I received an ARC of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.
Raised by a family of survivalists, FBI agent Mercy Kilpatrick can take on any challenge—even the hostile reception to her homecoming. But she’s not the only one causing chaos in the rural community of Eagle’s Nest, Oregon. At first believed to be teenage pranks, a series of fires takes a deadly turn with the murder of two sheriff’s deputies. Now, along with Police Chief Truman Daly, Mercy is on the hunt for an arsonist turned killer.
Still shunned by her family and members of the community, Mercy must keep her ear close to the ground to pick up any leads. And it’s not long before she hears rumors of the area’s growing antigovernment militia movement. If the arsonist is among their ranks, Mercy is determined to smoke the culprit out. But when her investigation uncovers a shocking secret, will this hunt for a madman turn into her own trial by fire?
I didn’t think it was possible, but I find that I may just enjoy this series even more than the Callahan & McLane series, and that is saying something. There is something just so fantastically comforting and soothing about stepping into a world where adults are ADULTING. I know, it is weird right, but nowadays I tend to find myself doing some mental gymnastics trying to keep my head into a story about the young ones when I just want to scream at the book: “Love him?! You don’t even know him, you’re still just a child!” There is none of that here, just delightful characters who actually make sense to my brain.
This book is a continuation of the series, and while it may be possible to read it as a stand alone, I highly suggest reading at least the previous book if not even the other series too. That is because there were inexpertly mended relationships that we get to see continue to grow and change, and that makes is really fascinating and lovely to watch. Additionally, I think the relationship between Mercy and Sheriff Truman Daly is a lovely and warm slow burning fire that deserves all the page time. Did I have my qualms in the last book? Absolutely. Did Elliot justify my faith in her capability to make me buy in? Again, absolutely.
Beyond the primary relationship though, there are a variety of other relationships to flesh out the human dynamic. Mercy’s brother, sister, and niece all got a significant amount of page time, but it was done in a way that further the overall plot well. And the plot served well to further the changing relationship dynamics. Ilona Andrews recently posted on the topic of episodic vs progressive series, that really re-framed how I am looking at series right now. And this is definitely progressive. The stakes are real and so is the character growth. None of these people are the same as when they started the first book.
Speaking of the plot, the suspense was well done, there were a couple of nice red herrings, and one major “you did NOT see that one coming” twist that made the mystery stand on its own rather than just being the vehicle to carry the romance. And as I said before, real stakes with real life type consequences.
I think there are a couple of things that have me edging this series ahead in my favoritism. One is that Mercy just barely edges out Ava in my affections. But two, the Callahan & McLane series focuses on the monsters. This one focuses more on relationships and the seething secrets in small town rural life. While I may not have any experience with monsters (which that fact does make that topic fascinating in its own way), I do have experience with the seething secrets in small, town rural life. So the Mercy series is a bit more like slipping into home.
Either way though, if you enjoy romantic suspense with slow burn romance and real life relationships with adultier adults, I cannot recommend Kendra Elliot enough.