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I hadn't heard of Mariah Stewart until I came across this book in the library. Being addicted to crime/thrillers lately, and with an interesting blurb on the back of the book, I decided to give this a read, and I'm glad I did.
On the front of the book, the tag line reads: 'The killer has a plan. And no one has a prayer'. Judging by the title, and the quick description on the back, this sounded like a crime thriller with a religious twist. I find that often these type of plots make for good films, but it takes a good writer to pull it off in a novel. At the bottom, we're told this book is written by a 'A New York Times Bestselling Author', which convinced me that this was worth a read.
The book basically has 2 dual storylines that run alongside each other, with a few key characters that are focussed on throughout. We are introduced to Sam DelVecchio early on in the novel, an ex-FBI agent who left the team following the murder of his wife. He decides to go back to work after having time off, and opts for a personal investigator style position with a private company, the Mercy Street Foundation.
Mercy Street, which links to the title of the book and the rest of the 'Mercy Street' series, is funded by a man named Robert following the disappearance of his wife and child. Driven by the want to help others in his position, that is, still wanting answers after the FBI have failed to provide any, Robert employs a close-knit group of workers to take on select cases from the public.
The first case Sam is assigned to as soon as he joins the foundation is that of a man found murdered and propped up by a dumpster, with an oversized burger shoved in his mouth. I thought it sounded very bizarre, and was slightly put off by this at first. This slightly silly scene, however, is short lived because other murders soon come to light with the help of Fiona, a woman Sam was familiar with from the FBI.
As the novel continues, we see Sam & Fiona put their skills and contacts to good use to uncover what happened to the man with the burger in his mouth. It is actually much more serious and sinister than it sounds, and soon enough, the story takes a creepy turn. As the ties between the murders are put into place and theories are flying, the plot becomes more complex and so requires some thought in order to stay up-to-date with who's who. Stewart is good at this by refreshing our memories and not leaving us behind at any point, and neither does the plot become too outrageous or complicated.
We also see the main link between the storyline and the title before half way through the book, which is already hinted at in the blurb. It appears the killer is staging the Catholic Church's Seven Acts Of Mercy, and time is ticking as Sam & Fiona try to uncover who the suspect is and save his last few victims before it's too late.
At the same time, new leads form on the disappearance of Roberts lost wife and child after his wife is discovered dead in her car. The possibility that his child is still alive, even after a few years, brings out a great surge of hope and determination in Robert, who continues the hunt.
This is the kind of book for fans of crime/thriller novels, or those TV programs like Without A Trace. It has a fast tempo, where new theories and leads are thrown into the mix frequently, meaning there's never a dull moment.
There's plenty of tension and lingering questions to keep you wanting to read more, always wondering what will happen next. It's not a cut and dry novel either, as I was unable to guess at exactly what would happen from the first few chapters, unlike some other crime novels where the outcome is far too easy to predict.
I would definitely recommend giving this a read as it's one you can get your teeth into. It's gritty, engrossing and makes you want to keep reading from start to finish. The style of writing is also fantastic, as characters and scenes are described well enough to clearly imagine them, thus making it a joy to read.
[RRP £7.99 - 356 PAGES ]