Mercy Gunderson, a former Army sniper, has just begun a new job with the FBI in South Dakota when a murdered teenage girl is found on the nearby Eagle River Reservation. The teenager, the tribal president’s niece, was brutally killed and there seems to be no good reason for her death.
As Mercy investigates her first case, she finds some patterns among previous deaths of women on the reservation. But are they related murders or coincidences? She and fellow FBI agent Shay Turnball have to navigate the politics of the tribal police, county sheriff’s office, and FBI brass, but Mercy has even more to juggle: her live-in boyfriend is Eagle River County Sheriff Mason Dawson, from whom she is forced to keep confidential information. In addition, Dawson’s 11-year-old son has come to live with them and Mercy, who is part-Indian, also has family ties to a second murder connected to her case, which is becoming increasingly personal.
This is a strongly plotted book, but its biggest strength is its characters, who are not always perfect, including—or especially—Mercy. Mercy wears her toughness like armor and it keeps her from making deeper connections. Aside from Dawson, Mercy has a sprawling family who do not always seem to get along with one another. These interactions not only add depth to Lori Armstrong’s characterizations, but make for a richer plot line.
If there’s one niggle, it is that Merciless, the third book in the series, makes references to past events and family relationships which are not fully explained. But the characters are so compelling that this problem will hopefully compel readers to pick up the first two books as well.