Click here to read reviewer Michael Leonard's take on Cruel Mercy.
David Mark returns with a critical favorite in Cruel Mercy with protagonist Detective Sergeant Aector McAvoy of Hull, England. Working with the impressive Detective Inspector Trish Pharaoh, the oversized, red-haired Scottish detective is married to his beloved Traveller wife, Roisin, and has two precious daughters.
Family is the center of Aector’s universe. An oddity in the Hull Police Department, McAvoy has built a reputation on loyalty, strength, and perseverance in the pursuit of justice. Pharaoh is perhaps his greatest fan, with good reason, and the feeling is mutual. Respectful of McAvoy’s devotion to his work and his gypsy wife, Pharaoh sends her prize detective to America on assignment with a great deal of trepidation.
Unofficially, McAvoy heads to New York to locate his wife’s brother, Valentine Teague. Valentine has supposedly followed Irish boxer Shay Helden and his trainer, Brisken Ayers, planning to join them. Unfortunately, Shay and his coach have been brutally attacked in Upstate New York, Helden dead, Brisken in a coma, and Teague nowhere to be found. Roisin’s clan is up in arms, believing that Valentine may be responsible. Aector is determined to find his errant young brother-in-law and bring him home to answer for himself. Aector’s only desire is to be reunited with Roisin and the girls. The Hull detective is an unusual sight as he enters the 7th Avenue Precinct on the Lower East Side to introduce himself to Detective Ronny Alto and ask for permission to make inquiries on the case. Having never been in the United States before, McAvoy is overwhelmed by the city landscape, uncertain whom to trust and forced to navigate purely by his instincts. Regardless of the circumstances, the detective will perform as usual, full-out, oblivious to danger in his zeal to go home.
Aector learns the basic details of the attack on the two visitors at the station. Alto seems trustworthy enough, but there’s no way to tell as Aector tumbles into a violent situation that literally makes no sense in light of the scant details he is given. The cast of characters grows, villains indistinguishable from cops, an assembly of agencies, priests, disappeared girls, Russian and Italian mobsters, and the homegrown thugs
who do their bidding. In an unfamiliar terrain with more than one avenue to
pursue, he is still unsure of the detective supposed to be his friend. McAvoy keeps his own counsel, dependent on conversations with Trish when he cannot decide the wisest course of action. Clearly out of his element, Aector is sustained by thoughts of Roisin, guided by Trish’s directions, patiently sorting through personalities and activities, a nightmare that grows more monstrous with each revelation.
Mark has gone deep into the underbelly of the human psyche in Cruel Mercy. McAvoy
is a goodhearted man pushed beyond tolerance, betrayed by everyone, finally breaching every obstacle to complete his mission. No innocent, McAvoy has seen his share of trouble, but his sojourn in New York reveals levels of depravity to shock even the most jaded detective. There are some extraordinarily ugly scenes that challenge the most devoted reader. I much prefer the detective on home soil, where the beauty and color of home alleviate the dark corners he must travel on his cases. There’s something soulless in this tale, a coldness that leaves stains behind. I prefer this great hulking detective to battle demons in the land he knows best; still, he will always be a beloved character.