Sunday, July 27, 2008

Mystery Book Review: Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Mercy Street by Mariah Stewart. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Mercy Street by Mariah StewartBuy from Amazon.com

Mercy Street by
A Mercy Street Foundation Mystery

Ballantine (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 0-345-49226-9 (0345492269)
ISBN-13: 978-0-345-49226-5 (9780345492265)
Publication Date: May 2008
List Price: $22.00

Synopsis (from the publisher): On a balmy spring evening, four high school seniors–three boys and a girl–enter a park in the small Pennsylvania city of Conroy. The next morning, two of the boys are found shot to death, and the girl and the third boy are gone. After three weeks with no leads and no sign of either of the two missing teenagers, the chief of police begins to wonder if they too were victims. But with no other suspects, the authorities conclude that one of these kids was the shooter.

The missing boy’s grandmother, a secretary at the local parish church, maintains his innocence. On her behalf, the parish priest, Father Kevin Burch, hires former detective Mallory Russo as a private investigator to figure out what happened in the park that night. Mallory had ended her nine-year stint with the Conroy police force some time ago after becoming a target of a smear campaign. Now a true-crime author, Mallory is surprised to receive the priest’s offer–and highly intrigued by the case. She can’t help but accept the challenge–especially when she learns that her investigation will be financed by Father Burch’s cousin the reclusive billionaire Robert Magellan, a man whose own wife and infant son disappeared without a trace a year ago, a man who understands the heartache of not knowing what happened to a loved one.

Detective Charlie Wanamaker is facing another sort of tragedy. He fled Conroy years ago with no plans to return to what he considered a dying factory town–until a family emergency brought him back. Finding the situation much worse than he’d thought, he trades his job as a big-city detective for one with the Conroy police department. Assigned to the park shooting case, Charlie quickly realizes that the initial investigation left a lot of questions unanswered. Unofficially, he teams up with Mallory to uncover the truth and find the two kids, dead or alive. What Charlie and Mallory discover will take them down a twisted path that leads to an old unsolved murder–and justice for a killer with a heart of stone.

Review: Mariah Stewart initiates a new series of thrillers with Mercy Street, a gripping novel set in Conroy, a small Pennsylvania town shattered by the murders of two high school senior boys and the disappearance of two others, a boy and girl who were classmates of the dead young men.

Friends since kindergarten, the four teenagers often went off together. The morning after they last met, two of the boys were found dead from gunshot wounds, the others missing. After three weeks, the police conclude that the killers either abducted the boy and girl, or the two killed their friends and went into hiding. Mary Corcoran refuses to believe her grandson, Ryan, killed his friends. She also believes he and the girl, Courtney, are still alive somewhere. With the help of Father Kevin Burch, Mallory Russo, an ex-cop, is persuaded to begin an investigation. Since Mallory Russo is no longer a detective on the dwindling police force and she has no license to act as a private investigator, she enlists the aid of her former captain, a good friend and mentor, to help her get information necessary to her investigation. The captain unofficially assigns Detective Charlie Wannamaker, new to the Conroy force, to aid her. The probing of this shocking incident takes Mallory and Charlie into the school to talk with other students and teachers, and into the homes of despondent parents. They also go to the dark side of the dying factory town for information concerning suspects they believe the police overlooked or didn’t even question. In their quest for the truth, they don't realize they are placing their lives in grave danger.

As riveting as the murder investigation is in Mercy Street, Stewart develops several equally interesting subplots involving the characters. Robert Magellan, a wealthy man whose wife and child disappeared a year ago after attending her sister's baby shower, has agreed to finance Mallory's investigation. And Charlie Wannamaker, an experienced detective who recently left the Philadelphia police force, has returned home to Conroy to care for his alcoholic mother and autistic sister. Both stories add depth and complexity to an already first-rate murder mystery.

Mercy Street is an outstanding start to this series, the next book of which is eagerly awaited.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of for contributing her review of Mercy Street and to Authors on the Web for providing a copy of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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