The following review is a special for BlackFive readers provided by Elise Cooper. You can read all of our book reviews and author interviews by clicking on the Books category link in the right side bar.
Without Mercy is from the writing team of Jon Jefferson and Dr. Bill Bass. Jefferson is the writer and Dr. Bass is the forensic anthropologist and creator of the Body Farm.
Jon Jefferson noted to blackfive.net, “Brockton is a cheerier protagonist than those in most crime novels. I drew directly from my collaborator, Dr. Bill Bass. He does not solve crimes, but is also a researcher and a scientist. He advanced the state of forensic science. We want people to enjoy the plots but also learn from every book about bone detection. We try to instruct and delight.”
The two plots have Dr. Bill Brockton investigating a bizarre murder, while confronting a deadly enemy. Called to a remote mountainside he finds a ravaged set of skeletal remains chained to a tree. This shocking case reveals a hate crime where the person was eaten by a bear after having bear bait spread over them. The other plot brings back serial killer Nick Satterfield who wants to make Brockton suffer. Fans of the series should recognize Satterfield from the novel, Cut To The Bone. In that book Satterfield blames Dr. Bill for ruining his career. After Brockton comes forward about a woman strangled, Satterfield received a dishonorable discharge. Feeling it is personal he seeks revenge. Brockton must solve the hate crime, while handling the dangers to himself and his family.
Unfortunately the authors go off on a tangent, which distracts from this suspenseful murder mystery. They insert their own political agenda into the storyline. Readers will feel they are being hit over the head with the feelings and opinions of the authors, something completely unnecessary. During a few scenes they seemed to have moved away from what made these books stand out: the interplay of academic anthropology, collaboration between the FBI, TBI, and local law enforcement, and the relationships between the characters.
The movie The Revenant also plays a role in this book. When asked why, Jefferson commented, “We had already started writing the book when the movie came out. Since it talks about the Arikara Indians, I thought ‘how perfect.’ Bill Bass spent thirteen summers early in his career excavating the Arikara Indian burial grounds out of the Great Plains in South Dakota. The book and movie had two parallels, a bear attack and the Indians.”
The book also has Brockton’s long time assistant, Miranda Lovelady, preparing to depart for a possible job at the FBI. Jefferson believes “everything is up for grabs. It is possible this is the last book in the series. It is also possible Miranda will be spun off in her own series working for the FBI. I do have a friend working as a forensic anthropologist there. She said she would let me borrow from her life. But first I must finish my own thriller with new characters and new settings out next year.”
Without Mercy was riveting enough and there was no need for the authors to inject their personal agenda. Because it is an interesting storyline if the transgressions are too much, skip them.