ISBN-10: 0-7582-2564-4 (0758225644)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7582-2564-1 (9780758225641)
Publication Date: April 2010
List Price: $25.00
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Review: A school where students are inexplicably dying is the setting for Lisa Jackson's latest terrifying stand-alone thriller, Without Mercy.
Julia "Jules" Farentino has just been laid off from her job as a school teacher due to cutbacks. She's taken a job as a waitress until she can line up more suitable employment. She suffers from migraines and nightmares, not only because of her current situation, but from a miserable, traumatic childhood. Her mother married Rip Delaney, her father, twice, but in-between wed Max Stillman, which resulted in a half-sister for Jules, Shaylee. During her mother's second marriage to her father, Rip was murdered when Jules was a teenager and Shay just 12-years-old; his killer was never caught. The two girls dealt with it differently, Jules by internalizing and Shay by turning to a live of juvenile crime.
Now 17, Shay is still in trouble. In a final effort to try to straighten her out, and keep her out of jail, the girls' mother enrolls Shay in the Blue Rock Academy, an elite boarding school known for turning wayward kids around. Not surprisingly, Shay hates it there, and even though there's no love lost between the sisters, she secretly calls Jules and begs her to get her out. Jules reads up on the academy and learns it has an excellent reputation ... yet a few months back a student disappeared, and quite recently a teacher was fired for having an inappropriate relationship with another student. The position to replace the teacher is still open, and Jules applies, and is immediately hired. Hoping Shay won't reveal their true relationship, Jules goes undercover at the school in an attempt to discover the truth behind the events at the academy.
Jackson does a fine job in creating memorable characters in Without Mercy, the students particularly well drawn. The setting is appropriately atmospheric, and though the overused plot device of having a violent storm bear down on the campus, preventing anyone from leaving, is a little contrived, it is effectively used. The book itself could probably have been trimmed by 100 pages or so without any loss of continuity, it tends to be a little wordy in places, but this is a minor criticism as the unexpected twists in the plot as it develops help maintain the tension and suspense. And the identities of those at the academy who can be trusted -- and those who cannot -- come as a surprise. Overall, Without Mercy is an alternately captivating and frightening -- and sometimes frighteningly captivating -- thriller and is recommended.
Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Without Mercy and to Joan Schulhafer Publishing and Media Consulting for providing a copy of the book for this review.
Review Copyright © 2010 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
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Synopsis (from the publisher): Ever since her father was stabbed to death in a home invasion, Julia “Jules” Farentino has been plagued by nightmares. Her half-sister, Shaylee, now seventeen, has had her own difficulties since the tragedy, earning a rap sheet for drug use, theft, and vandalism. Still, when Jules learns of her mother’s decision to send Shay to an elite boarding school in Oregon, she’s skeptical. Blue Rock Academy has a reputation for turning wayward kids around — but one of its students went missing a few months earlier and her body has never been found.
On impulse, Jules applies for a teaching job at the Academy. Shortly before Jules arrives, a student is found hanged, another near death, and a hysterical Shay believes it’s murder. Then another girl is found dead. There’s no doubt something sinister is at hand. And Jules has become the next target of a bloodthirsty killer without limits, without remorse, without mercy …
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