Dr. Charlie Weatherford, dashing young geology prof at Cavanaugh College in Iowa, is arrested for the murder of a colleague, Rebecca Stitcher, reputed to have solved the problem of making major earthquakes occur on purpose, using hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) techniques developed by the petroleum industry. Connecticut “Connie” Bergen, a civil attorney for Stevens Oil, Inc., the company supporting Weatherford for proprietary access to research results, gets on a company jet bound for Des Moines, sent by owner Delmar Stevens himself to defend Weatherford. This is Bergen’s first assignment in a criminal case, and he’s met at the airport by Amber Buchanan, a mysterious woman with various roles in Stevens Oil, Inc., whose job evidently is to guide him through the legal labyrinth surrounding this murder. It’s not obvious that anyone, even Weatherford, cares whether he’s convicted or acquitted.
The Weatherford Trial leads us through the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation witness protection efforts, Bergen’s handling of forensic geology, competing expert witnesses, and Bergen’s education at the hands of Amber, until the jury adjourns to arrive at a verdict. The Weatherford Trial is the fourth Gideon Marshall Mystery. As with the first three books, this one brings out the deadly potential of seemingly arcane ideas, the phenomenon of scientific illiteracy in high places, and the power of belief regardless of truth.