Monday, April 22, 2013

Boy Band Drama

Several years ago, I read Sushi for Beginners by Marian Keyes, and I really liked it.  The best part about it for me was that the story was set in modern day Dublin.  Until I read that book, my idea of Dublin  involved maybe one or two stop lights, narrow cobble stone streets with walls on either side, and a friendly old man who could show me the way to the pub.  Sushi burst that bubble, and made me realize that Ireland really is in the twenty-first century, complete with office buildings, mortgages, and obviously, sushi. 

When Rebecca Lang of Viking and Penguin Books asked me to review Keyes' new book, The Mystery of Mercy Close I was excited to see what Keyes had been up to since I last read her.  I was a little concerned, however, to hear that Mercy Close was "a Walsh sister novel", since I didn't think that I had read any of the earlier Walsh sister books.  But, I dove right in nevertheless. 

Mercy Close is the story of Helen Walsh, a private detective working in Dublin.  Helen is hired by her ex-boyfriend, Jay Parker, to find a member of the boy band, The Laddz, who has gone missing just before the reunion tour is set to begin.  As you might expect, The Laddz are a little one dimensional.  There is the cute one, the gay one, the wacky one, the truly talented one, and the other one.  When our story begins, several years after their popularity peaked, the cute one has become the religious one, the gay one has gone straight, the wacky one, Wayne, is the one who is missing, the truly talented one has quit the band to find solo fame, and the other one is still just the other one.  Adding this second characteristic to each band member served to make them not two dimensional, but one dimensional in a different way.

A lot of the first half of the book is spent establishing the traits of the band members, and reminding the reader of the characteristics of each of Helen's sisters.  I found the sister side story completely unnecessary, and would have liked the story just as well if Helen was an only child. Helen is a quirky character.  Many pages are spent detailing the things that bother her, and the misfortunes that she has faced as a result of the Irish recession, rather than chasing the bad guys or looking for Wayne.

In the second half of the book, the story comes together, and Keyes' talent shows through.  We find that Helen is struggling with depression.  Her battle is really well written, with depression treated as a disease, like emphysema, and not something that one can get over with a pill and a call to a shrink.  As the deadline approaches, it is unclear whether Wacky-One-Wayne is missing, or trying to be lost.  There seem to be as many people who need Wayne to participate in the reunion tour as there are people who would profit if the shows were cancelled.  The suspense builds, and Keyes has us turning pages as quickly as we can. 

As always, with these "industry requested reviews", I received the book for free, but no other payment.  I promised to review the book, but did not promise a positive review.   My next industry requested review will be The Honey Thief by Najaf Mazari and Robert Hillman.  I'll have an extra copy of that one to give away, so stay tuned!

Next Up:  Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebovitz

Still Listening To:  The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella

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