Thursday, 30 August 2012

Book review: The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 13 September 2012 by Michael Joseph, 505 pages.

Description: Helen Walsh doesn't believe in fear – it's just a thing invented by men to get all the money and good job – and yet she's sinking. Her work as a Private Investigator has dried up, her flat has been repossessed and now some old demons have resurfaced.

Not least in the form of her charming but dodgy ex-boyfriend Jay Parker, who shows up with a missing persons case. Money is tight – so tight Helen's had to move back in with her elderly parents – and Jay is awash with cash. The missing person is Wayne Diffney, the 'Wacky One' from boyband Laddz. He’s vanished from his house in Mercy Close and it's vital that he's found – Laddz have a sell-out comeback gig in five days' time.

Things ended messily with Jay. And she’s never going back there. Besides she has a new boyfriend now, the very sexy detective Artie Devlin and it's all going well, even though his ex-wife isn't quite 'ex' enough and his teenage son hates her. But the reappearance of Jay is stirring up all kinds of stuff she thought she'd left behind.

Playing by her own rules, Helen is drawn into a dark and glamorous world, where her worst enemy is her own head and where increasingly the only person she feels connected to is Wayne, a man she's never even met.


Rating:


Before picking up this fifth instalment in the Walsh Family series I hadn't read many other novels by its author Marian Keyes because, and this is likely an unpopular opinion, I am not particularly keen on her writing style. But then I thought I should give her another chance as the only book I initially recalled having read was a compilation of short stories and I figured that perhaps her voice simply didn't come across very well in them.

Mid-way through The Mystery of Mercy Close I realised that I had in fact read another work by Keyes, Rachel's Holiday, which I marked quite favourably at the time but ended up being very forgettable. Thankfully The Mystery of Mercy Close, despite some problems I had with the book at the start, ended up being a much better read than I expected based on these previous experiences.

Helen Walsh is a Private Investigator, but because of the tough economy work has trickled in only sporadically until eventually it dried up all-together leaving Helen with a stack of bills she's unable to pay. Soon she hits rock bottom as her flat is being reclaimed and even her bed is repossessed, and seeing no other option she moves back in with her parents, who don't seem all that happy to have their adult daughter suddenly around the house again.

When ex-boyfriend Jay Parker comes to her with a job she's initially reluctant to take it on as there's unfinished business between the two of them, but eventually the case manages to catch her interest enough for her to fully delve into it.

The story is this: Former Irish boy band Laddz is reuniting for a few concerts around the country to cash in some much needed dough, but less than a week before the tour is scheduled to start one of the group's members, Wayne, disappears off the face of the earth. It's Helen's job to find him before the start of the first concert.

The beginning of the mystery story is overshadowed by Helen's muddled thoughts and inner sarcasm which made her as a main character very distant and unlikeable. The actions of the people close to her also didn't ring very realistic, as despite the obvious relapse she was going through they didn't try to reach out or even ask her how she was feeling. This seeming lack of care about her well-being which was emanating from her family members was particularly frustrating from a reader's point of view. There is a time and a place for dry humour or wittiness and this wasn't it. Instead their interactions felt more like cold detachment.

At some point in the first half of the novel I was able to put my annoyances with the character's voice aside and I instead started to really get into the mystery part of the story. I couldn't flip the pages quick enough to find out what would happen next and about two thirds in I had to finish the remainder of the book in one sitting.

The smaller characters that appear further along the line were well-rounded and really appealed to me. Although I figured out what had happened to Wayne before Helen did (in hindsight it is quite obvious considering the general theme of the book) the ending was still very satisfactory.

While I never fully warmed to the character of Helen, after turning the final page I did already miss reading about her. Therefore it's only fair to revise my initial opinion on Marian Keyes books by checking out the previous instalments in the Walsh Family series and hopefully they will pleasantly surprise me too.


Many thanks to Penguin UK for the proof copy of the novel!

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