The Mercy, Volume One of the 'Jessica LaFave Mysteries' series, provides a powerful account of suicide in a family of professional therapists - but none of this is indicated in the opening lines, which take place at a horse show where police are involved in a drug bust. While its setting's not the usual opener for a story about suicide, it does set the tone for a mystery that includes a best friend with uncommon abilities ("Camilla has powers. She says she can see the woman I used to be still inside me. I’d have to take her word on that."), an unexpected death, and a series of psychologically gripping encounters that appear to lead in one direction, then twist to take an opposite path.
The first thing to note about The Mercy is its powerful images and psychological insights: "I am a trespasser, a stowaway on the Queen Mary of elite sports." There are no staid and dull perceptions, here: using a healthy dose of metaphor tinged with wry humor, events unfold in a lusty tale from the perspective of a psychologist who finds herself in over her head when murder strikes too close to home.
It's difficult to claim that a genre mystery is truly original: with so many reads permeating this market and so much of them predictable, the presence of something truly remarkable and different is a breath of fresh air.
The Mercy is this breath, lacing and entwining its readers with a complex spider web of events that ultimately questions who is the real victim, and centers around a journey that takes the protagonist over the border and into other worlds, entirely.
So go ahead: imbibe of The Mercy for what it is: a beacon of originality in a genre replete with predictability - and one that adds a heavy dose of psychological insight to its story of friendships, murder, and choices gone awry.
Does madness always show? The Mercy answers this with exquisite precision in a fast-paced read recommended for genre fans and those who usually prefer the thriller format (the latter will find its psychological depth and self-analysis the perfect touches, here.)