Book Review: Death of a Mermaid

Lesley Thomson

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

published: 7th May 2020
spoilers? not really


Freddy left her childhood home in Newhaven twenty-two years ago and swore never to return. But now her parents are dead, and she’s back in her hometown to help her brothers manage the family fishmonger. Nothing here has changed: the stink of fish coming up from the marshes; the shopping trolleys half-buried by muddy tides; the neighbours sniffing for a new piece of gossip.

It’s not what Freddy would have chosen, but at least while she’s here she’ll get to see her childhood best friends, Toni and Mags. At school, the three of them were inseparable. The teachers called them the Mermaids for their obsession with the sea, and with each other.

Then Mags goes missing, and Freddy must decide. Go back home to her new life, or stay in Newhaven and find her friend?

Galley provided by publisher

CWs: past homophobia & disownment

It is probably evident by now that I have fairly particular standards when it comes to mystery novels. I mean, I’m sure I say it often enough. And, very sadly, this one just did not really meet those.

The novel really follows three characters, childhood friends who have grown apart. The first is Freddy, who is a lesbian and was kicked out of her home by her father. The second is Toni, a police detective who is now in a relationship with one of Freddy’s brothers. The final is Mags, a devout Christian who Freddy loved as a girl. Following Freddy’s mother’s death, she comes back to town and takes up a role in her family’s fishery business.

What I have to say first is that the writing just didn’t work for me, so, as ever, everything subsequent I add should be viewed through that lens. Here, it just felt a little too clunky for me to properly get into. But that is, of course, a personal issue, so feel free to ignore it when deciding whether to read this.

Because I didn’t like the writing from early on, I was sort of skimming it after a couple of pages (yeah, I know, it’s bad). But even so, it was, initially at least, somewhat confusing. That did sort itself out, and I think it was mostly because it wasn’t clear which parts were in the past as recollections and which were present-day.

And then there’s the mystery. It wasn’t a bad one – actually it was probably the best part of the story – but the writing made it hard for me to enjoy it (I told you to view it all through a lens). The culprit wasn’t a surprise as such (after a certain point), but it was a neat twist, all in all.

The final point I have is about the rep. Firstly, the homophobic character himself turns out to be gay (thanks a lot), but then also there’s no happy ending for the lesbian character(s). Like, I don’t need one here, but I would have liked one, to be honest, and it left me disliking the book even further.

But most of this does stem from not liking the writing so, if it sounds like a book for you, ignore this and give it a go.

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