"...some of the city's most prominent women..."
Carmen Palma is a homicide detective in Houston, Texas; a strong female in a world still almost exclusively male. When Houston is rocked by a wave of unbelievably vicious sexual murders, Palma takes the lead in the investigation. The pattern that emerges in the killings is unique--way out of line with traditional violent-crime psychology. Palma's instincts tell her that the victims expected their torture. It was almost as if they had helped choreograph every blow of their own brutal deaths.
But when FBI profiler Sander Grant is called into the investigation, Palma's unorthodox theories soon clash with the FBI's traditional views. As Palma and Grant bore deeper into the investigation, they discover a tightly knit secret sorority that includes some of the city's most prominent women. Though terrified by the murders, these women are nonetheless reluctant to help Palma's investigation because the secrets they share are sometimes as dark as their fear of the murderer who stalks them. Palma learns that human nature does not fit neatly into organized theories, and that "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being".
"...a watershed event in my own psychological landscape."
I've always done a great deal of in-depth research for my novels, and Mercy involved some of my most emotionally grueling efforts in that regard. This is one book that grew and evolved as my research continued, and broadened into numerous areas of psychological complexity that were unfamiliar to me at the time. I read volumes and volumes of books on criminal psychology and on the criminal investigation of these particular kinds of crimes. I interviewed scores of people in a variety of law enforcement areas as well as dozens of women who had experienced most of the activities described in the novel. The crux of this novel is an anomaly in criminal behavior that, at the time I conceived of the idea, was viewed skeptically by the profilers I talked to at the FBI training Academy in Quantico Virginia. In the following years, my theory proved to be valid.
Mercy eventually ended up on the New York Times Bestsellers list and was an internationally popular novel. In 1992 the German television network Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), the largest television network in Europe at the time, sent a television crew to Houston for four days during which they filmed scenes from the book, and interviewed me in the Houston Police Department's Homicide Division. The resulting hour-long special program was featured in the network's "Literature and Culture" series.
Mercy was immediately optioned for a feature film production, and remained under option for over a decade before it was finally filmed and premiered on HBO in April 2000.
Because of the book's success, my agent at the time begged me to write another novel like it. But much to his frustration I refused. This book was a watershed event in my own psychological landscape. In many ways the books that I wrote after Mercy began to change because of my emotional and psychological experiences in creating this story. I've had neither the desire, nor the emotional fortitude, to explore this particular kind of material in future novels.
This book stands alone.