Friday, July 2, 2021

Book Review: Mercy River by Glen Erik Hamilton (Van Shaw #4)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Exciting plot with wonderful characters
Cons: None
The Bottom Line:
Helping out a friend
Has thrilling complications
Keeps pages turning

Helping a Friend Gets Van into More Trouble Than He Bargained For

I’ve gotten very addicted to the Van Shaw novels by Glen Erik Hamilton, so I was happy to find the time for the fourth in the series, Mercy River.  While the set up felt like many novels I would normally read, I expected it to go off in some unexpected directions, and I wasn’t disappointed.

A phone call in the middle of the night is never good news, so Van isn’t surprised to find this phone call from his friend and fellow Army Ranger Leo Pak to be no different.  Leo has just been arrested in the small town of Mercy River, Oregon, for a murder.  Leo has had trouble adjusting to life as a civilian after getting out of the Army, and Leo’s recently drifted into the small town.  Van hires a lawyer and the two set out from Seattle to see what they can do for Leo.

Unfortunately, the case against Leo looks pretty solid.  It doesn’t help any that Leo doesn’t seem to want to answer any of Van or the lawyer’s questions.  Meanwhile, the town is preparing for a weekend event that is bringing in hundreds of Rangers, both active and former, with the proceeds going to help Rangers and their families.  Can Van figure out what happened?  Or will all the Rangers in town keep the truth from coming to light?

A civilian trying to prove their friend is innocent of murder.  This sounds like most of the books I read, right?  However, I knew that any time Van gets involved in a case, the plot is going to zig and zag in some pretty surprising directions.  My faith was rewarded, and this turns into a thriller with some nail-biting action scenes before it is all over.  I just held on and enjoyed the ride.  The mystery reaches a logical and satisfying conclusion, and the action grew out of the initial premise flawlessly.

Since this book mostly takes place away from Seattle, the other series regulars are reduced to cameos for the most part.  Even so, we get some interesting developments in their lives.  Van continues to be a strong and sympathetic main character.  His background makes him very complex, and I enjoy seeing him grow in each book.  That means it falls on the characters we meet here to pull us into the story, and they are more than up to the task.

One thing I appreciated about this book was the way it brought in issues veterans face when they return home without ever preaching.  It flowed out of the events of the book, but it also never slowed the story down.  I actually was about to reference something that happened here in a conversation the other day until I remembered this was fiction.  That’s how real it felt.

The first three books have had a flashback story from Van’s years growing up with his grandfather.  While this book does have some flashbacks, there is no one flashback story, instead we see some time with his grandfather as well as some of his time in the Rangers.  Honestly, I enjoyed this since I sometimes feel that the flashbacks, while thematically important, distract from the present-day story.  Here, they provided insight into Van without distracting too much from his current challenges.

Since this isn’t one of my typical cozies, it does include more violence and language than in the books I normally pick up.  Neither were excessive, but know that before you pick it up.

R. C. Bray was back for the audio version.  Once again, he was fantastic at bringing the story to life for us without getting in the way.  Good audiobook narration is a real skill, and I always enjoy it when the narrator does a great job.

Mercy River is another outstanding Van Shaw thriller.  Hold on when you pick up this book because you are in for quite the ride.

Enjoy the rest of the Van Shaw Thrillers.

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