Written by Rob Kitchin — Grant, a new arrival from England to Dublin, and his wheelchair-bound companion, Mary have a problem. Grant’s flatmate, Sinead, has gone missing from the house they share, only a bloody severed finger left in her place. There’s also a note addressed to Pat which says Sinead has been kidnapped, she’ll be released once ‘the package’ has been returned. Any delay in doing so will cost Sinead more fingers and going to the authorities will cost her life. The problem is neither Grant nor Mary has the slightest clue as to what the package may be.
The only Pat that Grant can think of is Sinead’s brother. He’s gay and lives in the city. Unfortunately when they visit his flat he’s not there. Pat has a tendency to disappear for weeks on end and it seems this is another of those occasions. All of which is having a rather dramatic impact on the number of fingers in Sinead’s possession. Grant and Mary delve into Pat’s lifestyle, cruising his usual haunts to find him. Unfortunately, one of the people they visit winds up dead very soon afterwards, and the police start to look for the pair.
Thrown into the mix is the fact that it’s election time in Ireland. An ambitious politician who’s seeking to regain his seat has a secret to protect and he’ll seemingly do anything to protect it…
Stumped comes with several high recommendations from authors well known in their fields – Gerard Brennan, Anonymous-9 and Paul D Brazill, which says a lot about this novel. It is openly described as screwball noir, which brings with it a certain style. Stumped is very well written, the story well constructed and connected and told from several perspectives. The characters are generally strong and developed to varying degrees, particularly the main protagonists Mary and Grant, along with Declan, a gay man who’s been connected with Pat and helps them in their quest. There isn’t a single uninteresting character within and most have a part to play. McGerrity, the cop who eventually gets onto Grant and Mary’s trail, is one who doesn’t feature enough. More of him in the future, please.
The pace is high, the plot fairly skipping along, moving from Dublin to Manchester and back again. There’s plenty of black comedy within, which is largely enjoyable and amusing without being laugh out loud. It’s this screwball element that detracts somewhat from the enjoyment and a degree of the style. An example of the latter is broken dialogue. The use of ellipses… regularly in speech… leads to jittery narrative. One aspect to note is the cover design which is quirky and eye catching, as all of them from this publisher appear to be.
All in all a decent read that made this reviewer want to pick up another book by this author based on the promise within.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars