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 his other books. 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 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 some of the darker 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 man 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.
Philip Mercer is a London barrister that suffers from PTSD. He invited a game to get rid of the people whom he feels have wronged him in one way or another. He gets someone to help him but all goes wrong. The twists and turns will keep you on your toes. This book will pull you in from the beginning. This is a must read for anyone that loves a good thriller.
This is quite an unusual book, very cleverly written and very believable. It deals with the sensitive subject of mental illness in an unusual but very effective way.
The book starts with a rather graphic murder, but we don't learn who the killer was until later in the book, just one of the twists and turns which are at the heart of this book.
Some of the book is written in the third person, and some in the first person, the first person passages are from the viewpoint of Phil Mercer, an intelligent man who works as a barrister, but who is suffering from a reversal of his fortunes and not getting enough work to cover his expenses.
It gradually becomes clear that he is suffering from a mental illness as he hears voices telling him that the people he blames for his failure must be made to suffer.
Further into the book the difference between reality and Phil's delusions becomes more blurred and we learn that he definitely has a very dark side, but what caused the dark side is truly shocking when it is revealed
With lots of plots twists and realistic characters the book is certainly brilliantly written, however, for many the descriptions of what Phil went through and also the descriptions of the various murders will take many readers out of their 'comfort zone'.
I received an advance copy of the book, but have voluntarily written this honest review.