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The Mercy Seat
UK eBook
The Mercy Seat


Joe Donovan Book 1

Shortlisted for the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award for Best Thriller 2006.

Once a renowned investigative journalist, Joe Donovan's life fell apart when his six-year old son disappeared without trace. Now a virtual recluse, Donovan is abruptly thrust back into the limelight when a teenage boy makes contact, in desperate need of his help.

On the run for his life, Jamal has in his possession something that holds the key to Donovan's past, a past that can only be unlocked by forcing him to make a terrifying journey into the present.

As long-buried secrets emerge and the bodies pile up, Donovan finds himself caught up in a harrowing web of fear. In order to survive and uncover the disturbing truth at the heart of the dangerous world he's found himself in, he puts together a team to help him, a team of outsiders that doesn't care which side of the law it operates on.

And Donovan will surely need help. For he and Jamal are being hunted by a ruthless killer. A killer with a 100% success rate. A killer who doesn't know the meaning of the word mercy.


With The White Room I had pushed that bleak, brutal, prose-poetry kind of story and storytelling as far as it could go at the time and I wanted to do something different. Something where I could utilise all of my influences, from Shakespeare to Batman, Tony Hancock to Doctor Who, Doc Savage to Nelson Algren. A new contemporary crime thriller series set in Newcastle. I needed a new hero. Flawed, messed up, but empathetic, with an emotional reason for the reader to keep engaging with him. Enter Joe Donovan. And I also wanted to give him a team. I love the way group dynamics work in popular fiction, whether it's the con artists of Hustle on TV, Batman and Superman and the rest of the Justice League, Richard 'Avenger' Benson and Justice Inc. in the Forties pulp novels... the list goes on. Enter Albion. And I wanted to tell the stories in a thrilling, character-based way that wouldn't be afraid to tackle the big social and political themes but never in a preachy, boring or worthy way. I wanted a page-turner that made the reader laugh, cry and think. THE MERCY SEAT was the result. It got me some blinding reviews, some new readers and an award nomination. Didn't win, though.

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The Mercy Seat
UK Paperback


'Breathless, contemporary and credible, a thriller with a dark heart and guts to spare.'
   —The Guardian

'Waites pulls few punches in his work and this new thriller is at his most honest and his most gripping... This is a very dark book, but one full of compassion and insights into the world without law that co-exists with our own. The terrific plot is bolstered by vivid characterisation and a three dimensional landscape... If you miss The Mercy Seat you've missed one of the most important crime novels of 2006.'

'Waites keeps it brutal and real in the seriously hard-edged The Mercy Seat.'
   —Lads Mag

'The leading light of a new generation of hard-hitting contemporary crime novelists has produced a cracking thriller.'
   —Daily Mirror

'A beautifully written and constructed thriller.'
   —Publishers Weekly

Pocket Books, UK paperback, January 2006, ISBN: 9781416502227
Pegasus, US hardcover, April 2006, ISBN: 9781933648002
Pegasus, US paperback, November 2007, ISBN: 9781933648330