The Mystery of Mercy Close Review

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I love Marian Keyes. I’ve been reading her since my early teens, and her mix of brash humour and unfailingly honest outlook has always worked for me. Whether or not you like the whole ‘chick-lit’ thing, you can’t deny she’s had a massive influence as a writer, her books are incredibly popular and get people reading, which is the most important thing.
Her last book, The Brightest Star In The Sky, was published five years ago. Since then, Marian has openly talked about her depression online, which is remarkable. This book, the fifth focusing on the Walsh family, is partly about that, and is so incredibly truthful about what it is like to live with this disease day in day out that it marks her as one of the best writer’s dealing with real life issues in a open and accessible way.
Marian Keyes’ writes about the history of her country through the narratives of the people who are from it, in paticular its women. In Sushi for Beginners we had the Celtic Tiger, the boom period that had property developers become multi millionaires overnight, designer everything and credit galore. Mercy Close is set in the bust, and what a bust it is. The recession has been a horrible horrible time but it is only when you read a fiction book that recounts the struggles of people who have lost everything thanks to the greed of the few and a stupid system based on imaginary assets that makes no flipping sense, you realise you how much this has ruined lives.
Helen Walsh was never my favourite of the five sisters who now have a book each (my favourites have to be Rachel’s Holiday and Angels, the story of the middle child Maggie). To be honest, I’ve never really got the whole ‘Walsh’ thing, so the companion eBook novelette coming out this month Mammy Walsh’s A-Z is sort of lost on me. I never really warmed to Helen, she’s the sort of women who I tend to avoid as being a smart arse pain, she “doesn’t believe in hot drinks”, and puts everyday sentences on her synonymous “Shovel List”. She also likes black a LOT, and seems to be a walking advert for Diet Coke, who I strongly suspect sponsored this novel. She is, however, a very well written woman whose life is falling apart. Her Private Detective business has collapsed, she has lost her home and is forced to move back in with her parents at the age of 33. On top of all this, her reoccurring depression is rearing its head yet again after a two year hiatus and her ex-boyfriend has barged back into her life. Good job she’s got a sexy Viking policeman lover with a massive willy, even if his teenage son looks like he should be singing Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

The day after she runs out on her mortgage, Helen receives an offer she literally cannot refuse. Her ex, Jay Parker, who was by all accounts a bastard, is now managing 90s boyband Laddz, who are staging a series of come back concerts. They are going to make everyone rich and famous again, only problem is that Wayne, the ‘wacky’ one, has gone missing, walking out on rehearsals and cannot be found anywhere. Helen’s detective skills are called in and soon she finds herself zooming around the East coast of Ireland on the not particularly hot trail.

During her search for Wayne, Helen runs into the usual Keyes Variety of scrapes, some of which are very sad, others very very funny. Helen’s family, her boyfriend and the media circle surrounding the Laddz aside, it is her constant battle to keep from feeling bleak that marks this book out.
Helen is suicidal, dependent on her meds to the point of obsession. Her recounting how her depression started, and the attitudes of others had me nodding in agreement and rethinking how I treated others with the disease. Over all it is Helen’s insistence that it is a disease, just like any other, and that some people get better and some people don’t that really struck a chord. There is a lyric from a Kimya Dawson song ‘The Competition’ that goes ‘I got good at feeling bad, and that’s why I’m OK’. I think Kimya and Marian would get on well.
Although the stigma surrounding mental illness is gradually corroding, it is still very rare that a celebrity will speak about how they are feeling whilst they are feeling it, and as someone who has bouts herself I feel grateful (wrong word I know, but I cannot think of a better one) for Marian’s opening up.
This book is another doorstopper, but her quick, banter style of writing means it isn’t a laborious read. The ‘mystery’ part of the book isn’t that important compared to her wonderful characters (my favourite is the precocious but very cute nine year old Bella as I know a wonderful little girl just like her) and her depictions of an Ireland that is slowly getting its breath back after a very large punch to the gut.

One of the first things I was asked when I fangirled on Twitter about getting this book to review (eeeeeeeeee) was ‘is it as good as her older stuff?’. The answer is yes, yes it is. Welcome home, Marian, it’s good to have you back.

5/5 and a lovely pre-Autumn treat. Beautiful book as well.


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