Only four sets of remains can be identified, and other strange observations by the townfolk soon lead the local sheriff and the FBI to turn the case into a murder investigation. Meanwhile, Jed Wilson, best friend of Mike McConnell - who may be the only survivor of the accident, or a cold-blooded killer - sets out on a quest to find his friend.


Most of the characters in the story behave with a morality consistent with their faith or lack thereof. A couple of the protagonists lie at various times to help them evade the FBI.

Spiritual Content

This book comes from a Christian publishing house and contains a healthy dollop of the spiritual, being primarily concerned with man's need for forgiveness and the message of salvation. Guardian angels are present throughout the story, but the story is not focused the angels.


A family is killed in a houseboat explosion. There is a mention of a fatal stabbing from the past. A mugger violently attacks a main character.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Several characters drink and at least one smokes, but these actions always have negative effects, such as estranging men from their families or causing a serious lapse in judgement.

Sexual Content

Three characters become pregnant outside of marriage, two of these are discussed in hindsight or in flashback, as they occurred decades ago. One couple relives memories of prom night, when they became drunk and things went too far.

Crude or Profane Language or Content

The expression "God knows" is used once.


I enjoyed this story, but felt the author could have used a bit more help from her editor. Too many of the characters bear similar names (Rose, Rosie, Rosa) or even identical names (I think there were three or four Marks) for no good reason. These made scanning sentences and keeping characters straight somewhat difficult. I very much enjoyed the portrayal of the sheriff, whom I expect will appear in later books in the series. But I was disappointed in two important plotlines which were never satisfactorily concluded: the emotional state of the bereft sister, and the unplanned pregnancy of a major character's daughter. While these may be resolved in a future installment, I felt a bit cheated. Add to that an extremely convenient plot twist in the ending which basically meant the main characters would not have to deal with further fallout from the primary plot, and the entertainment score goes down. Nevertheless, the Scriptural principles in the story are solid.

Fun Score: 3.5
Values Score: 5
Written for Age: adult

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