Cover image for Mary, Mary : a novel
Mary, Mary : a novel
Parsons, Julie.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1998]

Physical Description:
299 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Open Shelf
X Adult Fiction Open Shelf

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Already a tremendous triumph in England: a spine tingling thriller about a brilliant and professional woman--a psychiatrist--who seeks revenge on the sadistic killer who tortured and murdered her teenage daughter.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Parsons has penned a gripping psychological thriller featuring enough stunning twists and turns to keep readers off-balance until the startling climax. Accompanied by her daughter, Mary, psychiatrist Margaret Mitchell returns from New Zealand to her native Ireland to care for her terminally ill mother. When the 20-year-old Mary fails to return home one night, her mother suspects the worst. After filing a missing persons report with the police, Margaret begins receiving a series of emotionally harrowing anonymous phone calls from Mary's kidnapper. After Mary's body is recovered, the phone calls continue, as Jimmy Fitzsimmons, the sociopathic killer, plays a perverted game of cat-and-mouse with both Margaret and Detective Inspector Michael McLoughlin, the world-weary officer assigned to the case, who becomes obsessed with Margaret. The suspense mounts after Fitzsimmons is arrested and confesses to the crime, and the story of Margaret's mysterious past begins to unfold. Instead of letting the court decide Fitzsimmons' fate, she decides to take matters into her own hands with the unbidden assistance of Inspector McLoughlin. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Narrated with stunning confidence and sophistication, Irish TV talk-show producer Parsons's first novel depicts the complex relationship between a mother and her daughter, who is murdered. Dr. Margaret Mitchell, a Dubliner who emigrates to New Zealand in 1975 shortly after the birth of her daughter, is now a well-known psychiatrist who has made her mark in women's mental health. When she returns to Dublin to care for her dying mother, Maggie is accompanied by her daughter, Mary, a vital young woman of 20. It is Mary's disappearance and the discovery of her viciously mutilated body that sets the story in motion. While some of the conventions of the crime novel seem inescapable (the attraction of Detective Inspector Michael McLoughlin to Maggie, the court scenes, the encounters between Maggie and the murder suspect), Parsons uses these events in unpredictable ways. Related alternately from the point of views of Maggie, the inspector and the murderer (whose identity we know, but whose motivation we learn gradually), each scene is beautifully paced and plotted, and even minor characters are deftly drawn and psychologically believable. Appearing in her mother's memory in a kind of instant flashback, Mary is vividly conjured, and Maggie's devotion to her poignantly portrayed. Parsons writes short, quickly paced scenes that raise the suspense level in taut increments, and her story is full of genuine surprises and fresh plot twists. While shocking, the novel's conclusion is powerful and convincing, totally in keeping with the characters Parson has drawn and with the complex psychological relationships she depicts. Already published in the U.K. and Ireland, the novel has also been sold in Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Japan, the Netherlands and France. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The publisher is really behind this first novel by the New Zealand-born Parsons, now from Ireland. The protagonist is the widowed Margaret Mitchell, a psychiatrist whose daughter has been murdered. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One You could say it began with a phone call. After all, that's the way most cases begin. And you'd wonder then, looking back, whether there was anything about it that warned you, that reached out and grabbed you, that said, Hold on a minute, this is serious.     But at the time it was just another anxious mother. Worried, embarrassed. Not sure she should be phoning. Not sure if she was doing the right thing. Her fear turning to anger.     "If she'd said she wasn't coming home, if she'd rung, if she'd let me know."     