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The Mystery of Mercy Close - Marian Keyes

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Hardcover: 528 pages / Publisher: Michael Joseph / Published: 13 Sep 2012

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    6 Reviews
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      16.06.2013 12:28
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      Good book, but can be tough going in places

      I love Marian Keyes's books, as she seems to combine tough situations (cheating, addiction etc) with warmth and humour. The Mystery of Mercy Close is no different in that regard.
      The book centres around the character Helen Walsh, the youngest of the Walsh family, who have all appeared in other books over the years with their own issues. Helen is also the youngest, and throughout all of the Walsh family books, has been a background character. An ebook was released just before this one to remind readers of the Walsh family, particularly Mammy Walsh who has made an appearance through many of Keyes's books, including her non-fiction books.

      Helen is a private detective by trade, and this book centres around her search for an Irish pop sensation who has disappeared. Helen's personal life has also suffered through the Irish recession and this is a side story in the book. Helen seems to have matured from the earlier books, and it was interesting to see the names of her family woven through the book, as their own stories were updated.
      I enjoyed the book personally, but some of my friends thought that the other serious issues dealt with in the book were hard hitting. Keyes suffered from depression, which has been documented through interviews, and the theme of depression runs strongly through this book.

      As I personally had a breakdown last year, I found the book really spoke to me, as it put into words some of the thoughts I had at that time, and it helped to know that my thoughts were normal. However, some readers may find this, for want of a better word, depressing and when discussing this with a friend, she said that some of the details didn't really need to be in the book.
      It was a weird read, as with all Keyes's books, she deals with the hard hitting issues, usually with some humour, although as this book goes, the humour is a lot darker. Helen has always been a selfish person throughout all the books, and she hasn't changed that much (although it can be argued that by it's very nature, depression can make you a very 'selfish' person) and while she has her positive moments, overall I found Helen unlikeable. The ending was rather predictable, and while I guess, the book would only end in one way, I found that the tying up of the ends were a bit slapdash, almost as if Marian had ran out of patience and just wanted the book finished.

      I do think that the book, for someone like myself, is a good read in parts, as some of the thoughts that Helen has are the same thoughts as I have, but the book is very hard going in places, and as my friend remarked, it was tough going in places.

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        24.04.2013 21:42
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        Another one for Marian Keyes fans

        I have been a big fan of Marian Keyes for years as I tend to really enjoy her writing style as she has a great sense of humour and comes out with some hilarious turns of phrase. She can write characters that really come to life and I find her books are ideal for relaxing and chilling out with. She has written 12 novels since her debut Watermelon in 1995, and the latest one is The Mystery of Mercy Close which came out in 2012.

        Any Marian Keyes fans will be quite familiar with the Walsh family, a household of five daughters including Claire, Rachel, Maggie, Anna and Helen. I like the fact that this family appears in quite a lot of the books and that Marian Keyes has done books on each sister where we can get to know each one better and get a bit more of the humour that comes along with this family. The mum, known as "mammy Walsh" is really funny and at times has me crying with laughter in each book. In this book The Mystery of Mercy Close some things she said rang so true and reminded me of my own mum so I had to quote it all to my sister! This book is done from the point of view of the youngest sister, Helen Walsh, and this drew me to the book as she is often one of the funniest family members and in all the books she is known as being a bit crazy and wacky.

        Despite the humour and the fact that Marian Keyes is often classified as "chick lit" it should definitely be pointed out that Marian Keyes actually tackles some darker and more serious subjects in her books as well as the usual chick lit stuff. In some of her past books she has dealt with issues such as alcoholism and rape, and in this book she tackles the subject of depression. Marian Keyes has suffered from depression herself and when reading this book I get the impression she wants to try to impart a better understanding of what depression is, what
        people go through, how it impacts their lives and the fact it can happen to any normal person with no particular reason.

        The storyline itself is a slightly odd one. Helen Walsh is a private detective and she is hired to track down wayne, a boy band member of a band that is supposed to be reuniting for a come back tour years after their prime. The person who hired Helen for this job is her ex boyfriend, and she also has a few issues going on with her current boyfriend, who has an ex who is very present and some kids. The kids do bring sme humour to the story and all the stuff with the boy band is quite ridiculous, some a bit over the top. None of this story is really that realistic but it is light entertainment. As it goes on, beyond the ridiculous situation you can start to see more clearly Helen's depression and start to get more of a feel for her as a person. Marian Keyes made me feel a lot of sympathy for her and I think despite the crazy story the characterisation is actually believable. Because of the wackiness of the story with the detective work and the boy band it did take me a bit longer to get into this story than some of her other ones, but once I got into it I did find it gripping.

