Mariah Stewart was a completely new author for me, and as I read Mercy Street, the first novel in a new series by her, I was delighted to find it a very pleasant read.
The novel begins with Robert Magellan, a dot-com multimillionaire whose wife and infant son disappeared more than a year ago. His assistant and his cousin, a priest, worry about Robert’s mental and physical health. Partly to fight Robert’s apathy, Father Kevin persuades him to use some of his money to pay a private investigator to inquire into the disappearance of two young parishioners.
Mallory Russo was a cop for nine years, but several colleagues’’ bullying forced her to quit, and she has been working on a book for the last couple of months. When Father Kevin accosts her about an interesting case, she is at first reluctant, but then applies for a P.I.’s license and begins to investigate. Two teenage boys were shot in a deserted playground, and two other teenagers – a boy and a girl – disappeared without a trace. The police believe them to be the killers, but as they are overworked and busy with a sniper, they are neither doing much at the moment to recover the vanished suspects nor trying to find any new traces. A new detective will be assigned the case, but he won’t start for another week.
The case is baffling as it seems to be illogical, and it is only by following a single connection that was overlooked earlier that Mallory begins to make some headway. Simultaneously, the new detective, Charlie Wanamaker arrives and encounters her at the site of the murders, and with the captain’s permission, they unofficially join forces. I liked that whole set-up. Although there some truly bad eggs in the Conroy police department, it is mostly because too few men and women have to cover too many crimes that the crime remains unresolved so far. Mallory and Charlie waste no time bickering and second-guessing each other, but instead work together in a most productive and satisfactory manner.
Both Mallory and Charlie carry burdens from the past – mostly to do with their immediate families – and so, although they are attracted to each other from their first encounter, they don’t hurry into anything and take the time they need to open up to each other. Neither is Mr. or Ms. Perfect, instead they are people whom one would like to know.
I enjoyed the romance tremendously. The plot is dominated by the investigation, so this is a very straightforward tale of two people who meet at work, like each other instantly, and step by step fall in love. No Big Mis, no vacillation and whatever is thrown in to postpone the HEA in so many other novels. I just loved it!
What keeps Mercy Street from an even higher grade are two elements: Because the next volume in the series is to be about two different leads, Mariah Stewart wraps up too many of Mallory’s and Charlie’s affairs too neatly in the last few chapters, and she spends too much time preparing the set-up for the rest of the series. As a result, the last chapters drag a little. In spite of that I have already placed my order for the next volume, Cry Mercy, and am delighted that I have discovered a new-to-me author with a long backlist.