Romance author turned thriller writer Armstrong continues to chronicle the adventures of former Army sniper turned law enforcement officer Mercy Gunderson in the latest tale set in western South Dakota.
Mercy served a couple of tours in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, but now she’s home fighting crime and her own demons. Part American Indian, Mercy works alongside FBI Special Agent Shay Turnbull to resolve the murder of Arlette Shooting Star, the niece of the newly elected tribal president. But the stars refuse to align for Mercy and Shay, and soon, there’s a second body to add to the first one. Tiptoeing through the peculiar dance required to investigate crimes involving the reservation and its residents, the two agents spar with tribal police as well as Mercy’s live-in love, Sheriff Mason Dawson. Meanwhile, there’s no love lost between brand-new cop Mercy and the more experienced Shay, either. As Mercy’s life grows more complicated, so does the case, with Mason’s son, Lex, joining them on the ranch and twist after twist piling up the suspects. Armstrong has a knack for presenting a strong sense of place and deftly brings readers onto the reservation to expose them to a culture and way of life that most will find virgin ground. She also has a way with dialogue, spicing both Mercy’s inner and outer voices with humor and a sense of irony. What doesn’t process, though, is her counterintuitive behavior as a cop. Mercy, and on at least one occasion, Shay, allows suspect after suspect to rough her up. Instead of tough, quirky and her own person, Mercy comes across as someone in need of a good psychiatrist and as lacking in moral character.
While Armstrong’s writing is spot on, the book suffers from the incorporation of reams of unexplained back story, which leaves the reader to puzzle through multiple references to past events.