Comfort Zone opens with what appears to be stalking, which turns into a kidnapping, that turns into a horrific murder.
And that was just the prologue!
Phil Mercer, an English barrister, has lost much… his brother, mother, and beloved wife, Liz, all in two short years.
Phil also appears to be losing his mind.
A “voice” who introduces himself as Vincent is encouraging Phil to kill… to take revenge on those people he believed to be friends, but they instead hindered or stifled his legal career and financial situation.
While he agrees with Vincent, Phil Mercer isn’t a killer. Or is he?
The back and forth with Phil/Vincent reminded me of Smeagol/Gollum and I wondered who would win in the end.
Phil decides retribution is his to take, but as he moves closer to his parlor game, a summons from court convinces him he’s going to prison for perjury and he sinks into depression. However, spurred on by Vincent, he sets his plan in motion.
Stephen Bentley’s plot twists kept me on edge. Learning Phil’s military backstory brings clarity… and pity for the barrister, but things are still not as they seem and I don’t know who’s more confused, Phil or me. HA!
I’m not saying anyone deserves to die because that would be… wrong, of course, but Phil Mercer is surrounded by some pretty awful people who evoke little sympathy in every stage of his life, and even after, however, in the end, I still can’t decide if Phil is crazy, or crazy like a fox.
This quick read is great suspense with psychological and noir elements you won’t see coming. It looks like an easy, open and shut case on the surface, but trust me, there’s nothing easy about Phil Mercer or the Comfort Zone.
There’s a killer lurking in all of us. Sometimes you just don’t know it.
Take Phil Mercer, for example, what dark secret from his past changes a decent man, and respected professional into a man with murder on his mind?
Down to earth Northerner, Phil Mercer, begins to question why so-called university friends failed to help him establish a practice at London’s Criminal Bar.
Despite that and colleagues’ professional jealousy, he goes on to achieve success as a fearless defender of society’s less fortunate until his career is threatened by events triggered by something completely out of his control.
Figuring his life and career are about to change forever, Mercer strives to find a way to right wrongs by inventing a new parlour game called ‘Comfort Zone.’
At a dinner party surrounded by colleagues he insists they all play the game. He introduces it after dinner as a ‘storytelling game.’
He adds – “the easy choice is not an option at all. What terrifies you? What scares you shitless? Be brave. Be reckless. You are among friends. What can possibly go wrong? It’s just a parlour game, right?”
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Stephen Bentley is a former police Detective Sergeant and barrister (trial attorney) from the UK. He is now a freelance writer and occasional HuffPost UK contributor on undercover policing.
His memoir Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story is a frank account of his pioneering undercover detective experiences during Operation Julie – an elite group of detectives who successfully investigated one of the world’s largest drugs rings.
His memoir became a UK bestseller and now translated into Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish. It is available in English in these formats: eBook, hard cover, paperback, and audiobook.
He also writes crime fiction in his Steve Regan Undercover Cop Thrillers and Detective Matt Deal Thriller series. He has also written an award-winning short story, The Rose Slayer, which has now been published in an anthology of murder mystery short stories titled Death Among Us, along with over twenty short stories from ten authors.
When he isn’t writing, Stephen relaxes on the beaches of the Philippines with his family where he now lives often with a cold beer in one hand and a book in the other.
AI Sheets for trade booksellers may be found here at hendrypublishing.com