Sheryl Scarborough’s novel follows a teen girl, who as a toddler witnessed her mother’s murder, a horror that remains unsolved. Obsessed with that lack of resolution, Erin is drawn into the world of forensics, largely in part because her adoptive mother’s brother works for the FBI and authored a book on the subject. Her life is further complicated by an uncommunicative parental figure, a strong desire to learn the identity of her birth-father, and deal with the murder of her favorite teacher – the catalyst that launches the story. Tossed into the mix are her burgeoning feelings toward a boy who is a prime suspect and her relationship with two zany girlfriends.
The book felt like a contemporary spin on a Nancy Drew plot as Erin moves deeper into the gray areas of the law in her search for clues to both murders and her paternity. In a classic case of misdirection, suspects keep stepping to the forefront as Erin struggles to handle the full range of teen emotions that pull in all directions.
Though she faces danger on a number of occasions, the narrative never generates a truly palpable sense of peril, and the real culprit barely scores a menacing personality. Teen fans of TV shows like CSI will appreciate the forensics primer as Erin works through the evidence she accumulates.
A fun story even if it lacks strong emotional teeth.
Reading Without Mercy by Colonel David Hunt and R. J. Pineiro was like a long-awaited visit to the house that Clancy built. From start to finish, the writing duo maintains heart-pounding pacing and tension. In an all too plausible scenario, radical Islamic terrorists target New York City once more, this time with a nuclear device. The remainder of the book has multiple covert and military assets, several federal agencies, and a new President of the United States working around the clock to prevent the rest of the planned attacks.
Hunt and Pineiro have a tendency to over-season their writing with the precise make and model numbers of ships, weapons, and guns; presumably to lend an air of authenticity to the narrative, but the mixture could have done with a little less salt. As always, it’s fun to see stories where the best of American talent is unleashed against impossible odds and its many enemies. It was refreshing to see a movement away from male dominated thrillers by following four very strong female characters throughout the novel, though they couldn’t resist having two of them dealing with romantic issues. But then again, strong human/romantic relationships are often forged against a backdrop of death and destruction and provide a great source of tension.
Hunt and Pineiro made sure to illustrate the mindset of the terrorists and elucidate their motivations. The reader would be hard-pressed to resist the sense of empathy that comes with seeing what drove them to their hatred of the west. They’re also not shy about pointing out the posturing among politicians and government agencies and how dangerous it can be when faced with a time bomb.
Without Mercy delivers a story that reminds the reader just how unstable and unsafe our world is and begs the question of how effective our leadership would be if the circumstances in the novel played out in real life. Given the current political climate, the contemplation of that is almost more frightening than the book.