He'd heard it all before. Regularly. He doodled on the margin of the newspaper. Ice-cream cones with pointed creamy peaks and pints of stout in old-fashioned glasses with the little bulge three-quarters of the way up the side. He wrote the time in the phone log. Twenty-one forty-eight. Twelve minutes to the end of his shift. Sunday, 6 August 1995. The middle of the bank holiday weekend. Still hot at this late hour. Too hot. Damp patches under his arms and an itch in his crotch. The hospitals would be filled with cases of sunstroke, and God knows how many fights there'd be in the couple of hours after the pubs closed. All those tempers, stoked by bare brown skin, arm against arm, thigh against thigh, hopes raised, desire rushing to the surface like the bubbles in a pint. And then the bright white neon light, flashing on and off. Time, gentlemen, ladies. Please. Cigarette butts scattered across a pockmarked floor. Lipstick smeared. Sunburn itching, already beginning to peel. His hand on her leg. You cunt, you. What the fuck do you think you're at? And that single moment of pure rage that brings the glass crashing onto the table.     "Are you listening to me? Are you writing any of this down?"     He sighed, and stretched his aching back. He had a pain, midway between his neck and his waist. He thought he'd done it playing golf a couple of months ago. Not as fit as he used to be. Too much desk work. Not like in the old days. Stationed in Belmullet, rowing out into Achill Sound, the pale blue of the Iniskeen Islands, hazy shadows on the horizon, and the mackerel jumping into the boat. Bank holidays were different down there. It was always suicides. Someone would hear a shot. Bits of brain everywhere, strewn across the old dresser, and the dog whimpering in the corner.     "Have you tried all her friends? Rung round, asked them if they've seen her?"     That did it. He held the phone away from his ear.     "Look. You don't seem to be taking this in. We're visitors here. My daughter doesn't know many people. I've told you this already. She went into town yesterday evening to meet a couple of kids from her ballet class. She's been gone for over twenty-four hours. I wouldn't be on the phone to you if I didn't have a reason." And the voice rising in pitch and in volume. "There's something wrong."     "And how old did you say she was?"     "For the third time she's twenty."     He'd have to tell her. Not that she'd want to hear it. They never did--parents, that is.     "There's just one thing. At her age she can, if she wants, leave home. There's not much we can do about it. She isn't a minor. I'm sorry, but people disappear all the time."     Silence. Then a deep breath. He screwed up his face in anticipation. He looked around the room. In the far corner, doddery old Pat Byrne lounged with his cap still on, reading the Sunday World , and biting his nails. Systematically. Crunching his way from finger to finger. Through the open door to the kitchenette he could see Nuala Kenny brewing tea. He waved in her direction, miming a drinking motion with his free hand.     "Look. I know what you're saying. But I'm worried. I want you to take down her details and do whatever you can to find her. Do I make myself clear?"     Fuck it. More paperwork. He pulled himself up off the high stool, feeling the catch in his back as he stretched for a missing person's form from the shelf above. His trousers were too tight. When he undressed at night there was always a red X-shaped mark from his belt buckle just above his belly button. How had it happened that he'd put on so much weight? Where was that skinny young fellow who'd graduated from Templemore thirty years ago?     He sat down again, cradling the phone between his shoulder and his ear. "Okay, let's start at the beginning. Name?"     When he'd finished, he drank his tea. It was lukewarm, the sugar a thick layer, like fine river sand, at the bottom of the mug. He looked back over the page. He tried to imagine her, to conjure up the girl from his carefully printed words. Tall. Five feet seven and a half. Thin. Eight stone two pounds. Dark. Black curly hair, sallow skin with blue eyes. The form didn't have a space for pretty or plain or downright ugly. You didn't ask. But in this case he could guess. He knew how he'd feel if she were his child. The statistics for the year were frightening. Eight women murdered, nearly two hundred reported cases of rape, five hundred sexual assaults. Too many. Too many unsolved. He was glad, suddenly, that he was a desk man, that all he had to deal with were the black marks on the white paper, not the flesh and blood.     He filed away the report, and cleared off his desk. He had reassured her, told her not to worry. Said to leave it another twenty-four hours. If she hadn't come home then, to bring in a photo, and they'd get going on some publicity. He stepped out into the warm night and walked through the car park. He could smell chips from the van that was always outside the big pub on the corner. But he didn't feel hungry. He looked up at the moon, two days to go until it was full, still as beautiful as it had been when he was a kid, when it had followed him home down the lane, on nights so dark he could feel the blackness touching his face.     