Several years ago, Merrick was rescued from a bank robbery gone bad by a man named Wyatt who took Merrick into his family and made him a partner in crime. With Wyatt’s abilities to break into any secure facility and Merrick as the smash and grab muscle, the two were quite successful in eluding the police and acquiring stolen goods. Then Merrick fell in love—with Wyatt’s son, Grant, and suddenly what was once an exciting career in crime became a weight around his neck as he wished for the ability to be worthy of Grant and have a stable and peaceful life. Merrick broke Grant’s heart and walked away. Now, Grant is back and, worse, right in the middle of a family crisis and the heist that will put them all in danger.
I must admit I ruminated over this review for a few days before I put pen to paper, so to speak, and began my critique. There is absolutely no arguing that this was an action-packed thriller from beginning to end. At times, the story moved so rapidly that I had to go back and reread passages to make sure I knew who all the key players were in this story and if the author had mentioned them before. Without that recheck, it was sometimes hard to place a certain character in the story and remember who they were and this is probably the main criticism I have of this novel overall.
Let me begin with the start of the book where we are thrust into an existing story line that made me double check to make sure I had not inadvertently picked up a novel that was set timewise in the middle of a series. With little introduction of even the main characters, the author choses to instead introduce an arch nemesis, a shadowy savior/villain, Grant, and a family friend—all in the first few pages, and also establish the premise of the novel. My head was reeling mainly because the pages were crafted in such a way as to assume the reader would catch on. Somehow one was to immediately know who everyone was and their relationship to each other without the benefit of any explanation—that would come much later in dribs and drabs as the story progressed. This would happen again and again in the novel as more characters were either revealed or introduced. It is a real homage to the author when I say that I caught on to their style and the novel began to make more sense. Anyone with lesser story crafting talent would have just created such a mishmash of characters that the reader would no doubt have given up in frustration, although I was tempted at one point to do so, I will admit.
The novel goes on to establish a swift moving drama that kept me invested and intrigued. Although we barely skim the surface of who Merrick really is and how he came to the life of crime he was invested in, I found him to be an interesting man—one that I really cheered for and hoped would find the happiness with Grant that he deserved. I enjoyed how Grant slowly became immersed in the crime family he had no idea he was born into due to his father keeping it all hidden from him. This was the crux of one of the sub plots and how it intermeshed with the larger one regarding the reason Wyatt and Merrick were stealing the paintings was cleverly accomplished. I must admit that running full tilt into one dangerous job after another with Merrick and trying to figure out who was betraying him and Wyatt and therefore leading them right into the hands of their deadly arch-nemesis was exciting. I enjoyed many aspects of this novel right down to the sweet, off-page romance between Grant and Merrick.
Merrick the Art Thief was a huge undertaking by Michelle Woody. While I felt there could have been a more clearly structured way to introduce the many characters this novel employed, I cannot find fault with the mystery and action elements that drove most of this novel. For those who like their stories fast and furious with more than a bit of intrigue, this novel will definitely satisfy.