The Crooked Bookshelf: Review of Marian Keyes “The Mystery of Mercy Close”

I heard of Marian Keyes through, of all places the Domestic Sluttery website just before Winter Hols. They suggested that it would be a good book to pick up around the holidays as the participants of that website adored Keyes’ other works and this one was apparently a long time in coming.

I have to say, I am glad I got it duct-taped for me under our Christmas shrub this year! I started it in early January, was done by the end of the first week, and salivating to read more of her books!

The gorgeous UK cover!

The story concerns one Helen Walsh, an Irish private investigator and one of the five Walsh daughters. As we enter her life, Helen has just lost her amazing apartment due to lack of funds as the PI world took a dive since the economy did the same. That’s right, Helen is a Private Investigator. A job she describes as sometimes glamorous and usually not.

At this point, due to her financial woes, Helen is moving back in with her Mum and Dad, since she values her freedom highly and doesn’t feel comfortable with encroaching on her Boyfriend’s place for a few reasons, but mostly because his amicably-divorced ex-wife and their children are always around, making Helen feel quite awkward.

As if to add more misery to the pile of her life, Helen’s ex-boyfriend and all around joker, runs into her life again.

However, this might be fortuitous as ex-boyfriend Jay may have a job for Helen, and it will pay well: Jay is organizing a reunion tour for Ladds – a former boy band of the 90s that shook Ireland, and then fell off the charts. The four members of the band whose careers have had a stalemate (one of the former boy banders launched himself into stardom) have agreed to appear for a series of concerts in Ireland. But now, one of them has gone missing – and it’s up to Helen to figure out where he’s gone and what’s happening, all the while trying to fix her own life.

The thing about this book is that it’s unexpected. I walked into it, without reading any of Keye’s other novels, thinking it would be a more-or-less straight forward intrigue type book aimed for the smart women of the world. But it’s so much more than that. 

The way the novel deals with themes of depression, hopelessness and comedy are all top notch. Keyes, through Helen, is a smart, blunt talking person who doesn’t mince words or shy away from discomfort. Her view is solid, if sometimes very sad, and always honest. Helen is a remarkable character and a sometimes difficult, but in the end wonderful character to join on her journey.

And there is comedy – and it is darkly funny, often sarcastic and right up there with my own sense of funny, so I was particularly drawn to that.

North American cover

But it was also lines like this that made me realize how precious Helen was as a smart, female lead character:

I really, really, really fancied this Artie Devlin. I’d have liked forty-eight hours in a locked hotel room with him, But that was all. I didn’t want complications. I didn’t want agonized discussions at two in the morning about “making this work”. I didn’t want the needs of his children to matter as much as mine.

Because that’s what you get when you got a man with kids.

(A hard thing for any woman to admit, for fear we’ll sound selfish and God forbid that a woman might be selfish. )

Marian Keyes, The Mystery of Mercy Close, pg. 97

Don’t you just love how Helen gets in your face, makes you uncomfortable and then redeems you for thinking exactly the same niggling thing she thinks? I love.

Also, the woman has a “things that I want to hit in the face with a shovel” list! I mean – come on! I can definitely feel that list …

Anyways, the thick of it is this: The Mystery of Mercy Close was not an easy book to read (probably more about my own similar situation then a complete reflection on the book itself, actually) but once you get into it, about page 50 or so for me, I was in it. And I could not put it down, was instantly crabby with anyone who needed to talk to me and stayed up until four in the morning to finish it when I knew I had to be up by five.

It’s a great book and I will definitely be picking up her other stories – especially the ones about the Walsh sisters!




Next book to Review: S.E.C.R.E.T. by L. Marie Adeline


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