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by Lori Armstrong
Touchstone, January 2013
352 pages
ISBN: 1451625367

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Mercy Gunderson, the main character in this third book in the series, can't be summarized easily in a sentence. She is ex-military, having learned to separate herself from her emotions in her work as a sniper. She is Native American, having enough native blood to qualify as a member of her tribe. She lost in her bid for local sheriff, and instead joined the FBI where she is a new officer. She is a wealthy rancher, living with the new sheriff (Mason Dawson) and sharing responsibility for the ranch with her sister, Hope, and her family. Reading this book without the benefit of having read the first two in the series, I found that the multi-dimensional aspects of her life gave her a well-fleshed-out reality while at the same time causing a bit of vertigo. It didn't help that the author was inconsistent as she had Mercy refer to her love interest, sometimes referring to him as Dawson and sometimes as Mason. If the change from last to first name signaled a change in Mercy's frame of mind, I did not catch itůso for me it was just jarring.

As the book begins, a teenage girl has been found on tribal land, murdered with a wooden stake through her heart, and Mercy is called to the scene with her FBI trainer and boss, Shay Turnbull. As she investigates the murder, Mercy gains information from family members on the reservation who contact her to let her know there have been other murders of young Native women that have been swept under the rug by tribal police. Her research in the tribal archives turns up not only a strange librarian, but also connections between multiple previous deaths. As several additional women are killed, both young and old, Mercy is fingered by one tribal member as having some mysterious negative power. As the murderer threatens her own family, Mercy dons her military sniper persona and takes the offensive.

Mercy taking charge is one of the things I really liked about her character and the plot line. So many books with a female lead end up with that woman needing to be rescued by a man. Though she's not in charge in her role as an FBI agent, when her family is in danger she looks to no one else to figure out how to remove that danger. The toughness she brings to dealing with the murderer continues into her personal life as well, as she deals with helping Sheriff Dawson, her lover, through a life-threatening injury. She's not just a rough-and-tumble character though, as she takes on a mother role with Dawson's son and mellows into possibly accepting Dawson's proposal.

The book gives a convincing look at the amorphous boundary between Native and white society, as both tribal police and the FBI play a role in trying to solve the murders. As Mercy attempts to live in the world defined by this boundary as well as the crossroads of the various threads of her life, she is at times disoriented, as is the reader. It's an interesting place, though, messy with real-life conflicts, and it draws the reader in. I do feel the need, now, to go back to read the earlier books, NO MERCY, and MERCY KILL, to gain further perspective.

ž Sharon Mensing is the Head of School of Emerald Mountain School, an independent school in the mountains of Colorado, where she lives, reads, and enjoys the outdoors.

Reviewed by Sharon Mensing, November 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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