Book Critique - Without Mercy

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A travel down the minds of evil geniuses causing murders and mayhem certainly is no cake walk, and you will like the bone-chilling scenes page after page in this deadly novel that has no mercy.

Without Mercy is a stand-alone novel by Lisa Jackson first published in April of 2010. The plot revolves around two step-siblings who are accidentally thrown into a situation that makes them to try everything in the book to survive and live.

Shaylee "Shay" Stillman is sent to Blue Rock Academy in Southern Oregon, a school to discipline troubled youth. Knowing that this was the last resort for Shay to mend her ways before she turns an adult, it still made Jules Farentino, her step-sister, apprehensive and cautious. And she takes up a teaching position at the academy. But little does she nor Shay know that their fate had been decided by someone without mercy. The only way they can escape is by outsmarting him so they will not end up like others.

A little different from her To Die or New Orleans Series, she centers this plot around the psychology of a human mind in their teen years, and how they evolve to become more evil or good depending on how their brains are wired. 

I just posted a review of Karin Slaughter's book, Pretty Girls, that also involves sibling sisters. What a coincidence that the next book I had picked up also revolved around sister, albeit they are step-sisters in this. Something drove me to pick this book, and didn’t realize until I was mid-way through the book. Though both books have plots poles apart.

I remember watching an episode on Law & Order I believe, where a 6 yr old murders her classmate and has no remorse; an episode on CSI: Miami where an older brother feeds pieces of toys to his younger brother to kill him. It always boggles my mind when I come across such situations. How can someone's mind become so evil at such an early age even if they had been brought up in healthy families. Never can understand that.

And Lisa has created such complex plot involving teens and adults, giving the readers glimpses into some very dangerous minds. A path that causes shivers and shudders at every turn of the page, not knowing what kind of depravity one will encounter. 

One of the characters, Cooper Trent, is shown to have been worked as a deputy with the Pinewood Sherriff's Department in Grizzly Falls, Montana. This is same place and department that we come across in the To Die Series. I have read two books in that series, but hadnt ventured further to know if Cooper Trent appears in those books as well. Although this book falls right after the second book in that series, Chosen To Die. 

According to Lisa Jackson's website, she had come across an advertisement that was playing on her car radio about an academy for troubled children. Lisa pens a complete scene around the advertisement in the book. Little did we know that it was a true incident of her own that she spun in there, when we were reading the book. 

I did see a lot of repeat paraphrasing in this plot which was unusual for Lisa. Perhaps she had written this with someone else's collaboration or the books werent edited well enough.

With so many open sub-plots, it's no wonder Lisa contemplates at the end to have a series of books to be written following Without Mercy. However, I found only one short novella titled The Life and Death of Lauren Conway that she published in February of 2011. Beyond that she has been silent for this series.

A travel down the minds of evil geniuses causing murders and mayhem certainly is no cake walk. Yet when combined with a little bit of romance and a whole lot of twisting plots definitely keeps the reader glued to the book. If she ever continues with the series, I look forward to read her books.

Spoiler Alerts:

1. Plot Reveals:

a. Cooper Trent joined Blue Rock Academy to investigate the disappearance of Lauren Conway, a teenage resident. He was also the ex-boyfriend of Jules. He was a deputy with Pinewood Sherriff's Department in Grizzly Falls, Montana. 

b. The primary antagonist, Shaylee "Shay" Stillman, is institutionalized at the end. But she has plans for escape and take revenge on her sister Jules. If Lisa is going to continue the series, perhaps it will start there. 

c. Lisa uses one of Michael Jackson's hit song, Billy Jean, in a psychological situation with Jules. Sadly it is one of the good songs by the music legend.

2. Sub-Plots:

a. Jules Farentino's family - her dead father Rip Delaney; mother Edith "Edie" Stillman; step-sister Shaylee "Shay" Stillman; a cat Diablo; her best friends Erin Crosby and Gerri.

b. Shaylee "Shay" Stillman's family and associates - boyfriend Jensen "Dawg" Wolfe who is in jail currently; her father Max Stillman, a step-brother Max Junior.

c. Jules & Shay's extended family - cousin Analise Delany and her husband Eli Blackwood with a 2 yr old daughter, Chloe.

d. Blue Rock Academy staff - Reverend Tobias Lynch, the director & his wife Cora Sue; Cooper Trent, an undercover investigator working as teacher; Charla King, school / church accountant and secretary; Dr. Adele Burdette, headmistress of the female students; Kirk Spurrier, the pilot; Dr. Tyeesha Williams, women's counsellor; Rhonda Hammersley, dean of academics; Wade Taggart, a psychology teacher; Jacob McAllister "Father Jake", youth minister; Jordan Ayres, the school nurse; Bert Flannagan, drill sergeant; Mrs. Pruitt, head cook; Salvatore DeMarco, math and science teacher; Joe Ingersoll, maintenance supervisor.

e. Blue Rock Academy TAs: Missy Albright; Kaci Donahue; Ethan Slade; Zach Bernsen; Roberto Ortega; Tim Takasumi; Eric Rolfe; Andrew "Drew" Prescott.

f. Law Enforcement we meet on the case: Detective Tori Baines; Detective Ned Jalinsky; Larry Sparks, Detective for Oregon State Police; Frank Meeker, deputy of Rogue County Sherriff Department; Sherriff Blaine O'Donnell.

g. Jules has an ex-husband Sebastian, who married Jules best friend, Peri. 

3. Grammatical / Character / Location / Geographical / Historical / Mythological Errors:

a. On Pg. 103, Lisa has one character quote "Who knows who could be next?". However, on Pg. 107, when she had Cooper rehash that conversation, she quotes it as "We could be next." Was it paraphrasing what the other character said? Or an over-sight in itself?


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