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No Mercy    by Lori Armstrong Amazon.com order for
No Mercy
by Lori Armstrong
Order:  USA  Can
Touchstone, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Lori Armstrong (author of the Julie Collins mystery series, including the Shamus Award winning Snow Blind) introduces an edgy and memorable new heroine to the thriller scene in No Mercy. Following the recent death of her rancher father, Mercy Gunderson is on medical leave from the army where she was a skilled sniper in a unique female special forces unit.

On Mercy's return, corpses quickly begin to fill the South Dakota landscape, and violence (often instigated by Mercy herself) abounds. Though tough as nails on the surface, Mercy is vulnerable underneath. Still suffering combat flashbacks, she also feels guilty over her inability to be there in her father's final days, and must decide what to do about the huge ranch he has left her and her emotionally traumatized sister Hope. Mercy has unfinished business with their ranch manager, Jake Red Leaf. Her fifteen-year-old nephew Levi has 'been runnin' with a rough crowd from the rez lately.' And she's fighting her attraction to her dad's appointee, Eagle River County Sheriff Dawson.

The first corpse found on Gunderson land is that of Albert Yellow Boy, a friend of Levi's. His mother presses Mercy to investigate, which she does despite Dawson's opposition and forewarnings of danger from her two-spirited friend John-John Pretty Horses. Further deaths - and murder attempts - strike closer and closer to home. Lori Armstrong lays intriguing trails for readers to follow. Do these deaths relate to the rough adolescent crowd on the rez, their attempts to create a new Warrior Society, and the warped adults guiding them? Are they part of sabotage attempts to pressure Mercy to sell the ranch, as has already happened to her neighbors? What is Hope's new fiancÚ's role? And is the Sheriff somehow involved?

Mercy is a hard-drinking, hard-boiled investigator of the old school, comfortable with stepping outside the law when she feels it's needed. She brings tough justice to the villains this time around and in the process discovers that she's not as alone as she had believed - 'I had the ghosts of the past, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the joy, and the sorrow of those ancestors who'd gone before me to keep me company.' I look forward to more of Mercy Gunderson.

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