The LainiBop Challenge
* * * * *
* * * * * SPOILERS * * * * *
* * * * *
Mary, Mary eh? This is the second Mary, Mary I’ve read this year, the first being the more well-known James Patterson novel. Both crime/thrillers, this particular one severely lacked the thrilling part of that pair.
So, Margaret is a psychologist, she moved to New Zealand when she was pregnant with her daughter Mary, and has just recently moved back to Ireland to take care of her sick mother. Mary has just gone missing and eventually her body is found dumped in a plastic sack in the canal. The story isn’t so much about Mary’s disappearance as we find out quite early on that she had died, but more about the investigation and even more so about the repercussions after the perpetrator is found and arrested.
Because unlike other crime novels, this book focuses on the aftermath more so than Mary herself, it should have had more of an impact on me that it did. The unusual perspective was meant to spin a different story than the ones we are used to. But whether it was the writing style or the story itself, it just didn’t grab me the way it was intended.
Margaret herself, in my opinion doesn’t come across particularly well. She seems to have a lot of secrets. There is also an untold mystery about her relationship with her father that we get glimpses of through snippets of conversations with her mother. Instead of these comments spurring me to want to find out what happened there, they just get tiresome. For example, we find out that when her father died, her mother didn’t tell her. She was living in New Zealand at the time, but her mother didn’t tell her until after the funeral which is something Margaret resent her for, understandably.
The victim of the novel, Mary is very much a background character, we find out small pieces of information about her, but nothing substantial, again I think this was done on purpose but the effect on me was that I just didn’t really care about this missing shadow of a person, because that’s all that she was in the book.
Then of course, we have the investigating detective in the case, Michael McLoughlin. Could they have put a more ill-suited incompetent detective on the case? For anyone who’s seen Brendan Gleeson in the Guard, imagine him, but drunker, stupider and also kind of a stalker. This man really frustrated me throughout. He’s in the middle of a very unhappy marriage, which is blamed completely on the wife, even though he is clearly a waste of space. He spends most of his time in the pub getting drunk, oh that is when he’s not following Margaret around and spying on her house from his car when off duty. He obsesses about this woman, about her looks, and daydreams about her, basically falling in love with her. Bad policy for a police officer investigating the murder of someone’s daughter. His actions get creepier the more you read, and all this adds to the story is an uncomfortableness, as he tries to take advantage of her grief to get close to her. He seems far more intent on getting her to love him back than he does on trying to solve the murder. I didn’t understand at all why this was necessary to the story, and had no faith at all in his competence as a detective because of this.
Now to the writing, as mentioned above, this novel was set in Ireland, specifically Dublin, now in case the reader has a very bad memory, this is repeated constantly. It reads like it was written by someone who has visited Dublin once and has taken down a list of all the placenames, and Irishisms they saw and just vomited it back onto the page. Perhaps if I didn’t know Dublin even a little bit, I wouldn’t have noticed this, but the characters manage to find themselves in every area of Dublin possible at one stage or another, they walk from X to Y to Z for no apparent reason, seems like its just a way for the author to remind the reader that yes, the novel is set in Dublin. This got very annoying very quickly.
Within the first chapter, tea is mentioned at least twice, as are pints of stout. By the way, the book is set in Ireland, cos we love our tea and pints…! The language used at times flows really well, but then someone will say something in a way completely inappropriate to the situation and then I felt pulled out of the story and compelled to complain about it to the other half. Because of this, I couldn’t get into the rhythm of the story at all. There is a scene in it where a photography teacher is reporting a rape to the gardai. This report is made a long time after the event and obviously her visit to the garda station is emotional and traumatic. She describes the attack vividly but clearly, distancing herself from it, again understandable, and just as the reader is getting into the scene and feeling for this poor young woman she comes out with something like “How do you think it’s been for me here in this room with you? To turn myself inside out like a ripe fig, let you see all those bits which should be hidden.” WHAT? A FIG? Who talks like that, is the question I screamed at this point, again turning a very emotional, heart-wrenching piece of writing into a piece of drivel. I’m all for figurative writing and if this character had felt like a fig inside her head I maybe could have accepted that, but do you really tell a member of the police that you feel like a ripe fig in this situaion? Maybe you do, who knows?
In conclusion, I got quite frustrated at points throughout the book purely based on the writing. Any sympathy you may have had for this mysterious victim called Mary is shattered during the trial where she is referred to as a thing by the forensics witness. This is pointed out by Margaret herself and noted that they are trying to turn her into a thing instead of a person, but the author has made no effort to do otherwise with the reader.
Before I started writing the review, I had given it a 4 out of 10, now that I have recalled all the reasons I didn’t like this book, I have reduced that to a 1. So there you go. Will not be looking for anymore of this author’s works, as my blood pressure is high enough already!