Mercy Kill by Lori Armstrong (Touchstone, 2011) is the second of three mysteries about Mercy Gunderson, a former Army sharpshooter returned home to her native western South Dakota. Like many returned veterans, Mercy is having trouble finding a sense of purpose and figuring out her place on her family’s ranch, which is being threatened by an oil pipeline. After going on a months-long bender, she gives up drinking for a bartending job in a friend’s local dive. She learns when he visits the dive that the representative sent by the oil pipeline company to coax the locals into accepting the incursion across their land is a former squad leader who saved her life in Iraq.
Her deep sense of obligation kicks in when she finds his body outside the bar after closing up one night. Since he was roundly despised by nearly everyone, the pool of suspects is considerable. She could tell from her interactions with him at the bar that Jason was no longer the person she knew in Iraq; she realized just how much he had changed when she learns he had hundreds of bottles of prescription painkillers in his suitcase. Everything points to a drug deal gone sidewise and the most likely culprits the psychopath drug dealers from the nearby reservation, feared by all who know them. Curiously, or perhaps not, considering the reputation of the drug dealers, the local sheriff seems disinclined to pursue the case so Mercy feels that she must get to the truth of Jason’s death herself.
A complicated gritty story with well-defined characters and a sharply delineated location. The scenery of western South Dakota in the spring comes alive here and makes living there understandable. Mercy is a complex person seeking to understand herself and to find a new way to relate to the people around her. She was a little too gleeful about shooting prairie dogs for me to find her wholly likeable, however.
There were many references to events in the preceding book but I do not think it is necessary to read these books in order to fully understand them.
· Paperback: 320 pages
· Publisher: Touchstone; Original edition (January 11, 2011)
· Language: English
· ISBN-10: 1416590978
· ISBN-13: 978-1416590972
Aubrey Hamilton ©2018
Aubrey Hamilton is a former librarian who works on Federal IT projects by day and reads mysteries at night.