        Over all I would recommend it especially to anyone who is already a Marian Keyes fan.

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          23.03.2013 15:48
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          Worthwhile read

          I have been a fan of Marian Keyes' books for a long time, but I have found that some of her later books were not as good as some of her early stuff that I have read, however I decided to give this one a go as a mystery was a bit of a departure for Keyes.

          Marian Keyes has been publishing best selling books since the late nineties and has a number of novels under her belt as well as collections of journalism articles and a baking book. She has battled on and off with depression through her life, something that she writes about frankly on her website. Typically her books come under the 'chick-lit' banner, but I wouldn't let you put that off. It is a popular and lucrative genre, so you can expect some duds, but even an under par Marian Keyes is better then some trash that gets published. For me Keyes excels in this genre as she keeps the romance part as a secondary aspect of the story, allowing the book to have its own plot.

          In previous books Keyes has introduced us to the Walsh sisters and The Mystery of Mercy Close features the youngest sister Helen. I have not read all of the novels in which the Walsh sisters feature, nor do I remember half of them, but I don't think this is a problem, the book can be read as a stand alone novel (although I believe there is an e-book introducing you to the family). Helen is a likeable character, down to earth and not a typical chick lit heroine. She has had her own problems with depression in the past, including an admission to a psychiatric hospital (a section which is written frankly and with pathos by Keyes, who knows what she is talking about). She is quirky and has individual tastes and a long list of things she doesn't like (also known as a 'shovel list' - people or things she would like to hit in the face with a shovel). Apart from being quite a dark person, Helen is in a relationship with Artie, a divorcee with three children, something she never thought would happen.

          As the title would suggest there is a mystery element to the book. Helen is a private investigator, it is the only job she has stuck at and times are tough so she has to take a job for her ex-boyfriend Jay Parker. Jay is a bit of a ducker and diver and is now managing a has-been Irish boy-band about to do some reunion gigs in a week's time, but one of the band members has disappeared. It is Helen's job to try and find the whereabouts of the missing Wayne Diffney. I enjoyed this aspect of the book and although I had a theory of my own I did not come to any firm conclusions as to Wayne's whereabouts and did not predict the end result (although I didn't try that hard - I don't want to spoil the book for myself). Aside from the hunt for Diffney we see Helen dealing with her personal problems such as her financial situation that has meant a return to the family home, her depression and Artie's ex-wife who hasn't grasped the concept of boundaries.

          Overall I really enjoyed this book. Keyes has a knack of writing a story that keeps the reader engaged. Generally the book is pacey and witty, the dialogue to the point without any waffle apart from perhaps a humorous response. It is darker than her previous books, but she can still bring a smile to your face. However, in spite of this, I did find the book took a while to get going, and felt that perhaps the early part of it could be condensed a bit further, at 536 pages it is not a quick read, or easy to shove in a bag.

          On Amazon:
          Hardcover £10
          Paperback £5.99
          Kindle edition £4.99

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            02.03.2013 11:27

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            Another Keyes Sucess!

            Whenever I see Marian Keyes has a new novel out, I MUST have it! As an author she has the ability to make you both laugh and cry and that to me takes some skill.

            One of the things I absolutely love about Keyes' books is the continuity throughout the majority of them, with the intertextuality in involving the Walsh Family. I adore this family and Keyes has this amazing ability that doesn't just make you love them, but by now you actually know them. Especially Mammy Walsh.

            This book did not disappoint. Centralizing around rogue daughter Helen, we learn that in contrast to other books where she has been described as being very cold, arrogant, and flippant, the book opens with Helen having had depression and her career as a private detective having plummeted as a result of the recession.

            Business picks up for her however as she is employed by an ex lover to locate a missing boy band member who may or may not be dead.

            Full of twists and turns, comedy and tears, this book keeps you reading more and more and more till pretty soon, you're left with the end.

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            11.01.2013 18:09
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            5 stars from me!

            I absolutely love Marian Keyes' books. I first stumbled across this author about 7 years ago when I was given a book of hers for free and now I am really glad that I was given it as I devoured the book and have since read every single one! I now wait for the next one to be published! I got this for Christmas and couldn't wait to read it as I just love the way Keyes' manages to draw me in.

            Marian Keyes has written several fiction books including:
            Rachel's Holiday
            Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married
            This Charming Man
            Angel
            Last Chance Saloon

            As well as these she has also written some short stories and also just had published a baking book which is part biographical and part cook book. I have found all of her books to be enjoyable reads and this latest one; The Mystery Of Mercy Close I believe is not her best book but is brilliant at drawing you in and giving you a form of escapism which is just what I like from a book.



            The story

            Marian Keyes has told several stories involving The Walsh Family. Each book which has this family in features one of the Walsh sisters as the main character. This book shows us Helen Walsh, the youngest sister, one I'd been waiting to read for a while! Helen Walsh is a private investigator. She struggled through school to find her niche and kind of stumbled into being a private investigator but as we meet Helen in this book her work is drying up, business is not booming in Ireland and work is hard to come by. Helen is currently seeing Artie who has three children and she cannot believe she has a boyfriend who is not like her usual type at all although things are a little odd with his ex wife always being round and his teenage son having a huge dislike towards Helen so life is not at it's best... Helen is forced to move in with her parents due to her lack of work and the bank repossessing her flat which she adored.
            She finds herself living back at home feeling dazed and confused, wanting to have her flat back, not able to move in with her boyfriend due to the awkward situation and then she begins to think about death. Helen has suffered from depression in the past and Keyes, throughout the story, recalls of how it consumed her, how she struggled to get through each day and how now she is afraid it is coming back. Struggling to keep the thoughts of doom out of her mind, Helen cannot help but resist an offer of some work.

            The work comes from Jay Parker... Jay Parker who happens to be an ex boyfriend of hers and who, it is very plain to see, there is a lot of friction around and unfinished business. Jay Parker is a manager for a boyband- Laddz who are attempting a come-back. One of their main members has gone missing and he requires Helen to track him down. She finds herself face to face with world wide super stars and with keys to Wayne (the singer who has gone missing)'s house so she can investigate. This investigation helps to take Helen away from her gloom although it is still hanging in the background around her and tries to consume her when she isn't focussing on Wayne.

            Throughout the story Keyes' adds airs of mystery from the disappearance of the singer- why has he vanished? How can nobody know where he is? Why are his band mates behaving strangely? To the relationship between Helen and Jay which clearly has lots of unfinished business. It takes various twists and turns as Keyes tells about the past between Helen and Jay as well as the past with Helen's depression whilst at the same time going through the mystery of Wayne's disappearance.


            Characters

            I found Helen to be quite odd to get my head around. She doesn't 'think' like most people, she is snappy, not afraid to tell people what she thinks of them, doesn't feel guilty easily and this made her quite a likeable character. She definitely isn't weak despite the depression, she appears unafraid of many situations, works her way through things albeit in a rather scatty way but isn't the typical lead character in a chick lit book and I liked that, I found it refreshing. I couldn't guess what she was thinking like with some characters and I think this was the point that Keyes' was trying to make- she isn't an easy to guess character, there are many layers to her.

            The other characters were not as well defined but easily recognisable and had their own personalities. I like the way she described the other band mates and how they behaved, it made the entertainment industry look very amusing and all a bit of an act.

            The way that Helen warmed to some characters and not others was written really well and made me as a reader make my own opinions on the characters too which i think was really clever. I do like the way that Keyes manaes to create really great cast members which mean you can really enjoy a story and get drawn in.

            Opinion


            I do not think that this is Keyes best work of fiction, having said that I could not put it down! Every chapter finished with me thinking 'oh go on just one more...' and I read this book in record quick time. I really enjoyed it.

            What I think I enjoyed most about this book is that it has everything I look for when reading; a decent plot which isn't easy to second guess and has lots of different elements in it, an ability to really get to know a character and nothing too heavy so that I can relax and enjoy escapism whilst reading.
            The plot has lots of elements to it. The mystery surrounding Wayne was a main one and that had many twists and turns but in a realistic way, it wasn't all face-paced and we got to meet lots of interesting characters. Whilst learning about Wayne we also got to learn about Helen, I enjoyed hearing about Helen's friendships in the past and how they were affected by various events and throughout the book I could tell that something was going to come to light with them but was never sure what. Keyes' ability to write about the past but not confuse was really good. She would go back to writing about a past relationship or Helen's depression and it didn't take away from the present, in fact it made the present even more understandable as it helped to get a clearer picture on who exactly Helen is and how the characters in the story have influenced her.

            The way that Keyes wrote about depression was very interesting. It was not written in a heavy way, instead she managed to add elements of humour to it whilst still being very true to how Helen felt and how it affected her. It wasn't patronising or unbelievable but written as though Keyes really knows what she is talking about. Despite having depression as a main theme in this book I wouldn't say it's a heavy read at all, far from it so I think she managed to get the balance just right.

            I could never second guess the way the story was unravelling. Whilst reading I kept wondering if Helen and Jay would get back together or if Artie really was The One but I could never second guess it or know for sure. I like that it wasn't easy to second guess. I really enjoyed reading this book, I found it so hard to put down but there were times when I just couldn't keep my eyes open so had to!

