Desert Isle Keeper
In the fall of 2017, I read and reviewed Joanna Schaffhausen’s début novel, The Vanishing Season, and while I wasn’t completely blown away by it, I did find it to be quite enjoyable and I was eager to see what else the author might have up her sleeve. No Mercy is her second book, and it’s a sequel to The Vanishing Season, picking up shortly after that one left off.
It’s important to know that this novel does not stand well on its own. While the mystery is completely separate from events in the first book, the relationship between Ellery and Reed, as well as key information about Ellery’s past traumas, would be difficult to understand if you started with No Mercy. Because of that, this review will contain spoilers for certain aspects of The Vanishing Season.
Police officer Ellery Hathaway is on involuntary leave from her job at the Woodbury Police Department after shooting and killing the man responsible for a series of brutal murders. If she wants to go back to work, Ellery must attend group therapy sessions for survivors of violent crimes. She’s not thrilled by the prospect of sharing the complicated feelings surrounding the shooting with a group of strangers, but her job is important to her and so, she reluctantly agrees to the sessions.
Self-examination isn’t something at which Ellery excels, so it doesn’t take her long to get embroiled in the lives of two other fellow group members. Wendy has survived a brutal sexual assault that the police seem unable to solve, and Myra lost a child in a deadly fire years before. Ellery is intrigued by the stories of both women, and decides to bring the perpetrators of these horrific crimes to justice. The fat that she’s currently on leave doesn’t even seem to enter her mind.
After poking a bit on her own, Ellery decides she needs help, and she reaches out to FBI profiler Reed Markham with whom she has a complicated history. Readers of the first book will recall that Reed’s life was kind of a mess when we last saw him, but he’s slowly managing to get things straightened out and is even up for a promotion at work. Even so, he drops everything when he receives Ellery’s phone call and heads back to Woodbury to help her out. While I understand why Reed is so drawn to Ellery, there was a part of me that wanted him to tell her he couldn’t come to her rescue. I kind of wanted him to focus on his job and his family rather than putting everything on the line for Ellery. Still, we wouldn’t have much of a story if he did that, now would we?
I could say more about the plot, but I don’t want to risk spoiling things, so I’ll just tell you that I found this novel much more compelling than its predecessor. The characters are still extremely flawed, but I didn’t find them nearly as aggravating this time around. Ellery is the queen of bad decisions, but Ms. Schaffhausen did a great job in helping me understand why she was acting so rashly, and even though I didn’t always agree with her choices, I could at least see where she was coming from.
Ellery grows quite a bit during the course of this book. She learns to stop and think before acting, and she is finally able to let her guard down around a small group of people. I loved seeing her give into her inner vulnerabilities instead of working so hard to keep them hidden, and I can’t wait to see her evolution continue in future books.
This is not a romance novel, but there is definitely some romantic tension between Ellery and Reed. I saw it in the first book, but it’s even more apparent here. There are a host of reasons why a relationship between them isn’t the best idea, reasons they both seem to be aware of, and yet, I can’t help but think these two will end up together in a future installment in this series. They have a fantastic dynamic, so I hope the author decides to allow the spark between them to develop into something more.
If you’re looking for a spine-chilling thriller to curl up with this winter, I recommend you give this one a try. The mystery is extremely fast-paced and contains several twists I absolutely was not expecting. Ms. Schaffhausen has matured so much as a writer, and I can’t wait for other fans of suspense to take note of her work.