The Mystery of Mercy Close, by Marian Keyes
Helen is the youngest of the Walsh sisters and going through a bit of a rough spot. Working as a private investigator was great while the economy was up, but now that the Celtic Tiger has gone and died there just isn’t any work available. And no work means no income which means no money to pay the bills. Months behind on her mortgage, with her electricity cut off and most of her furniture repossessed, Helen leaves her apartment and moves back in with her parents. Her six month long relationship with Artie is good, and Artie is everything she could wish for in a man except that he comes with three children and an ex-wife he is still very (too) cosy with. When she receives a phone call from an ex-boyfriend, Jay Parker, Helen’s first instinct is to ignore it. But Jay has a job for her. He wants her to find Wayne Diffney, the Wacky One from boyband Laddz. Laddz is about to make a big comeback but with Wayne missing the whole project is at risk and Helen is Jay’s last hope of finding the missing man without involving the authorities and triggering unwanted publicity.
An active investigation to keep her busy is just what Helen needs. She is sliding into a deep depression and is finding it hard to keep herself going. Investigating Wayne’s disappearance is keeping Helen’s mind of her own despair, most of the time, but the man has managed to vanish without a trace and his house on Mercy Close doesn’t produce any useful clues. Strangely enough the house does attract Helen. In fact she feels completely at home there and finds herself spending a lot of time in Wayne’s world. It is strange that in her life filled with people all wanting a piece of her, Helen feels closest to the one person she has never met, who is missing and who she can’t seem to find.
I loved this book. The story is interesting on several levels. The investigation into Wayne’s disappearance brings mystery and action. The host of characters in Helen’s life provide entertainment, smiles and laugh-out-loud moments. And her struggle with depression gives both Helen’s character and the book depth and the reader food for thought.
I really liked the way this book was written. It is as if Helen Walsh is sitting across from the reader and narrating her life. She just talks away, at times hopping from subject to subject as people do in conversations, without ever losing her thread. She is brutally honest about herself and her shortcomings, which are plenty. While she never tries to make herself look nice or sympathetic I couldn’t help but like Helen.
I admire the way Marian Keyes dealt with the issue of depression in this book. Such a subject matter could easily turn a story into a dark and hard to read narrative, but Keyes managed to avoid that. Helen’s descriptions of her struggles with depression are both heartbreaking and funny at the same time. It is very easy for the reader to feel and/or imagine her despair. On the other hand, because Helen is looking back on events she can tell her story in such a way that actions, thoughts and feelings make you smile, despite their darkness.
The fact that Marian Keyes has had to battle depression herself means that she can tell this story from first hand experience. Her description of how others deal with somebody who suffers from depression is as accurate and heartbreaking as it is amusing. She completely gets how illogical a depressed person’s thoughts can get. This becomes very clear when Helen, despite her urge to kill herself, finds she is very afraid of one character in the story who might actually threaten her life.
The thing that put the biggest smile on my face while reading this book was Helen’s “Shovel List”:
“ It is a list of all the people and things I hate so much that I want to hit them in the face with a shovel.”
I haven’t read all of Marian Keyes’ previous books, but of the ones I have read this is by far my favourite. It is a well written book with funny and life-like characters and a perfect balance between light relief and dark moments. All I can say is: read this book and enjoy!