Merciless by Lori Armstrong Merciless
Lori Armstrong

Hardcover/354 pages
ISBN: 978-1451625363
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". . . less thriller than psychology . . ."

A little thrill and a lot of personal relationships.

Special Agent Mercy Gunderson works out of the Rapid City FBI office with supervising Special Agent Shay Turnbull who gets under Mercy’s skin and keeps her on the straight and narrow ”Rah! Rah! Go FBI!” path. When a young girl, the new tribal president’s niece, turns up naked, dead, and with a stake driven through her heart, the FBI are called in to find out who killed her. It does not take long for bad to go to worse and for Mercy to find herself in a serial killer’s crosshairs.

While the idea of FBI tracking a murderer on a tribal reservation and an FBI agent with a gift—or curse—for finding the dead an interesting combination, I expected much more from Lori Armstrong’s Merciless than I got. That is not to say the book was not well written or that the murderer’s motives and actions not fascinating, but that there was less thriller than psychology in the book, and the psychology was a bit muddled.

I still do not quite get the reason for Sheriff Mason Dawson’s accident and near death since it did not add much to the story and only gave the murderer a chance to corner Mercy, which may have been the whole reason. When Mercy faces off against the killer and turns his game to her advantage is when the story amped up and the thrill ride of a life took over. The rest of the book was full of Mercy meeting and dealing with people she had known most of her life, bar the time she was a black ops sniper for the Army targeting terrorists, and added lots of color but little real information on the case in hand.

If Armstrong wanted to prove Mercy’s claim that working for the FBI was mostly paperwork and boring routine, she succeeded on all counts. Even Mercy thought she would be more like Mulder and Scully and ended up bored out of her mind, though what she found about the pattern of kills over a five-year period was crucial to the investigation. I looked for a thrill ride on the reservation tracking a serial killer and got more politics and psychology before the thrill ride began, but, when it began, there was no stopping the single-minded black ops trained hunter that emerged and really ramped up the thrill. Among the meandering first two-thirds of the book and the conclusion, there is good writing and a closer look at life on the reservation.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell