Friday, July 2, 2010

a review of "No Mercy" [49]

No Mercy: A Mystery by Lori Armstrong
(Touchstone, ISBN 978-1416590958)

The book may be titled No Mercy, but there is certainly a Mercy in this book and it is our heroine Mercy Gunderson. Mercy is on medical leave form the Army, home at the family ranch in South Dakota to attend the funeral of her father. She is a woman with some secrets, among them that she is on a medical leave and what her injuries are and how she acquired those injuries. Because Mercy is in a job in the Army that does not officially exist. She is one of a small group of female snipers, trained to be able to infiltrate places, disguised as an Iraqi or Afghan woman, that a man could not easily get into.

She is returning home from a very dangerous place, where her nightmares of death are all too real. But things are not all that peaceful at the ranch and neighboring Lakota reservation. The body of one young Indian boy has been found on the Gunderson land and when a second person turns up dead and it seems Mercy herself may be a target, it is time for her to use some of those skills the Army has taught her over the last 20 years to save the very way of life of those around her.

This is the first in a new series staring Mercy Gunderson by author Lori Armstrong, who is also the author of the four books in the Julie Collins series. According to a brief bio of Ms. Armstrong on her website, she is a fourth generation South Dakotan and also was formally employed in the firearm industry, two facts which may help to explain why so much of this book rings so true. In her acknowledgments, Armstrong also thanks "the soldier/sharpshooter who gave me the lowdown on army life in wartime." and that too felt very real and was quite affecting. Her descriptions of the ranch, the surrounding landscape and the reservation are hard and real and dusty, not some pretty fantasy of life out west. And some of the people, including Mercy herself are pretty hard too, and far from perfect.
""So, you never used to be like this."
"Like what?"
"Cold. Hard. Mean. Unforgiving."
Sophie and Hope knew how to push my buttons. Rather than take the high ground, I loomed over her. "I'm exactly who I always was, so don't go coloring the past rosy and painting ma as some Pollyanna who turned evil when I left the stabilizing influences of home and hearth. I've had darkness and secrets inside me since the day my mother died. The only difference is now I don't try to hide them.""
No, there are flaws aplenty, people dealing with some heavy troubles and an appealing streak of vulnerability which all makes for some very good characters. There is also a romance...sort of...but even that is pretty hard and dusty too and did not ring my 'sappy' bell.

Now...the book is not perfect. The solution to the mystery was not a great shock and Mercy lost some point for breaking my "I Hate Characters That Do Dumb Stuff" guidelines. A suggestion...if people seem to be out to do you harm, it might be wise to stay sober. And carry a gun. Sober and armed. Really.
But I will forgive her for this breach of my guidelines because overall she, and several of the supporting characters, are interesting and real and ones I will be happy to meet again in future books in the series. A great setting, some good characters and a fairly good mystery make this a book I would recommend.

My thanks to my local library for this one. My tax dollars at work!


  1. I have a copy of this book (or maybe it's on my Kindle) and I'm looking forward to it. You wrote a nice review. Makes the reader want to pick it up and begin. The cover certainly has the feeling of a bleak setting with that barbed wire fence. LOL

  2. Your reviews always have a touch a humor and bring a smile to my face. A great way to wake up in the morning :)

  3. that is very nice of you to say.
    I do least sometimes. ;-)

  4. Sounds like a good start to a new series. I'll be watching for this one!

  5. Wonderful to see a book with a Jack Reacher-like protagonist who is a woman!

  6. Oooh, I wonder if she is related to Marge Gunderson? In that case, bad-ass is in the family! And I love Jill's comment about a female Jack Reacher. I do love that man. And I will have to remember that advice...sober and armed.

  7. Female snipers .. you don't hear about that too often.

    And my brother lives in South Dakota .. I wonder if he would be interested in this. I know I always like books set in places I'm familiar with.

  8. Sober and armed...I am SO all about that.

    I have another book here about a female sniper. But they unwisely titled the book "Beautiful Assasin" and therefore I haven't been able to bring myself to open the book. It may be the best book ever written and I'll never know 'cause they chose a dumb title.

    "No Mercy" is a much better title choice.

  9. yes, the female sniper part was fact the whole sniper thing was interesting. exploring the idea, how snipers deal with this job, her experiences...


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