Book Review: Fatal Frost (Defenders of Justice #1)

*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:

Following in her absentee father’s footsteps in a law enforcement career, U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan has just recovered from being shot in the line of duty. And, unbeknownst to her, her father’s recent reappearance in her life has put her in the sights of St. Louis’s most powerful gang. Her boss assigns Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent-Mercy’s ex-boyfriend- to get her out of town until her safety can be guaranteed.

Unaware of the extent her boss and Mark have been keeping her in the dark, it isn’t until a freak ice storm strands them at a remote location and out of contact with the district office that the full severity of their situation becomes clear. As the storm worsens, the forces of nature combine with a deadly enemy to put them in great danger. Can they survive long enough for help to arrive-if help is even coming at all?

My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4/5

(review may contain minor spoilers)

Fatal Frost by Nancy Mehl is a novel about cops and U.S. marshals, along with gangs, drugs, and criminals. It takes place in St. Louis where cartels and criminal activity are running wild. When I first read the premise of this book, I was interested, but not expecting much, to be honest.

The first chapter starts out by introducing us to the overall atmosphere of the city.

The seemingly deserted street was lined with empty houses, their windows as blank and vacant as the eyes of those who had become casualties in St. Louis’s war on heroin. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mercy Brennan gazed out the window of the black van as cold tendrils of rain slid down the darkened glass next to her, reminding her of tears. It was as if the tortured city of St. Louis wept because of the treacherous drug that had invaded her. The influx of cheap heroin had turned neighborhoods into war zones. The gangs that claimed ownership over their communities were killing men, women, and children for the right to rule. Crime was out of control, and many good people were trapped in their homes, praying they or their loved ones wouldn’t be the next victims of the violence that raged around them.

One particularly interesting thing about this novel was that it did not just follow Mercy’s point of view. We also saw snippets from the gang members, cartel leaders, and other detectives and marshals. It was a really intriguing way to let the reader see the thoughts of the lesser characters.

Characters

Our main character is a U.S. Marshal named Mercy Brennan. She is strong-willed and stubborn with a tendency to keep people at arm’s length, as we see in her relationship with Mark. Mercy is extremely prepared and organized, not to mention always armed with a back-up plan, which is just the thing that ends up saving her life, as well as the lives of every else involved. We get to see her transition from a young woman who is scared to let anyone get too close to an emotionally vulnerable person that isn’t afraid to cry or get a dog. Throughout the story, I was rooting for Mercy and I wanted her to find her own piece of happiness.

Another major character is Lieutenant Tally Williams. Tally and Mercy have been friends since they were kids and though Tally is married with his own children, the two are still as tight as ever. In fact, they’re neighbors. I really liked Tally. His character was warm and kind and just a great guy in general. I also adored his wife Annie. I wish we could have been introduced to his kids and seen his family more, but his part in the story worked very well. He was a very honest and sincere person and it was absolutely precious to see how much he cared for Mercy.

He was angry with himself for not seeing through his charade. Now Mark and Mercy were in terrible danger. He loved Mercy as if she were his own sister. Knowing she was in trouble and that he had no way to help her grieved him to the very center of his soul.

Now for the love interest. Deputy U.S. Marshal Mark St. Laurent. Aka Mercy’s ex-boyfriend. Talk about awkward an awkward situation… Anyway, I absolutely loved the dynamic between Mark and Mercy. I thought it was a really great balance of tension and familiarity between the two and I enjoyed how we got to see the reasons behind their break-up. Though I did keep screaming, “Stop being idiots and just make out already!” And, lo and behold, they did…after a few chapters of confessions, gun fights, mortal danger, and terror. It may have taken awhile, but the point is, they did it. I loved the little moments of their relationship from the past that was interwoven in the current story.

Mark pulled Mercy’s cellphone from her purse. “What’s your code?”

Marcy rattled off the numbers before realizing what she’d done. She searched Mark’s face, but he didn’t seem to notice anything unusual. She breathed a sigh of relief. She was still using the date he’d first told her he loved her. She’d meant to change it many times but just hadn’t gotten around to it. A voice inside her whispered Liar! She ignored it and steeled herself to concentrate on the situation at hand. 

As for the minor characters, I thought we got to see some nice background for even the smaller characters, like some of the gang members and crooked agents. It was interesting to see that a lot of the minor characters were connected in ways you couldn’t even begin to expect. While I guessed who the mole was pretty early, it was still a great read and I was surprised a few times.

Plot

I truly did enjoy this novel. However, I would have enjoyed it a lot more without the religious aspect thrown in. Now, I have read my fair share of novels with a Christian component and it usually doesn’t bother me. In this particular book though, it felt out of place. I wasn’t expecting it and it threw me for a loop at first. It was hard to equate religion with the situation and the characters. My mind just sort of skimmed over everything that had to do with religion because it seemed to take away from the story. I felt like it was a distraction and I think the book would have moved along much more smoothly without it. While it was important to understand that Mercy went through an enormous transition, it wasn’t necessary to show this through religious faith and church. We could see it in the little things, like Mark and Pippin and her demeanor.

Conclusion

This book was wonderful. I am giving it four out of five stars because of a few small things. First, I wish that we had more characterization of the minor and some of the major characters. We got to delve into their psyches a little bit, but I wanted more. I wanted a more concrete definition of the things that made them tick. Second, the religion aspect seemed foreign with the plot line. If it had been introduced earlier in a more subtle way, I feel like it could have worked, but as it was written, it felt forced. Because of the relationships and plot, however, I would definitely recommend this book.

Signed,

your favorite bookworm