Title: The Mercy of Men (Saint Flaherty: Book Two)
Author: S. Hunter Nisbet
Publisher: Badapple Press
Length: 378 Pages
Category: Alt Reality, Dystopian, Mystery/Suspense
At a Glance: This series, man… I love it with the intensity of a thousand burning suns. No, seriously… I do.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: When Simon Flaherty’s routine of training and fighting is interrupted by a sudden eviction, he never expects his new neighbor to be the one person he thought was long gone from Scioto City: Connor Hall.
It’s been six years since they escaped from Buchell together—six years since Connor walked out of Simon’s life and never looked back. For Connor, it hasn’t been long enough. Trapped in a cycle of debt to the syndicate he works for, he’s barely making it payment to payment while juggling two jobs and university. One more burden will destroy him, and the help Simon is willing to give can’t balance the shadows of their past.
Fighting isn’t all Simon’s been doing in the years since arriving in Scioto, and the crime bosses of the city have their eyes on him. Getting involved with another syndicate’s business isn’t an option. But if Connor doesn’t find a way to pay back his debts, Simon will do anything to make sure Connor doesn’t pay the price for breaking a deal with a syndicate boss.
In a city without mercy, “anything” goes a long way.
Review: If you’ve ever finished a book and were so floored by it that all you wanted to do was start reading it again from the beginning, that is this book. If you’ve ever loved a book so much that all you wanted to do was shove it under everyone’s noses and scream “Read! It! … Pleeeease…” just so you’d have someone to talk to it about, yeah, that’s this book. If you’ve ever wanted to own a book in paperback because you want to be able to inhale its words… okay, maybe that’s a bit weird, but dammit, that’s S. Hunter Nisbet’s Saint Flaherty series for me. If What Boys Are Made Of and The Mercy of Men are any indication, this series is going to make my Top Reads of 2016 list, no question about it.
Once again told in alternating points of view, Connor Hall, Simon Flaherty and a new cast of narrators—a young college student named Cas, an ex-junkie named Fiona, and a woman, Nisha, who finds herself tangled up in a mess of her husband’s making—The Mercy of Men sets out to give readers a gritty and intimate look at the survival-of-the-fittest world the author has created, post second Civil War here in the US. This installment in the series picks up six years after the daring escape was made from the small Appalachian town of Buchell, and now Simon and his family (Erin and Ellie) have settled in Scioto, a city that’s not lost in time the way Buchell was, and still is, after the war, but is its own hell nonetheless.
It’s been six years since Simon’s seen Connor, believing he’d died from wounds sustained in their escape, but instead, we, piece by ugly piece, put together the cruel landscape Connor has navigated throughout this story—this is a man who seems bent upon driving himself to the brink of self-destruction over and over again. The Mercy of Men is just as bloody and ruthless as book one in the Saint Flaherty series, raw and honest because this world is itself harsh and unforgiving. There are syndicates in Scioto run by men who operate under their own set of codes and rules, and Connor is in deep with them, playing both sides and endangering himself in the process, while Simon attempts to exist on the fringes of this organized crime world, toeing a line of his own making and trying not to get too firmly ensnared by either side—all while capitalizing to a certain degree on his dead father’s name—but when push comes to shove, which it inevitably does, you learn to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Simon is no longer the sixteen-year-old man/child he was at the conclusion of Book One, and god, did he grow up good. “Simple Simon” is an epithet that is meant to insult but in many ways also complements who he is—he’s a black and white sort of guy whose priorities and loyalties are simple, his moral compass pointing him always in a direction that demands he take care of those he calls his own. In fact, both of these novels have a deeper moral undertone in that the storyline calls into question what is right and what is wrong and what will one do to survive, thrive if possible? It’s impossible to use our own sense of ethics to sit in judgment of these people, because our rules just don’t apply to the world in which they exist. The politics in this jungle of feral humans is as corruptible as its justice is malleable, which is a great juxtaposition to our sensibilities—sometimes you end up cheering for the most violent man’s victory.
The Mercy of Men introduces a future for Simon and those who have chosen to declare their allegiance to him that promises to draw him even further into his father’s legacy. There is also a character introduced in this installment of the Saint Flaherty series that promises to be an interesting thread in the tapestry of Simon’s life. Several new characters, really, but one in particular because his reappearance was so unexpected, and now I’m anxious to see what this means for Simon, Erin and Ellie.
A word of caution, in case it isn’t clear—don’t go looking for romantic overtones in the Saint Flaherty books. This series is driven by characters who haven’t been spared by the graphic realities of this brave new world, one that’s bereft of anything that resembles romance. It’s a hardscrabble existence these people live, the future no more than the next hours and days they survive. Nisbet is a master storyteller whose narrative pace and world building are perfect and perfectly addictive. I’m as unsure of what the future holds for Saint Flaherty and his lot as they themselves are, but I’ll be there for the next installment to figure it all out with them.
Note: As an added bonus, be sure to check out All God’s Children Say (via the author’s Newsletter), a free companion short featuring Griffeth, one of the syndicate bosses introduced in this book, and a young Connor—the boy has got to be the most feral of all the humans in this world. This short story left me with some questions, gave me some things to chew on about the relationship as it exists between Connor and Simon, and it also shows what a contradiction Connor is. For someone who isn’t always keen on existing, he has an unparalleled ability to do what it takes to keep on being. Especially if Simon has anything to say about it.
You can buy The Mercy of Men here: