Penzler Pick, November 2001:
One of the last year's most interesting debuts was Sallie Bissell's In the Forest of Harm
, which introduced Mary Crow, an assistant district attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, who is half Cherokee. Crow had some unfinished business in that book. Her mother was murdered and Mary discovered the body, but the murderer was never brought to justice. She also had residual feelings for an old beau, Jonathan Walkingstick, with whom she resumed their on-again, off-again affair.
At the start of A Darker Justice, Mary once again is in Atlanta when she is called away from a friend's wedding to be told that her mentor and friend, Judge Irene Hannah, may be the next target of a vicious killer who is murdering federal judges. When the judge refuses to accept help from the FBI, the feds ask Mary to intercede on their behalf so that they can put agents on her land to protect her. Hannah will have none of this, but does accept Mary's offer to stay with her as a bodyguard. Then, in one brief moment, she is abducted from under Mary's nose. In a race against time, Mary and FBI agent Dan Safer must try to find her before she, too, is killed.
In an equally compelling parallel story, we meet Tommy Cabe and Willett Pierson, who attend Camp Unakawaya in North Carolina. Their life at the camp, which is part military, part orphanage, is hell under the rule of Robert Wurth. The lives of Tommy, Willett, and Wurth will intersect with that of Mary Crow in an explosion of violence when many of Mary's questions about her mother's murder and her relationship with Jonathan will be resolved.
While I was a great fan of her first book, Bissell has written a second that is even better. --Otto Penzler
From Publishers Weekly
For those who missed Bissell's well-received debut thriller, In the Forest of Harm, Bissell briefly sums it up at the beginning of her second offering. Atlanta prosecutor Mary Crow, while at the wedding of her dearest friend, Alexandria McCrimmon, reflects on the horrific events that unfolded 14 months before: "Alex had accompanied Mary on a camping trip in the Nantahalah Forest. The trip had turned bad when Alex had been abducted by a psychopathic trapper. Ultimately she'd been airlifted from the Appalachian forests, half-naked and nearly beaten to death." If that sounds like a bad trip, the goings-on this time are even worse. A powerful, secretive right-wing cabal called FaithAmerica which has its eyes on the U.S. presidency has been using students at Camp Unakawaya, a last-chance military school for teenage boys, to knock off federal judges who veer too far to the left in terms of legislating racial equality. One of the school's students the only one ever to win the coveted Black Feather for total dedication goes too far and messily beheads a female judge, calling undue attention to the previous deaths. The next victim appears to be Mary's friend and mentor, Judge Irene Hannah, but Hannah stubbornly refuses protection, so of course Mary is the only one who can save her. This takes her back into the woods and the arms of her former lover, the enigmatic Jonathan Walkingstick, and finally underground into some dank caverns where truth and justice lie. Bissell's narrative drive should carry readers right along, despite some farfetched aspects to the story.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.