The Mercy Killers starts off with a bar scene and a murder. Old Jerry is Charlie and P.T.’s grandfather and the person they lived with much of their lives after their mother committed suicide and their father beat them. Jerry complains all the time about his decrepit state and asks everyone to off him because he doesn’t think he can do it himself. P.T. is somewhat slow as a result of all the beatings as a child. P.T. lets Jerry talk him into
assisting in his own suicide. Charlie tries to protect P.T. by dumping the body to make it look like drowning, but when that doesn’t work, confesses to killing Jerry. Instead of prison, Charlie gets sentenced to Vietnam.
That’s the setup for the novel. There’s a lot of psychological drama involved here. Like previous Reardon books, most of the characters are functional to the extent that they haven’t forgotten how to eat or talk, but are unable to deal with other people in anything resembling a normal fashion.
The problem with the book, and it’s a big one, is that there doesn’t seem to be a point. Vietnam screwed people up? We knew that. Brothers care for each other in screwed up ways? Knew that too. Both of those points are told in what’s really not very interesting fashion. There’s a reason only messed up people go to the bar where only messed up people go. We learned these lessons young because they are obvious.
I think the missing piece in the book is that P.T. is too much of an enigma and too much of a stereotype
retarded kid. He slips too easily under the sway of other people. In one scene, a hooker talks P.T. into wearing her slip. There’s no reason for it other than to show how
dumb the kid is. Sometimes P.T. tells outrageous stories about his own life. Sometimes he tells flat out truth. Why he picks each time is a mystery. I have no idea how such a character should be written. Any key character in a psychological drama should be multi-dimensional, and one that’s written as a mentally disabled person even more so. P.T. failed this book.
One other blogged review:
Title: The Mercy Killers
Author: Lisa Reardon
Cover creator: Brad Foltz (designer)
Imprint / publisher: Counterpoint / Perseus
Length: 256 p.
Publication date: 2004