Synopses & Reviews
A doctor in small-town Ohio must weigh the need to catch a killer against his fears for his family's safety in this extraordinary debut suspense novel
Just west of the Ohio River lies the peaceful town of Wintersville. It's a place where neighbors feel like family, the chief of police knows the residents by name, and the sound of children's laughter echoes along the streets.
But when a teenager is discovered brutally murdered in the woods, Dr. Ben Stevenson—the town's medical examiner—becomes entangled in an investigation that will force him to uncover the dark secrets of his seemingly quiet community and ultimately to confront a truth that will haunt him forever.
With its nerve-fraying plot twists and eerie portrait of suburban life, The Absence of Mercy is psychological suspense at its best—a remarkable debut that challenges as much as it thrills.
"Early in Burley's fine first novel, a psychological thriller, Dr. Ben Stevenson returns one afternoon to his house in Wintersville, Ohio, to find his wife, Susan, terribly upset. Susan has just learned that an unidentified high school boy has been found in the local woods, apparently fatally stabbed on his way home from school. Ben and Susan have two sons, one high school age. Ben, the medical examiner for Wintersville, conducts the autopsy on the victim, who was mutilated. This vicious attack proves to be only the first of a series of assaults and murders. Ben, who's beset by nightmares involving his sons, finds himself drawn far more deeply into the case than he's mentally and emotionally prepared for. Burley, an emergency room physician, peppers the taut, cohesive narrative with plenty of authentic forensic detail. Only an unexpectedly hasty wrap-up that leaps forward in time rings false. Agent: Paul Lucas, Janklow & Nesbit Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Will send chills down your spine. A taut psychological thriller . . . pushes the boundaries of our understanding of the lengths a parent will go to protect their child.” < b=""> Alice LaPlante <> , < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> Turn of Mind <>
“Harlan Coben meets Patricia Cornwell in an idyllic suburbia stalked by a predator that will leave an indelible mark long after the final page is turned.” < b=""> Wendy Corsi Staub <> , < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> Sleepwalker <>
“In the tradition of Robin Cook and Kathy Reichs, John Burley brings murder to small town America. And like those bestselling novels, The Absence of Mercy is written by an expert who can also tell a really good tale. This one oozes authenticity.” < b=""> Ace Atkins <> , < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> Robert B. Parker's Wonderland <>
“Its become a cliché to say you read a book in one sitting, and its not true here. I had to get up in the middle of The Absence of Mercy for a drink to calm my nerves.” < b=""> Linwood Barclay <> , < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> Never Look Away <>
“Riveting, disturbing and complex, John Burleys The Absence of Mercy is impossible to put down. The suspense starts early and is unrelenting until the very end.” < b=""> Heather Gudenkauf <> , < i=""> New York Times <> bestselling author of < i=""> The Weight of Silence <>
“Using his experience as an emergency room physician, Burley skillfully uses the step-by-step discovery of evidence to ratchet up the tension in his debut novel. . . . A smart, disturbing and heartbreaking thriller.” Kirkus Reviews
“[A] chilling debut. . . . Burley sensitively portrays parents dealing with damage and loss . . . in this relentlessly readable thriller that will leave readers of suspense waiting for more.” Booklist
“A tense thriller . . . [and] contemporary horror story that will keep readers on pins and needles until the very last page.” < i=""> Iron Mountain Daily News <>
“John Burley is an emergency room physician, and his hospital experience informs this taut first novel, a psychological thriller . . . [he] explores the disturbing pathologies behind the crimes . . . and The Absence of Mercy is a page-turner all the way to the end.” Contra Costa Times
“A true psychological thriller down to its very core . . . will both thrill you and cause you to turn away at the same time, this is one debut novel that will definitely make you lock your windows and doors in suburbia before heading off to bed.” Suspense Magazine
John Burleys The Absence of Mercy
is a harrowing tale of suspense involving a brutal murder and dark secrets that lie beneath the surface of a placid, tight-knit Midwestern town.
When a brutally murdered teenager is discovered in the woods surrounding a small Ohio town, Dr. Ben Stevenson—the towns medical examiner—must decide if hes willing to put his familys life in danger to uncover the truth. Finding himself pulled deeper into an investigation with devastating consequences, he discovers shocking information that will shatter his quiet community, and force him to confront a haunting truth.
With its eerie portrait of suburban life and nerve-fraying plot twists, The Absence of Mercy is domestic drama at its best for fans of Harlan Coben, Laura Lippman, Jennifer McMahon, and Lisa Gardner.
About the Author
John Burley is the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, which won the National Black Ribbon Award recognizing a new voice in suspense writing. He attended medical school in Chicago and completed his emergency medicine residency at University of Maryland Medical Center and R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. He continues to serve as an emergency medicine physician in Northern California, where he lives with his wife, daughter, and Great Dane.