Review of Without Mercy: Obsession and Murder Under the Influence written by Gary Provost
At the top of the list of morally corrupt characters is a man by the name of James Allen Bryant. Allen is a narcissist. He is a pathological liar. He is also a psychopath. Take him out of the equation and there is no murder. There are no death sentences. There are no families torn apart. Everything that is evil in this story starts with James Allen Bryant.
Allen is gay. He has no particular skills or talent except perhaps an ability to turn on the charm when needed. Allen uses that charm to attract another gay man by the name of Art Venecia. Art is older and a successful businessman. Art purchases an IHOP restaurant for the sole purpose of giving his young lover the position of manager.
When Allen finds someone new, Art becomes expendable. Allen can’t leave Art because Art is his meal ticket. So, Allen decides that the solution to his problem is to kill Art and make off with all of Art’s assets. For this he enlists the help of Dee Casteel, a waitress at the IHOP.
Dee is an alcoholic. Allen uses alcohol to lure Dee into his murder plot. This is where the story takes on a whole new level of evil. Dee is not an evil person. She has nothing to gain from Art’s murder, except a promise by Allen for a job for life and the ability to continue drinking on the job. But Dee does not believe that her actions of finding a hit man and acting as the go-between makes her a murderer. She doesn’t blink an eye when she knows that her actions may lead to someone’s death.
Dee’s and Allen’s co-conspirators are Michael Irvine and Bill Rhodes. These two lowlifes don’t have any issues with killing someone for a few thousand dollars. The details of how these four come together, commit multiple crimes, then try to cover their tracks, is an interesting case study in the minds of psychopaths. All four co-conspirators lack a moral compass, a conscience, and an ability to empathize. Their greed and narcissism leave a trail of tragedy and heartbreak.
Without Mercy was first published in 1989. The book has found new life thanks to ebooks and digital audio. The four co-conspirators each got the death sentence. Dee Casteel died in prison in 2002. The other three had their sentences changed to life without parole.