She was out there, somewhere, under the gray-blue light. Mary Mitchell, aged twenty. Black hair, blue eyes, slim build. When last seen she was wearing a black T-shirt, a red suede miniskirt, and a black denim jacket. Speaks with a New Zealand accent.     He started up the engine and drove slowly out of the car park onto the main road. Forget about it, he told himself. There's nothing you can do. And he sighed. Deeply. A long sigh of regret. Chapter Two You could say it began with a phone call, but which call was it? The one she had just made to the Garda station or the other one, four months ago, dragging her out of her sleep, the red numbers on the alarm clock showing 01:02? She had put out her hand automatically, the years of being on call still dictating to the tendons and ligaments of her arm, the nerve-endings in her fingers. She picked up the receiver, the hard plastic cold against her ear. She stated her number. Her voice was steady, matter-of-fact, all traces of sleep gone. There had been a pause, and then the hiss like the sound of the sea from the inside of a shell. And the voice, querulous, but unmistakable.     The same voice called to her now. "Margaret. Come here. I need you."     She put down the receiver. She looked at herself in the dusty gilt mirror, still hanging as always above the small table in the hall. She shook her hair loose from its wooden clasp, smoothed it down with both hands, then clicked it neatly back into place. She wiped away an imaginary smudge from the fine lines between her eyebrows. She tried to smile at the reflection before her, but her mouth trembled and the bright shine from her eyes hinted at the tears that lay just beneath the surface.     "Margaret." Again the voice, louder. She turned away from the mirror and walked into the large square room to the right just off the hall. A woman sat in a rocking chair beside a high wooden bed. She was tiny, her body shrunk inside the red silk dressing gown, which was tied around her waist. Her fine white hair stood up around her heart-shaped face. She was rocking relentlessly, her slippered feet arched against the floor, the chair's wooden runners drumming loudly through the silent house.     Margaret walked to the large bay window. She looked out at the sea. High up, to the east, the moon turned its shining face toward the earth. Low down near the horizon Venus flickered. She leaned her head against the glass. Behind her, the voice continued. A series of complaints. I have a pain in my back. Why don't the pills work? When is my nice doctor coming? I don't like the nurse from the hospice. I'm not dying. Why does she have to visit me? Can't you do something? That was why I asked you to come home. To help me. I thought you'd help me .     She turned away from the dark night. She leaned against the windowsill and looked around her. When she was a child this had been their sitting room, bright and pretty, with pale yellow wallpaper and flowered curtains to match. Now it was her mother's sanctuary and lair. Newspapers were piled in tottering stacks. Cardboard boxes covered most of the floor. She had tried a couple of times to tidy them away, but her mother had snapped and snarled, so now she left everything as she found it.     Pushed into the corner was the bed her parents had once shared. It was covered with the same pink eiderdown, faded now and lumpy, the goosedown settled in clumps beneath the tattered satin. She remembered the smell of that bed. Her mother's perfume--Ma Griffe, wasn't it?--and her father's hair oil, and another smell that she only came to name many years later. She had crept into it on nights when the east wind banged against the windows and monsters from the sea threatened to rise up and invade the shore. She had slipped her cold body up against her father's warmth, curving into him, making herself as small as possible. Always against him. Never against her mother. She would have sat up, switched on the bedside lamp and told her not to be silly, to get right back to her own bed, not to be waking them up at this ungodly hour. But he just wrapped his arms around her, his breath on her face.     "Where's John? Why isn't he here? Why won't you let him in?"     Dead and gone, my beloved father.     "You're not listening to me, are you?"     "What?"     "I told you. The pain. It's bad." Tears slipped down her wrinkled face, and a thin sound, like that of an injured kitten, came from her mouth. Still she rocked, backward and forward, her tiny hands holding tight to the arms of the chair. Margaret felt the same sound welling up in her own throat. She stood up and took one last look at the moon. Then she pulled down the blinds and shut out the night. Copyright © 1998 Julie Parsons. All rights reserved.