Wednesday, January 30, 2019

NO MERCY :: Joanna Schaffhausen

A version of this review previously appeared in Shelf Awareness and is republished here with permission.

"You kill one guy, one time, and suddenly everyone thinks you need therapy." Officer Ellery Hathaway is irked when she's required to get counseling following an on-the-job shooting. She's even less pleased when her psychiatrist wants her to attend group meetings for violent crime survivors. Ellery is already infamous from her childhood abduction by a serial killer--after the media coverage, a book and at least two movies, what more could anyone want to know about "the girl who got away?"

In group, Ellery meets Myra Gallagher, survivor of a 1987 fire that killed her toddler son. The arsonist is up for parole and rumors are swirling he may be innocent. Then there's Wendy, hiding behind her shaved head and neck tattoo, hoping the man who snuck in her bedroom window won't find her attractive enough to return and rape her again. Since the formal police investigation has stalled, Wendy begs Ellery for help.

No Mercy, the second in Joanna Schaffhausen's absorbing mystery series, finds Ellery sucked into both cases, eventually calling on FBI profiler Reed Markham for help. The two have a complicated history going back to Ellery's abduction and the circumstances of The Vanishing Season. Although first-time readers may be confused by the level of backstory, Schaffhausen provides intriguing new investigations that build on Reed and Ellery's foundation and pique interest in their future. Schaffhausen is an ace at probing the nooks and crannies of victimology, and this installment's focus on surviving violence provides her with plenty of space to shine.

STREET SENSE: I did not read the first entry in this series, which resulted in feelings at both ends of the spectrum. At the one end, Schaffhausen made me contemplate reading the first book (if time were not an issue when it came to reading), which is no small feat. She packs in a lot of plot and keeps the action moving with intriguing character study. At the other end, there was too much detailed backstory for me. It wasn't difficult to figure out what was going on or had gone on in the past, but I often felt it took me out of story at hand and curious about the other. There was also a bit too much on the will-they-or-won't-they-and-is-that-creepy romantic front for me (likely meaning it's fine for normal, non-curmudgeony readers). Overall I think this is a series worth checking out if you enjoy detail, action, plot arcs, characters with complicated histories and some unrequited...something. 

COVER NERD SAYS: The colors and somewhat ghostly blurred focus of this one captured my attention despite the somewhat ubiquitous "woman facing the other direction" image. I think the title color and font combined with the reddish/orange tint to the photo make it more compelling than not.

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About Malcolm Avenue Review

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in a nifty, oak-shaded ranch house on Malcolm Avenue, a wide-laned residential street with little through traffic, located amid the foothills of Northern California. It was on that street and in that house I learned most of my adolescent life lessons, and many grown-up ones to boot. Malcolm Avenue was "home" for more than thirty years.

It was on Malcolm Avenue, through and with my family and the other families that made up our neighborhood of characters, that I first learned about and gained an appreciation for the things I continue to love the most to this day: music, animals, photography, sports, television/movies and, of course, books.

I owe a debt of gratitude to that life on Malcolm Avenue. It gave me a sense of community and friendship, support and adventure. For better and worse, life on that street likely had the biggest impact on the person I've become. So this blog, and the things I write here, are all, at their base level, a little bit of a love letter to Malcolm Avenue.


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