            In my opinion this is a great book. It isn't just full of chick lit cliches at all, it has far more depth to it than that, lots going on and many interesting characters. There is great humour throughout the book too which makes it even more enjoyable a read. It is a good holiday book that's for sure and gives great escapism. It's not hard to read, there's nothing very complex in it.

            I really enjoyed this book and now miss it now I've finished it! I can't wait for her to write more!

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              05.11.2012 15:45
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              I did not want it to end.

              Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors. Whilst I have liked some books more than others, she never disappoints and it is testament to her that I can pick up one of her books and read it again years later and still enjoy the story.

              I bought this from Waterstones in hardback while I was on holiday and paid £9.99 for my copy as I could not wait for the paperback.

              I was quite surprised to see a new offering as I had seen various things in the press about the crippling debilitating depression she was suffering. However she has clearly drawn on her own personal experience and used it to great effect in Helen the main character in this book.

              If you have read other books by Keyes you will recognise the Walsh sisters, Helen being the fifth and last one. It doesn't really matter if you haven't read any of the earlier books about the family, as I have but can't recall them so this book I feel stands alone.

              The book starts when Helen is in a bad place , she is a Private Investigator but work is thin on the ground, her flat has just been repossessed and she has no choice but to move back home to her parents. She is in a relationship with a lovely man, but he comes with baggage including an ex-wife who seems to spend more time at his home than Helen does and various children who love or loathe her.

              As the story starts an ex-boyfriend makes an unwelcome appearance with an offer of work that sets Helen off on the trail of a missing boy band member who is due to play a very lucrative reunion gig.

              What makes life most difficult for Helen is the battle with depression she faces on a daily basis, sometimes so bad she contemplates and prepares for suicide.

              Helen is a really well drawn character, independent, outspoken and quirky with a wicked sense of humour, so although dealing with her depression, the author still manages to inject a lot of humour in the book.

              This feels like one of Keyes most personal books and drawing on her own experience she describes the reality of living with depression in detail. The book is really well written and very moving in parts and you really get to see how desperate Helen feels. She is in a very dark place and is constantly battling the urge to end it all.

              The job proves to be something that keeps her busy and I felt her somewhat unique methods of investigation really worked.

              The part that I didn't feel was as well drawn is Helens relationship with Artie her boyfriend, probably because you don't get to know what he thinks about Helen's battle with depression.

              The Walsh family are certainly characters and Helen's parents and various sisters crop up throughout the book and you get the sense of family pulling together, but also that each family member has their own issues. Her parents don't exactly welcome her home with open arms, quite the opposite in fact and wonder when they will get their 'Golden Years' but not being all sweetness and light makes her parents all the more interesting characters.

              The search for the missing boy band member is full of twists and turns and a real mystery . As Helen delves into his life, he starts to feel like a real person and you start to really want Helen to suceed in finding him. Helen is given access to his home and takes a lot of comfort in spending time there alone.

              FYI - I am not a fan of boy bands, so don't be put off by this theme as this is a cracking mystery that leaves you guessing until the end. It is also a very honest and revealing book about what it is like living with depression. Keyes often has a very serious theme running through her books, but still manages to deliver some cracking one liners that will make you laugh out loud.

              Keyes writing style flows well and I can really relate to the quirky observational style she adopts. She always manages to create characters that have issues and flaws but are still genuinely likeable. Very much like the author, who I have seen a few times providing very entertaining commentary on things like Strictly and The Apprentice. She always comes across as a sparkly witty Irish woman, tongue firmly in cheek, so it is hard to reconcile that image with someone who could barely get out of bed or feel motivated to do anything.

              As you may have guessed I absolutely loved reading this book, the first in a long time that I didn't want to put down and the only one I brought back from holiday. I could not guess where it was going and I really enjoyed the combination of mystery, comedy and woman on the edge, which I think is quite difficult to pull off.
              What you get is a real sense of is that depression can touch anyone's life and whilst Helen doesn't have it all in terms of money and home , she is surrounded by people that love her ( even if they don't want to live with her) but that isn't really that relevant when battling depression.

              The writing styles is easy , the book moves at quite a pace and it managed to make me laugh, care very much about Helen and the missing boy band member but also gave me a deeper understanding of depression. I also loved the parts about the band , particularly their rehearsal and Helens reactions to the costumes and stage set, where Keyes clearly shows the sometime ridiculous lengths bands go to when making a comeback.

              Her best book to date.

              5 stars

              Currently on sale form Amazon for £9 in hardback .

              582 pages

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