Friday, 24 August 2012

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes - Review

Rarely if ever have I anticipated the release of a book as greatly as Marian Keyes’ new novel.  I first discovered her books in 2002 and they have helped me through some difficult times.  Her writing style feels like you’re talking with a close friend, and the combination of heart-breaking sadness and laugh-out-loud humour is always a winner.

Marian has been very honest and open about her experience of depression over the past few years.  Shortly after the release of her last novel The Brightest Star in the Sky in 2009 she found herself in the grips of a Major Depressive Episode which stopped her from being able to write.  In February 2012  Saved by Cake was released.  As well as a wonderful recipe book (we’ve had fun converting many of the recipes to gluten-free versions as my children both have Coeliac Disease), she spoke about her depression and how baking had helped her get through the darkest periods.

Now, over three years from the release of her last novel comes the long awaited The Mystery of Mercy Close.  Not any old story though - this is one of the much loved Walsh sisters stories, my personal favourites of all her books.

This time the star of the story is Helen Walsh, the youngest sister.  As you will know if you have read any of the previous Walsh sister books (Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels, Is There Anybody Out There), Helen is acerbic tongued, tough and devil-may care.  But in The Mystery of Mercy Close we see another side to her.

Now 33 with her work as a Private Investigator having dried up, and her bed having been repossessed she is left with no choice but to move back in with her parents.  Enter Jay Parker, a dodgy ex-boyfriend who comes to her with a missing person’s case.  Desperate for money, and intrigued by the case (the missing person is no less than Wayne Diffney from boyband Laddz) Helen agrees to do some initial investigation with no guarantees she’ll take on the case.

As Helen digs deeper, she finds that Wayne, the ‘Wacky One’ of the band has seems to have vanished without a trace.  With 5 days until Laddz big reunion gig, the pressure is on to find him.  The more she looks into his life, the more Helen begins to empathise with Wayne until she feels that maybe it would be best for him not to be found.

While investigating Wayne’s disappearance, Helen is fighting her own battles.  The depression that she had suffered from 2 1/2 years ago seems to be returning worse than ever.

What happened to Wayne?  Can Helen find him in time?  Will she manage to overcome the depression that is threatening to drag her under?

When I received the book (very kindly sent by Penguin for me to review), I was almost afraid to start reading - I had built it up so much that I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  On the surface this is a brilliant detective novel which has you gripped to the very last revelation.  However, this is also a very personal experience of depression.  That the seemingly least-vulnerable of the Walsh sisters could be afflicted by this terrible illness just goes to show that it could happen to any of us. 

It was great to read another Walsh sister story, with all the characters we‘ve come to know and love.  Witnessing the vulnerability in Helen, someone who’s only weakness we‘ve previously seen is her possibly being  too tough makes you feel an empathy for her, and you feel so strongly for her throughout the story.  Whether she is successful in finding Wayne and fighting her demons is a journey that is sometimes painful (yes I did cry.  A lot.), often funny (strange looks from the family as I burst out laughing on numerous occasions) but always gripping and brilliantly written.  There is even a reference to one of my other literary heroes, Douglas Adams.

For a very long time, mental health issues have been seen as taboo.  Given how many people suffer from them at some point in their lives, this is just wrong.  The more we are able to talk about such things, the more people who are suffering will feel able to ask for the help they need.  How Marian has used her experiences to write such a beautiful and touching book is incredibly brave.  If you have suffered from depression yourself as I have, then you will find yourself identifying with a lot of Helen’s feelings and experiences.  If you haven’t then I urge you to read this book for an insight into what it can be like. 

The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes is published by Michael Joseph for Penguin.  It is released in Hardback and Kindle editions on 13th September 2012.

If you can’t wait that long, Mammy Walsh’s A-Z of the Walsh Family: an e-book short is released on the Kindle on 27th August 2012.  If you want to catch up with Marian’s previous books, her back catalogue has been re-issued this summer with lovely new covers.

For more information about Marian Keyes visit her website
You can follow her on Twitter for regular updates
You can also follow Mammy Walsh ( and Helen ( on Twitter! 

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