The Speed of Mercy by Christy Ann Conlin
3/23/21; 384 pages
House of Anansi Press
The Speed of Mercy by Christy Ann Conlin is a so-so atmospheric Gothic mystery.
Malmuria (Mal) Grant-Patel is a podcaster who travels to Mercy Lake, located in rural Nova Scotia. This is the area where her mother grew up and left for good years ago, but there is a mystery surrounding the lodge that burn down in the 1980's. Mel thinks if she investigates the lodge and reports her findings it will give her podcast a boost and her life a purpose, but once she begins to get anonymous threats she knows she is not prepared to really investigate anything and might be in danger.
Stella Sprague, 54, lives at the Jericho County Care Centre where she has been for most of her adult life after a traumatic brain injury and another traumatic event. She is a friend with Dianne, an 84 year-old resident at the home, who helps her negotiate her schedule and life in the home. Stella struggles with uncertain memories and secrets hide just under the surface of her memories. Stella tells her life story which is divided up into before, during and after the horrible accident and the horrific affliction, or as she calls the incidents, HA HA.
The writing shows a lot of promise and can be both poetic, thoughtful, and descriptive.
The narrative moves back and forth in time and between characters
covering Mel's present day investigation and Stella's memories, both in
the 1980's, and in the present. Sometimes the technique of telling a
story through alternating characters in alternating timelines works and
sometimes it doesn't. In this case it doesn't and for much of the
beginning of the very slow paced novel the plot didn't grab my attention
and I forced myself to keep reading. No matter how lyrical the writing
is, a novel still needs a strong plot and good pacing to hold a reader's
interest. It also took quite awhile for the characters to become fully
realized. In the end this is a novel that excels in using language and
descriptions but falls short on plot and character development.