True Mercy by Idelle Kursman is a page-turning thriller. Marina, kidnapped from her native Moldova by a sex-trafficking ring, escapes once she and her captors land by ship in America. While running from her captors, Marina meets Adam Hutchins, an 18-year-old who happens to have autism. Taken in by Adam and his father, Bruce, the rest of the plot revolves around Marina’s attempt to evade recapture by Igor, one of the kidnappers.
Dealing with Autism and Sex-Trafficking
True Mercy takes on two serious, current topics. The novel does a good job of depicting the lives of a family who have a loved one with autism. Marina, a victim of sex-traffickers, is a believable model of someone who wants to fight back. However, some of the interactions between Bruce and Adam could be eliminated without detracting from the seriousness of how the autistic person and his family cope with day-to-day living.
Also, some of the secondary characters are wooden and one-dimensional. Gwen, who works with Bruce, aims to snag him as a partner, until she meets Adam. Dave plots to get promoted instead of Bruce. Mr. Price, Adam’s supervisor, is unprepared to help Adam fit into the workplace. (Personally having worked at a company that hires people who have autism, not everyone is so clueless.)
Bruce’s brother, Matt, and his children evince self-centered behavior. Matt’s family strives to outdo the Joneses with their gigantic house and upscale cars. Matt and his children exhibit no understanding of Bruce and Adam. Nor do they understand Bruce and Adam’s interactions with Marina. Thus, when Matt and his children make a 180-degree turnaround at the end of the novel, this behavior doesn’t jive. It waylays the reader so that everything works towards a happy ending.
Even so, I enjoyed True Mercy. I liked Marina and Judy, Matt’s wife. Judy helps Bruce deal with Adam’s autism. The scenes between Igor and Sergei, two of the kidnappers, create suspense and keep the action moving. I enjoyed reading True Mercy and look forward to Kursman’s forthcoming second novel.