It’s appropriate that on Canada Day, July 1st, I should review a book by an excellent Canadian author. After reading and loving The Speed of Mercy by Christy Ann Conlin, I found it hard to categorize the book. Was it a mystery? Was it a thriller? Was it a murder story? Perhaps it was a combination of all three categories. However you want to interpret it, I can guarantee you will enjoy it.
Whenever I find a Canadian author whose writing is descriptive, fluid, and suspenseful, I’m thrilled to be able to share the experience with BoomerBroadcast readers. Published just this year (2021), the plot even includes current references to the COVID pandemic. Conlin’s descriptions of western Nova Scotia on The Bay of Fundy are compelling enough to make us want to immediately book a trip to visit the area, if only we could.
Ordinarily, I’m not a fan of authors toggling back and forth in time but Conlin prefaces alternating chapters with Then and Now which makes it easier for my nimble COVID brain to shift gears. The story begins with Now character, Mal, travelling from Los Angeles to investigate her family’s roots in Nova Scotia. Mal is a podcaster specializing in mental health issues. When she meets another woman who also comes from Nova Scotia and alludes to mysterious goings-on in her ancestral community around Mercy Lake, then Mal is motivated to investigate.
Stella Sprague was twelve years old when her mother was killed in a car accident in Illinois. Her university professor father became untethered with the prospect of trying to raise a daughter by himself so he decided to return to the small Nova Scotia community where he grew up. Father and daughter move back into the original family home and he reacquaints himself with the Seabury family including a childhood friend and one of the local community’s more affluent families. His friend has a precocious thirteen-year-old daughter Cynthia, who befriends Stella and inserts herself into Stella’s new life. Cynthia’s mother abandoned their family a few years earlier, so the two girls have much in common. Cynthia’s grandmother Scotia is her anchor and happily brings Stella into her sphere. Meanwhile, Cynthia’s father is unusually solicitous of Stella and her father. Does he have an ulterior motive?
The settings are artfully described and primitive artist Maud Lewis’s little cabin even figures into the landscape of the plot. We’re confronted with deep family and community secrets, questionable men’s clubs, pagan rituals, and mental health issues. Will Stella and Cynthia’s friendship survive? How does Mal change the history of the community? The Speed of Mercy is an engrossing story, well-written and particularly relevant for its Canadian content. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
If you are unable to find The Speed of Mercy by Christy Ann Conlin at your local bookstore or library, click on the image of the book to order from Amazon.
(Disclosure: If you order from this link I may receive a teeny, tiny commission. Thank you.)