The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh
Almost a decade after a tragic accident, Maeve Leahy is still trying to come to terms with what happened between her and her identical twin sister, Moira. When a Javanese knife, called a Kris, comes into Maeve's life, its mystery and magic bring these past events to the fore.
After reading Walsh's novel, "Moon Sisters," I noticed that it was her second book. Not long afterwards, this debut novel went on special sale on Amazon, and I decided to buy it. Now that I've read both books, it seems that Walsh likes the theme of sisters and their relationships. Whereas in Moon Sisters, the two girls were of different ages, here we have twins, but the connections between them are equally as strong, with equal amounts of highlights and conflicts between them. The most striking difference between these books is the vehicles that Walsh uses to further these stories. In Moon Sisters, Olivia's Synesthesia plays a large part in the story. Here, however, we have the magical realism (or perhaps I should call it mystical realism) of the power behind the Kris. Mind you, the mixing up of the senses that Synesthesia causes is somewhat similar to the unexplained effects that the Kris has on Maeve. On the other hand, the Synesthesia allowed for far more poetry in Walsh's prose than this book included.
Walsh's style here was somewhat less developed here than in her second book, you can still see her talent for drawing images with words was already well in play. As for her plot development, there were many elements used to further the story. We had chapters of Maeve and Moira as young girls, to deepen our understanding of them and their relationship. For the present day story, Walsh introduces us to I felt that Walsh used the Kris somewhat unevenly, although this wasn't very problematic. What I mean by this is that Walsh uses the Kris as a vehicle in the present, mostly to point up the relationship between Maeve and Moira, which worked fine. However, during the parts where the book goes back to when Maeve and Moira are young, the event that involved a similar knife back then seemed insignificant, by comparison. This is probably because the Kris wasn't part of the major incident between the twins. Furthermore, Maeve's relationship with Noel, who meets her in Rome to find the author of the anonymous notes about the Kris, has another angle to it besides romance. This complicates things with the plot, but not enough to make it too difficult to follow.
The complexities of the plot, and the weaknesses I found there, are the main reasons why I can't give five stars to this book. The other reason is that I also felt that the character development was a touch on the thin side. Yes, all of the main characters were sympathetic, and Walsh gave us good amounts of information in their back-stories to help us understand their motivations behind their actions. However, they didn't really come alive for me, and I had a hard time picturing them fully in my imagination. This is where Walsh's second novel is more successful, but more importantly, where we can see how she's progressed and improved as a writer.
In short, although this novel isn't perfect, I did enjoy it. Most particularly, I found the story to be compelling, and I liked how the narrative flipped between Moira in the chapters describing their youth, and Maeve during the present day sections. I appreciated the research into the Kris, and that Walsh didn't overwhelm us with boring facts, but allowed the history to seep into the story, and thereby enrich both the book and its readers. I also think that the title of this book has a deeper meaning than the obvious, and I always appreciate that (especially since I also like to pique readers' interest through mysterious titles). For all this, I think that three and a half stars out of five is the right rating for this book, and I can certainly recommend it.
"The Last Will of Moira Leahy" by Therese Walsh is available from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, new or used from Alibris or Better World Books as well as from an IndieBound store near you.