Early in Burley’s fine first novel, a psychological thriller, Dr. Ben Stevenson returns one afternoon to his house in Wintersville, Ohio, to find his wife, Susan, terribly upset. Susan has just learned that an unidentified high school boy has been found in the local woods, apparently fatally stabbed on his way home from school. Ben and Susan have two sons, one high school age. Ben, the medical examiner for Wintersville, conducts the autopsy on the victim, who was mutilated. This vicious attack proves to be only the first of a series of assaults and murders. Ben, who’s beset by nightmares involving his sons, finds himself drawn far more deeply into the case than he’s mentally and emotionally prepared for. Burley, an emergency room physician, peppers the taut, cohesive narrative with plenty of authentic forensic detail. Only an unexpectedly hasty wrap-up that leaps forward in time rings false. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Associates. (Dec.)
[A] chilling debut. . . . Burley sensitively portrays parents dealing with damage and loss . . . in this relentlessly readable thriller that will leave readers of suspense waiting for more.
Will send chills down your spine. A taut psychological thriller . . . pushes the boundaries of our understanding of the lengths a parent will go to protect their child.
Harlan Coben meets Patricia Cornwell in an idyllic suburbia stalked by a predator that will leave an indelible mark long after the final page is turned.
In the tradition of Robin Cook and Kathy Reichs, John Burley brings murder to small town America. And like those bestselling novels, The Absence of Mercy is written by an expert who can also tell a really good tale. This one oozes authenticity.
It’s become a cliché to say you read a book in one sitting, and it’s not true here. I had to get up in the middle of The Absence of Mercy for a drink to calm my nerves.
Riveting, disturbing and complex, John Burley’s The Absence of Mercy is impossible to put down. The suspense starts early and is unrelenting until the very end.
A tense thriller . . . [and] contemporary horror story that will keep readers on pins and needles until the very last page.
John Burley is an emergency room physician, and his hospital experience informs this taut first novel, a psychological thriller . . . [he] explores the disturbing pathologies behind the crimes . . . and The Absence of Mercy is a page-turner all the way to the end.
A true psychological thriller down to its very core . . . will both thrill you and cause you to turn away at the same time, this is one debut novel that will definitely make you lock your windows and doors in suburbia before heading off to bed.
Abandoned in the woods, the first victim is a local high school student, a 15-year-old boy. The brutality of his death contrasts with the precision of the blows, head wounds accurately driven into the weak points of the human skull. It appears this is not the murderer's first execution. This serial killer lurks in the idyllic town of Wintersville, just miles from the Ohio River. He savages his victims with not only a long, tapered, mysterious instrument, but also his teeth, ripping flesh, shredding blood vessels, amputating fingers. Medical examiner Ben Stevenson methodically catalogs the wounds, recording each laceration and avulsion with clinical objectivity. Simultaneously, Stevenson wants to protect his family and his young assistant, Nat, from the horror, but no one is safe from a murderer who strikes in broad daylight. The case weighs upon Ben, straining his relationship with his wife, Susan, a family practitioner, and their two sons, 16-year-old Thomas and 8-year-old Joel. His fears prompt nightmares of close calls with his own sons--a clown that menaced Thomas, an accidental fall that left Joel comatose. Hopes rise when a victim is found alive, barely clinging to life. Although Monica Dressler replays much of her ordeal in her dreams, she unfortunately recalls little of her assailant. As Thomas helps Monica recover and Susan becomes increasingly anxious, Ben works with law enforcement to piece together the evidence. Using his experience as an emergency room physician, Burley skillfully uses the step-by-step discovery of evidence to ratchet up the tension in his debut novel. Tool markings on the victims' bones, DNA evidence collected from their skin and even unusual dental impressions lifted from their wounds add up. Soon, Ben can no longer deny that the evidence points much too close to home. A smart, disturbing and heartbreaking thriller.