Written by Caimh McDonnell — It was during New Talent November last year that we first met Paul Mulchrone, the failed ‘granny whisperer’ and all-around trouble magnet in Caimh McDonnell’s debut novel A Man With One of Those Faces. Now Paul is back, and, yes, he’s in trouble again.
He’s teamed up with former nurse Brigid Conroy and former Garda Detective Sergeant Bunny McGarry to set up MCM Investigations. Well, that’s the plan anyway, but as Paul is the only person to turn up to their meeting with the Private Services Authority, it all hangs in the balance. The problem is that Brigid isn’t talking to him after a drunken one-night-stand with another woman put paid to their fledgling romance. And Bunny? Well, he’s missing.
It isn’t all bad news though, because Paul has a new sidekick, Maggie, the retired police dog. And – surprise, surprise – he has a client! In true Raymond Chandler fashion, she is a breathy, beautiful, buxom blonde, with the promise of €1000 upfront and a further €4000 if MCM Investigations can find out whether the man she is having an affair with is also still having sex with his wife. Yes – that is their brief!
It’s all very iffy, but Paul is living in his office and penniless so any misgivings he might have are of little importance. The man he is meant to follow is Jerome Hartigan, who has been in the headlines recently as a member of the Skylark Three, taken to court for embezzling huge amounts of money in a development that went belly-up at about the same time as the Celtic Tiger breathed its last.
The trio of developers got off on a technicality and now one of them is dead, murdered in most gruesome fashion. Then the former chairman of the Dublin City Council planning committee is killed too, and Paul begins to doubt the wisdom of taking on this case at all. You’ll need to keep your wits about you as myriad plotlines converge and diverge – so much so, that occasionally it feels like things are running out of control.
The action skips back and forth between 2000 and the summer of 2016, and while Bunny is missing in the present, he is centre stage in what is playing out at the turn of the century. There are plans afoot to build on his beloved St Jude’s hurling ground, and he’s having none of it. Being Bunny, his actions are somewhat unpredictable and, shall we say, unorthodox. They’re also extremely funny, and McDonnell will have you laughing out loud as the farcical situations and one-liners line up like buses at the terminus. The author has won awards for his stand-up comedy and his sense of the ridiculous translates brilliantly into crime fiction. Sure, there’s still plenty of gory detail, but it is tempered with a humour that keeps things rollicking along nicely.
McDonnell also has the inside line on creating believable settings. He obviously knows Dublin well, and the city leaps off the page. Best of all, though, is the cast of ne’er-do-wells that populate this book. Paul, Brigid and Bunny are joined by such gems as Laboutin-wearing Detective Superintendent Susan Burns, Detective Donnacha ‘Chucker’ Wilson, Paul’s oldest friend and partner in investigation Phil Nellist and last but never least, the wonderful Maggie – my favourite canine character since another German Shepherd, also called Maggie, made me cry in Robert Crais’ Suspect. The latest Maggie also had me wiping away tears, but this time they were of laughter.
Book three in this distinctly Irish trilogy is in the pipeline and I’m dying to see how things work out for our terrible trio.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars