This is the latest book by the writing team of Jon Jefferson (a novelist) and Dr. Bill Bass (a forensic anthropologist), which seems like a match made in heaven for this sort of book. It is the tenth book in the Body Farm series (pretty upbeat name, right?). Without Mercy follows a forensic anthropologist, Bill Brockton, as he attempts to solve the gruesome murder of a young man in 2016 Tennessee, who was chained to a tree, tortured, and eventually used as bear bait. As you might expect, it unfolds as any other procedural crime novel would. Murder is discovered, investigated, solved. Done like dinner. Without Mercy also integrates an additional storyline whereby a convicted serial killer, with a personal grudge again Brockton, escapes from prison with the sole purpose of making Brockton pay for his last 20 years in prison. If you are a fan of procedural crime novels, you will be all a-twitter I’m sure.
For me, procedural crime novels are usually too formulaic and no longer my cup of tea. There was some awkward writing in here that interfered with my reading and made it more laborious than exciting to get through the story I also found the resolutions to both storylines to be anti-climactic.
Setting all that aside, the story eventually focuses on hate crimes, particularly against Muslim people (sorry if I just let loose a big juicy spoiler), an issue that is particularly poignant these days. The authors make some excellent points about the futile, illogical nature of racism and I particularly enjoyed Brockton’s lesson to a student in his University class about the treatment of various cultural groups entering America in the last few hundred years (take-away: We’re all immigrants and we have all been the subject of hate at one time or another). Not to mention the fact that the story was salvaged by the temporal setting (2016) as the cultural references (including Trump and various social media platforms) are all relevant right now.
Bottom line: If you read this book, you’re going to be waiting a LONG time for the action to start and as a reader of thrillers, you may be disappointed.