The Absence of Mercy

The Absence of Mercy by John Burley
Publication date: November 19, 2013 by William Morrow Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss for an honest review
Description from Goodreads:

A doctor and father in small town Ohio weighs the need to catch a killer against his fears for his family's safety in this debut psychological suspense novel

Just west of the Ohio River, lies the peaceful town of Wintersville. Safe from the crime and congestion of city life, it is the perfect place to raise a family . . . or so they thought.

Life as the town medical examiner is relatively unhurried for Dr. Ben Stevenson. With only a smattering of cases here and there-car accident victims, death by natural causes-he has plenty of time to spend with his loving wife and two sons. That is until a teenager's body is discovered in the woods and Ben, as the only coroner in the area, is assigned to the case. But as the increasingly animalistic attacks continue, the case challenges Ben in ways he never suspects.

With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, this is psychological suspense at its best-an extraordinary debut that challenges as much as it thrills.

My Take:

When I first started reading The Absence of Mercy, I didn't know if I was going to like it, despite the fact that I really liked the premise of the book. It took me a few chapters to get drawn into the story, but once I did, I had a hard time putting the book down.

This book is the stuff of a parent's nightmares. Really. We follow Ben, the medical examiner, working in a small town as he tries to help the authorities solve a brutal murder. The murder itself is horrific and the fact that the victim is a teenager just makes the whole thing worse.

I was pulled into the search for the killer and was intrigued by the way information is given to the reader if one pays attention. The growing horror of gradually figuring out who was behind the murder(s) was pretty gut-wrenching.

I liked how characters are very slowly examined, but at first, it is difficult to determine if a character is just quirky or if it is something more sinister. I was kept guessing for awhile. However, there are clues for the reader about several of the characters.

I think this book will stay with me for awhile. I find myself thinking about certain events or aspects of a character at odd moments. This was a disturbing read, but I couldn't put it down. For a first novel, I think it was pretty impressive and I look forward to reading more by John Burley.


  1. I found your blog through the Midwestern Book Bloggers website (: This book sounds really interesting! I'm glad to see you enjoyed it and I think I'll add it to my TBR list.

    Tina @ Pages of Comfort - new follower via Twitter and GFC
    My FF


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