Title: The Quality of Mercy
Author: J.S. Cook
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages/Word Count: 44 Pages
At a Glance: A quick historical read, with unexpected revelations
Blurb: The year is 1934, and disgraced federal agent Nathan Devereaux is escorting convicted felon John Banks to visit his dying mother. Banks is despondent, miserably ill with a heavy cold, and unenthusiastic about traveling by plane. It isn’t a responsibility Devereaux wants, but something about the prisoner’s plight resonates with him.
Devereaux charters a plane to Wisconsin, hoping to get there before Banks’s mother breathes her last. But a routine journey swiftly turns into a sojourn in hell when a violent winter storm forces the plane miles off course, and Banks’s seemingly bad cold turns out to be diphtheria.
Stranded many miles from the destination, Devereaux must find a way to save Banks’s life without compromising the mission. Like Banks, Devereaux has secrets of his own, and the scope and purpose of his mission don’t quite square with the stories he tells. Making matters worse, he is the only one standing between Banks and certain death, but even a federal agent can do only so much—especially an agent with blood on his hands.
Review: If you’re looking for a quick way to pass the time, you like stories set in the past, and you find the relationship between a federal agent and a prisoner intriguing, then this is the story for you. The Quality of Mercy is an easy and fast read with all of the above, a few surprising character revelations, and one seriously bad illness that makes me really glad we have vaccinations today.
Despite the short length of the story, Nathan and Johnnie are fairly well developed characters. Nathan reveals what he knows about Johnnie and compares their lives, which might be an overused method for revealing information, but when the character in question is a federal agent and has access to prisoner files, well, it can’t be helped and it fits.
I was a bit disconcerted at first with how Nathan seemed to fall so quickly for Johnnie, but towards the end it made more sense. Would the story have worked for a full novel? No, I don’t think it would have; however, if there were some more pages—especially at the end, to explore Nathan and Johnnie’s new situation—I think the novella would have been stronger for it.
The author, Cook, clearly knows a bit about history, though. I had no idea what diphtheria was until I looked it up. Suffice to say it sounds incredibly unpleasant and looks disgusting, and, as a hypochondriac, I curse the author for introducing me to a new disease I can freak out over. Joking (or not) aside, I did question how quickly the diphtheria afflicted character recovered, but as I’m not a doctor, I have no real basis for judgment on that front.
You can buy The Quality of Mercy here: