RogerBW's Blog

A Merciful Truth, Kendra Elliot 15 June 2020

2017 romantic mystery, second in the Mercy Kilpatrick series. Someone's been starting fires in the small Oregon town where Mercy grew up and is now trying to rebuild bridges with her family; when the police who turn up in response to the fires start getting shot, the FBI gets involved and puts her on the case.

The problem for me is that this isn't much of a mystery. We get scenes from secondary points of view, which to my mind tends to remove tension from an investigative story; and there's a very obvious candidate for the villain, to the point that as a seasoned reader of mysteries I was expecting this to be revealed as misdirection. After all, this is a series that's been cautiously sympathetic to the "get the government out of our business" mindset that in its extreme forms leads to "militias" and separatism, so when someone starts talking that way that doesn't automatically mean they're a bad person.

But no. (Not even much of a spoiler, really.) The obvious villain is indeed the villain, and the wonder is that it takes these supposedly smart law enforcers so long to spot him. (As it is, much of their suspicion of him is based on his "not being respectful enough", which I'm certain Elliot doesn't perceive as part of the core problem with American police.) The reason eventually revealed for the various criminality is sufficiently stupid and impractical to be entirely plausible as a criminal plot, though.

There's much less of Mercy-the-prepper here, which I found a shame since it was one of the more distinctive aspects of the first book (both in the way it informed her habits of thought and in the way she tried to keep it secret from professional colleagues). The story of her romance is pretty much going along the predictable path. The orphaned niece whom she's found herself looking after provides a bit more interest, and there's an expected family reconciliation.

The problems are things I'm spotting after the fact. The book was engaging and interesting, and I'm still curious to see where Elliot takes this series. But it's a bit of a step down from book one.

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Previous in series: A Merciful Death | Series: Mercy Kilpatrick | Next in series: A Merciful Secret

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