Written by Caimh McDonnell — What a cover, and what a title for this debut crime novel, written by a man with one of those names which prompted debate at Crime Fiction Lover – how to pronounce it? The camps were split – Keeve or Sheeve? A check with the publisher revealed both were wrong… It’s Qweeve!
Whatever the pronunciation, this is a name to watch in the world of crime writing. It may be familiar in other ways though, because Caimh McDonnell is an award-winning stand-up comedian, author and TV writer whose credits include The Sarah Millican Television Programme, A League of Their Own, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You. He also works as a children’s TV writer and was BAFTA-nominated for the animated series Pet Squad, which he created.
He has certainly put that comedy writing experience to good use here, because A Man with One of Those Faces is a very funny read, liberally scattered with one liners and black humour that will have you laughing out loud.
Meet Paul Mulchrone. He may not be much to look at, but his life is… shall we say… complicated. When first we meet Paul, he is visiting an elderly relative at St Kilda’s Hospice in Dublin. She is confused and keeps mistaking him for someone else, but Paul takes the slight in his stride. After all, he isn’t who she thinks he is – in fact, they don’t actually know each other at all.
You see, Paul is a ‘granny whisperer’, and he spends six hours each week with confused old folk who have no family and friends to visit them. All well and good, until one terminally ill old man tries to kill the good samaritan, putting Paul in hospital before promptly dying himself.
Martin Brown had come to the hospice to die, though probably not in such dramatic fashion. A simple enough tale, until Nurse Brigit Conroy, who feels bad about asking Paul to stop in and see Martin, discovers her patient’s real identity. He was none other than Grinner McNair, a man involved in one of the greatest unsolved crimes in Irish history, when a rich young wife disappeared, apparently running off with one of her kidnappers, never to be seen again. But hold on – McNair died 30 years ago, didn’t he?
Suddenly Paul, a man who has made being anonymous his life’s work, is the centre of attention, not least with An Garda Siochana. And things become even more complicated when a guilt-ridden Brigit insists on helping him out of his predicament. After all, she’s an expert in legal matters and has learned everything she knows from cop dramas on the telly… and crime novels, of course. What could possibly go wrong?
A second attempt on Paul’s life sees the pair on the run, but who can they trust? When your only ally is alcoholic, hurling stick wielding renegade Detective Sergeant Bunny McGarry, then you’re in Trouble with a capital T.
Bunny McGarry is a stand out in a cast jam-packed with grotesques and eccentrics in a crime caper worthy of the old Ealing Comedies, mixed with the darker, more modern humour of the likes of Paul D Brazill and Keith Nixon. It’s well plotted too and had me guessing right until the final few chapters – although the final reveal proved a little disappointing after all the shenigans that went before it.
A second book featuring the unholy trinity of Paul, Brigit and Bunny is promised – sounds like good news to me!
CFL Rating: 4 Stars