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by Sandra Ardoin @SandraArdoin

Nancy Mehl is out with the first book of another series, Defenders of Justice. This one is entitled Fatal Frost, perfect for a winter release. Rather than the Mennonite communities of the past series’ I’ve read, this one involves U. S. Marshals headquartered in St. Louis.

U. S. Marshal Mercy Brennan had a rough upbringing, especially after her policeman father deserted the family for another woman. Vulnerability is not a word Mercy wants associated with her. A drug cartel threatens her life, and she’s pushed to that point of vulnerability when her best friend (Tally) and a former love (Mark) are secretly assigned to protect her. She’s told she’s been sent to protect a witness, but Mercy is smart. It doesn’t take long before she knows something isn’t right.

She’d had enough and pulled her weapon, aiming it at Daniel’s chest. He dropped a can of chili and made a quick move toward his waist.

“Well, that clinches it. But you’re not armed, remember?” she said. “I want to know what’s going on, and I want to know now.” […]

“Look, Daniel. If you don’t explain yourself to my satisfaction, you’ll be sorry. I’m not playing with you. My partner’s exposed and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect him. Do you have someone out there? Someone who can harm Mark?” […]

“Mercy, put your gun down,” another voice called out before Daniel could respond to her.

She swung slowly around while backing up so she didn’t turn her back on Daniel. Tally stood at the entrance to the kitchen, his gun aimed at her.

The cartel isn’t the only antagonist in this story. The main characters also face a potentially deadly blizzard and a mole in the Marshals’ office. It all adds up to some major ramped-up tension in a plot that’s pretty chilling—no pun intended—for its connection with today’s headlines. The twists are in abundance, and the title is actually clever.

While I could appreciate Mercy’s doubts and fear of weakness, for me, the numerous dialog tags like “she snapped,” “she said sharply,” “she spit out” made her a little too hard-edged at times. In fact, at one point, I asked myself what Mark saw in her. That’s never good in a romance. However, she has her vulnerable moments and she’s a devoted friend to Tally, so stick with her.

Usually, I can read a series book and have a good idea of the next main character. I can guess here, but there’s little real hint in the book, so there may be no connecting characters.

Despite my issue with Mercy’s character, Fatal Frost is an engaging start to Ms. Mehl’s new series, and I’m looking forward to reading Book Two.

What are some of your favorite winter-set novels?

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