Short Story Saturday Review 005: ‘Mercy’ by Sean Durity

Welcome to the new Short Story Saturday review slot and the fifth review in this new series. This week’s review is of 1,076-worder ‘Mercy?’ by Sean Durity.

As a story should, this starts with a short, sharp hook that grabs your attention, before filling you in on the backstory. In just the first few words we have timing (current), dilemma (wife murdered), tense (past) and viewpoint (third person).

I’m a fan of dialogue and there isn’t much here but it’s not that kind of story. It features our protagonist, Todd, on a mission to confront his wife’s killer, with other characters mentioned within that rather than being present themselves. What dialogue we have is charming and certainly makes you warm to the characters, my favourite being Jessica’s grandmother (an “ahh” moment for me) and it’s evident that Sean is strong on characterisation.

I’m a big fan of inanimate objects having a ‘life’ so emotions refusing to be ordered made me smile. There were numerous gems dotted around this story, signified by red pen ticks on my page, including some great (and not clichéd) metaphors and similes. I’m not sure if this was intentional but I liked the comparison with the printer having life / falling silent to what had happened to his wife. And another of my favourite lines was ‘Todd could calculate the volume of air in the building, but not the pain’.

Moving on to the old ‘show don’t tell’, we have lots of great show but there was one ‘tell’ that leapt out at me near the end. Having just been ‘shown’ who the killer was, we’re then ‘told’ who it is and these five words, for me, detracted the quality of the writing leading up to this point, but it’s easily done.

Most importantly, I did guess half-way who the killer was, mainly because he or she (no plot spoilers) was just listed as ‘the killer’ until the very end. It would be hard to write it any other way but I do think this is something that Sean needs to look at, as the story is pivotal to the reader not knowing until the reveal. Good luck with that, Sean! 🙂

With a few tweaks this could certainly be entered into a competition (although having it on the internet does count as being published) and if this piece is indicative of Sean’s writing then I look forward to seeing more.

Thank you, Sean, for letting me read your story… and pull it apart. I hope I wasn’t too brutal.

Sean writes to inspire, encourage, and challenge. His educational background includes a B.S. in Decision Science from Berry College and a Masters of Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Vocationally, Sean has worked in restaurants, ministry, and IT. He writes about topics ranging from his daughter’s mitochondrial disease to Bible to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers. His article “Dying Woman Receives a Picture from her Dead Husband” was selected as Content of the Year in 2011. Currently, he is experimenting with short fiction. He can be found on and followed on Twitter, and ‘Mercy?’ can be read in full here.

If you’d like to submit your story (50 to 2,500 words) or short collection of stories for review take a look here.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with article writer and philosophical travel adventure novelist Anthony Karakai – the three hundred and fifth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. And I have a new forum at

3 thoughts on “Short Story Saturday Review 005: ‘Mercy’ by Sean Durity

  1. Sean Durity says:

    Thank you for a most constructive review. Your criticism is right on. I see the one major “tell” very clearly now. The encouragement is great too. Thank you for taking the time to review my work. I will learn from this as I write on.


We'd love you to leave a comment, thank you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.