Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review: Without Mercy by Lisa Jackson

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jackson comes a pulse-pounding thriller that goes behind the doors of an exclusive academy with a terrifying secret...

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. The Academy has a reputation for turning wayward kids around -- but one of its students went missing six months ago and her body has never been found. There are rumors she may have died during one of the school's questionable treatments. Once enrolled, Shay grows fearful, convinced her every move is being watched. And the deeper Jules digs, the more concerned she becomes.

On impulse, Jules applies for a teaching job at the Academy. Though the facility boasts state-of-the-art equipment and a breathtaking campus, Jules senses cracks in the director's do-good demeanor. Shortly before Jules arrived, a student was found hanged, and a hysterical Shay believes it was murder. Staff members are wary and unwelcoming -- all except Cooper Trent, another recent hire who has his own suspicions, and his own secrets.

Then another girl goes missing, and yet another is found dead. There's no doubt something sinister is at hand -- but Jules may be too late to stop it. Behind the Academy's idyllic veneer lurks an evil force on a brutal and terrifying mission. And Jules has become the next target of a bloodthirsty killer without limits, without remorse, without mercy...

Lisa Jackson has written some very good romantic suspense in the past. She's pretty formulaic; in many of her books, there is a hot guy from the western US, most likely the Pacific Northwest, and a woman with whom he has some history. She may be a member of a prominent family who thinks that she's slumming when it comes to him. Somebody will be angry, murderously so, said woman will be thrust into her former lover's arms, and naughty parts ensue. The hot guy will save the day and everybody, save the murderer, will live happily ever after. I've enjoyed many of these reads so if I spy with my little eye a new Lisa Jackson laying around at the local library, I'm gonna pick it up. I was looking forward to one of those good romantic suspense novels but unfortunately, Without Mercy is not one of them.

I thought that this book was boring. The only reason that I finished the book was to find out the identity of the killer. (Yes, I could have peeked but it's against my programming. As is dog-earing pages.) I do okay with predicting the killer in this genre but Jackson always tricks me and yet again, I was surprised, but not in a good way. Everybody who reads murder mysteries knows there’s no such thing as an unneeded character; each character has a purpose, even if it’s just to be part of the background and more often than not, it’s someone the author introduces and then excludes from the majority of the plot. This time when I got to the less than fantastic reveal, I thought Really? That guy? He wasn't even on my radar and it did not make sense to me why she chose them. I did like the extra twist though. THAT was interesting. Much like the end of a horror movie when you think the baddie is dead, something even worse pops up. Jackson left it open too – I wonder if she’s planning to revisit this set of characters. Ugh. I'm not sure if I'm going to want to read more about these bugass crazy people.

Formulaic romances aside, I find that Lisa Jackson’s writing style is usually agreeable. She’s not afraid to pull out the bad words when needed but she’s not profane and she may not use language that regular people would generally use but this time I thought she was being overly fancy in her prose. From page 360:
“Was it possible? Had he been covering for them? Or had they given him the slip earlier to do their horrific deed?”

Horrific deed? Who talks or thinks that way that isn’t in a Jane Austen novel?

I also was disappointed in the romance between our fearless heroine, Jules, and her ex-boyfriend who is also the hero, Connor Trent. It was as shallow, flat, and boring as the plot. It didn’t help that I found Jules to be irritating on her own. She's a shrink's dream come true and Connor should have ran the other way as soon as he could after seeing her for the first time since she dumped him five years before.

So, to sum up, Without Mercy is a somewhat interesting yet lackluster murder mystery with some romance, suspense, and an irritating heroine. It did, however, have an interesting twist at the end which was good. I wouldn't recommend this to anyone other than the most devout Lisa Jackson lovers. 

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