Wednesday 31 October 2012

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

I can hardly believe that seventeen years have passed since Marian Keyes introduced us to the world of the Walsh Family in her debut novel Watermelon.   At last, six years since we last heard from one of the Walsh sisters in Anybody Out There?, it's the turn of youngest sister Helen to update fans on what has been happening in the Walsh family.

Helen was always a little bit quirky, and although she has not played a big part in the other books in this series, she's always been there in the background.   Helen has tried her hand at quite a few jobs over the years and is now a Private Investigator.   She was a fairly successful PI, working on various cases, sometimes jetting off to exotic locations, she had her own flat and a car.   Then along came the economic melt down that hit Ireland harder and faster than anywhere else in Europe.  Helen has found herself back with her parents and struggling to find work.   She's also battling a darker and more dangerous demon; the debilitating depression that almost finished her off once before and is looming over her again.

When Helen is offered a job, tracking down the missing member of a re-formed boy band, she is delighted to be needed, the major downside is that the guy who hires her is her ex-boyfriend Jay Parker.

Helen is not the easiest character to like, she could be considered rude, she is forceful, cynical and often speaks before she thinks, but underneath that exterior is a vulnerable and damaged woman with an acid wit and a fantastic collection of one-liners that would stop anyone in their tracks.  She is funny and she is loyal.

The 'mystery' of the story appears at first to be a bit forced : the disappearance of an ex boy-band member.   Helen's methods of investigation are also a little unusual to say the least, but I feel that the whole mystery and investigation is just the cover-story for something that underneath, is a very serious and quite frightening subject matter.   Marian Keyes deals with Helen's battle with depression with ease, with compassion and with humour.   Her own depressive illness is something that she has talked openly and honestly about, and it is clear that she has taken some of her own experiences and given them to Helen.  A very brave step for any author to take, but her wonderful writing and her talented wit have allowed her to carry it off with ease.

The Mystery of Mercy Close is a book that on the face of it appears to be about a grumpy girl PI and a bunch of burnt-out pop stars, but is in fact, a story of hitting the bottom and pulling yourself back up again - with laughs thrown in and of course a Shovel List!

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