Review: A Merciful Truth, by Kendra Elliot – 4.5 Gators

Time for a book review! I flew through Kendra Elliot’s terrific Bone Secrets series earlier this year, and fell in love with the characters and world she created among the preppers/survivalists and political outcasts of rural Oregon in A Merciful Death, first in her Mercy Kilpatrick series. I just finished reading the second book in the series, A Merciful Truth. What did I think? Read on. (You can read my thoughts on the first book here.)

ABOUT A MERCIFUL TRUTH: Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer. ….Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?

WHAT I LIKED: Ah, where to begin? I still love the setting and the characters. Mercy is a tough FBI agent, but she’s not hard. After years in Portland, she’s found herself drawn back (partially because of her slow-burning relationship with local police chief Truman Daly) to her home community of rural Eagle’s Nest, Oregon, and her estranged family. The dynamic that led to the estrangement was introduced in the first book, and while this can be read as a standalone, you can really appreciate the way her family relationships re-develop (or don’t) in this second book. She’s a wonderfully complex character. So far, Truman is much simpler, but there are hints at things in his past that I hope will be fleshed out in future books.

I also liked the low-key romance in this book. It’s billed as romantic suspense, but I’d call it mainstream suspense with romantic elements. The relationship is important, but it’s skillfully woven around the mystery of a series of fires and how they tie into the murder of two local law enforcement officers and a drifter.

WHAT I LIKED LESS: There’s a big twist at the end of the book. It’s an intriguing twist, don’t get me wrong, but if you’re one of those who like to read mysteries and play along to guess the hidden secrets… Well, we just don’t get enough clues to ever have gotten to that twist on our own. Unless I’m slow or missed some clues, which is always possible. Anyway, it kind of whapped me upside the head, but was such a great twist I got over it pretty fast—LOL.

CONCLUSION: This is a great new series. Book three, A Merciful Secret, is due out sometime in 2018. I’ll be preordering this one! A solid 4-1/2 gators for this one. (Yeah, I’m missing half a gator, but that would be animal cruelty, wouldn’t it?) 

Have any of you read either of the MERCY KILPATRICK books yet? Do you have plans to? If you’ve read it, what do you think?

Unusual or Quirky Characters–How Much is Too Much?

I’ve been thinking a lot about characters this week as I read a book (Kendra Elliot’s A MERCIFUL DEATH, first in her Mercy Kilpatrick series), several of whose characters are doomsday preppers. I am really enjoying it, not only the isolated setting in small-town Oregon but this community of people whose lifestyle fascinates me. She does a wonderful job of putting me in their heads (especially as life in the U.S. takes such bizarre twists and turns).

It set me thinking about characters and how offbeat or quirky or out of the “norm” (whatever passes for normal these days) they can be before they become antiheroes or–yikes–unlikeable characters.

I can’t imagine a true narcissist (in the psychological sense not just pop culture narcissism) being a hero I could pull for. But how about a prepper? Or a hermit? I remember when I was writing BLACK DIAMOND I worried that Cole’s character was just too dark and damaged for a romantic hero, but readers seemed to accept him. I’m glad of that since I loved the character. I also had a Down Syndrome teenager in the book, although he was not a major character. (Arguably, he does play a major role, however.)

I guess it’s easier to pull for the underdog than the rich and obnoxious. What are some underdog characters you’ve fallen in love with? What about some that didn’t–or you don’t think would–work for you?