Tuesday, April 16, 2013

“Merciless” a story of Mercy Gunderson acting as judge, jury and executioner of serial killer

 by Minnie Apolis

Mercy Gunderson goes over the edge in this third mystery in a series written by Lori Armstrong, featuring a female Army special services vet mustered out due to an eye injury.

The tale starts off promisingly enough with Mercy in training for a new job with the FBI, a job that at least on the surface uses much more of her skills than her previous jobs as a bartender or as candidate for sheriff.
The job has special stresses of its own, such as not being able to talk shop with Dawson at the end of the day due to the separation between local law enforcement and the feds.

Another layer of stress, although a happy one, is the addition of another member of the family. No, not that. Dawson's acknowledged son, Lex, comes to live with them, probably permanently, after being expelled from school while in his mother's custody.

Mercy gets assigned to research similar cases to a grisly new murder of a young woman on the rez. Turns out there is quite a string of them going back almost five years. Why have there been no investigations carried out? Most of them seem perfectly logical endings for what had gone before in each woman's life, whether it was drug addiction, spousal abuse, etc.

This entry in the series seems to be somewhat better constructed in terms of providing good red herrings. I cannot give away the red herrings because that would spoil things for some readers.

However, I am disturbed by the worsening tendency of Mercy to not only resort to threats or fighting when faced with some situations – but to go over the line and act as judge, jury and executioner in this one. She cannot plead self-defense in this case, as she shot the perp in the leg and had things well in hand when she left him to die. She creates a lawlessness that is the antithesis of law and order. Maybe that is a commentary on our times by Ms Armstrong, but I would prefer not to glorify such a character in a book series.

Sorry, folks, I am demoting Mercy to buck private and putting her in solitary. And taking away her entire arsenal. This woman has no business being around guns anymore.

[Also, I personally prefer, and recommend, the much more life-affirming-with-a-dose-of-humor novels by the master Tony Hillerman, who has won every award there is and has been honored by the Navajo people. I refer of course to the Jim Chee/Lt. Leaphorn mysteries set on the rez in the Four Corners area.]

MERCILESS, by Lori Armstrong, Touchstone books, a division of Simon & Schuster, New York, 2013, 328 pages not including discussion. ISBN 9781451625363.