I just finished reading Comfort Zone: A Tale of Suspense by Stephen Bentley, former undercover British detective, now crime author. The book is different than Bentley’s previous novels. Comfort Zone is a thriller and a crime story, but not as fast-paced as The Steve Regan Undercover Cop Thrillers Trilogy or Mercy: A Detective Matt Deal Thriller. Comfort Zone is more complex.
Phil Mercer is one of the most intriguing characters I’ve read about in a long time. Mercer is a British veteran who returns home from the war in Afghanistan and studies law, then becomes an attorney in London. He is also a murderer who is not completely evil even though he’s done evil things. He defends the poor and underprivileged citizens. Phil Mercer is not a one-dimensional character. The author writes about the humanity of a person who has taken the lives of other people. Like when watching a tragic play, I felt sympathy for Mercer at various times and then cringed at the murder scenes. The novel is also a mystery because the parts of the story come together in the end, similar to how the different parts of Mercer meld into one. I think he comes to accept his fragments and acknowledges them.
The title comes from the name of a parlor game at a dinner party that Mercer gives for his friends and colleagues in the legal profession. He’s invited them because he wants to show off his cooking skills and to play the game he’s invented. Every detail of the menu, the wines, the guests and the game is planned with precision.
Phil Mercer suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) from his war experiences. His role as an attorney is stressful, but he’s able to do a good job. The author uses Mercer’s military background to explore issues that many veterans experience such as long-lasting, even permanent, mental, and physical illnesses. Many serious traumas may cause PTSD, but since Mercer is a combat veteran, his wartime experiences continue to influence his life. War always has an enemy no matter whose side you’re on, and Mercer’s nemesis haunts him when he attempts to live a normal life. The opposing roles of Phil Mercer, a murderer given in to the temptation to kill, and an attorney, driven by order, logic, and law, make for a unique protagonist. Bentley does a great service in the way he writes about Mercer’s interior dialogue, hallucinations, depression, and memory problems. He does not make Phil Mercer a stereotype of a mentally ill person. Mercer is a sympathetic character; one who is approachable for the reader. I liked Phil Mercer so much that I can visualize his character in further novels by the author.
Told through flashbacks, dream sequences, and various points of view, Comfort Zone is a first-rate story. Crime novel fans will be entertained by Comfort Zone. I highly recommend reading this book. I received this book from the author as an ARC.
The release date for Comfort Zone is August 3. Pre-order price is 99 cents/pence. Paperback is coming soon.
REVIEWS ARE IN!
5 Stars *****Mystery and suspense at its finest!
First, I have to talk about that cover-eerie, cold, deadly, it’s exactly perfect for this genre.
Ten outstanding authors have contributed three short stories to this anthology creating a wide assortment of murder mysteries to chill your blood.
5 Stars *****GREAT book!!
This is a GREAT collection of stories!! Each story is intriguing
and suspenseful!! There are bios and accreditation for each Author.
I will be looking for more books of each Author.
GREAT book to read at one sitting or to savour by reading over a few sittings.
5 Stars ***** Amazing!
A good anthology of murder mysteries. Stories of interesting and entertaining genre. Stories of murder and mayhem. Stories of the unexplained. Stories that make you think. From some of the best authors, new and seasoned. A definite must read!
4 Stars****Well-written detective fiction, serial killers and more
This reminds me of reading the Ellery Queen or Alfred Hitchcock mystery magazine. Each of the stories in the collection is a well-written and well-planned murder mystery short story, and it’s hard to find good short stories. There is something for everyone as the stories encompass detective fiction, serial killers, sci-fi, and much more. As is often the case, some of the stories may appeal to you more than others, but in general, I think any mystery fan will be quite pleased with the selections.