Book Review: Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder by Kerryn Mayne

Kerryn Mayne’s debut novel Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder is a rollicking good read.

Thirty-seven year old Lenny Marks spends her days teaching at the local primary school and her evenings playing Scrabble with her imaginary housemate, watching reruns of Friends, or organising her thirty-six copies of The Hobbit.

Lenny tries not to think about the day her mum left. She likes order, routine, certainty and predictability, and uses anagrams to calm her anxieties and shut down uncomfortable thoughts. Her beloved foster-mum thinks she needs to expand and ‘get a life’.

She found tremendous peace in this level of organisation, which was as close to happiness as Lenny Marks ever planned to be. Happiness, she knew, was unstable and quite unreliable. And Lenny was neither of those things. Instead she lived for the contentment of a routine, which had served her quite well up to and into her thirty-seventh year.

A mysterious envelope addressed to Lenny from the Adult Parole Board is delivered to the school and despite her best efforts to ignore the problem, it won’t go away. Soon her world begins to unravel as Lenny starts to remember the long buried truth about her childhood.

It all revolves around her stepfather’s parting words, ‘You did this.’

No one would notice Lenny Mark’s absence in their life. She likened herself to the word on the tip of your tongue that you can’t quite recall. It’s there, only it won’t come to mind and it is of no consequence if it doesn’t. She was the reason you walked back into a room, thinking you’d forgotten something, only you didn’t remember what it was because it had never been that important. Lenny was a shadow.

The character of Lenny reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant or a young female more reticent Don Tillman (The Rosie Project) – forthright, earnest, intelligent but extremely awkward when it comes to personal relationships. Her story is one of darkness and light told with humour, suspense, and a few great twists.

Lenny Marks Gets Away with Murder is heartwarming and heartbreaking, a page-turning story about loss, grief, abandonment, coming to terms with our past, learning to trust and finding the friendships and life we deserve.

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