Review: Her Name is Mercie, Chris Roy

 A sharp fruit salad with chocolate sprinkles and a side dish of razor blades

Link to Amazon: Her Name is Mercie, Chris Roy

Reviewed April 2019 by CR

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Her name is Mercie comprises a novella and four short stories.

Let’s start with the obvious: Chris Roy can really write. All five of these stories are impressively written, compelling, clear-voiced and psychologically engaging. You’re not going to start any of them and go to bed before the end. What’s less obvious is why the four short stories are being served on the same plate as the novella. If I were to take a star away from this collection (and I got very close), it would be for this: they are all great stories but they aren’t enhanced by being dished up together.

The four short stories form a clear set – short, dark, macabre, violent and unsettling; (reminiscent in some ways of Ian McEwan, albeit with different preoccupations). Each of them explores a chilling interface between familiar and aberrant states of mind, posing questions about where madness comes from, where evil comes from, how close these are to us – always there, waiting, in the background of our ‘safety’.

The Novella that opens the collection is a very different creature. It is a fast-paced, action packed, picaresque romp of a story, tracing its central character through a rollercoaster of adventures that hurl her in and out of the criminal justice system via various encounters with increasingly unappetising ‘law-enforcers’. The female central character is cheerfully piratical, her side-kick familiar but welcome, the villains (and some of the action) straight out of a Marvel comic. Pitch this against some grittily realistic depictions of life in a women’s prison, some sharp observations of the politics of ‘bad luck’ and a satisfying wish-fulfilment of an ending…

Stop there. Go to bed. Sleep happy. Don’t start the four short stories till the morning…

Rating: 5 out of 5.