“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Embiggened O # 31,709: In Which Modesty Suffers The Latest Of Its Death By A Thousand Cuts

Given the week that’s in it, with our humble tome THE BIG O touching down on the North American landmass, I hope you’ll forgive me if I foist yet another review onto your tender sensibilities. This one comes courtesy of Marilyn Dahl at Shelf Awareness, and runs thusly:
Needing to deal with pre-election agita, I’ve been self-medicating with a lot of mysteries and thrillers (along with pinot noir, Tim’s black pepper potato chips and prayer). The books have been uniformly good, and some have been outstanding, like THE BIG O by Irish writer Declan Burke. If you are a Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard fan, don’t miss this dark, wacky story of bad people plotting bad things.
  THE BIG O begins with a bang: Karen hits up a convenience store and nearly shoots Ray, who’s there just to get a strawberry Cornetto from the freezer case. Naturally this leads to drinks, followed by lust and a wary meeting of minds. Rounding out the cast is Frank, an almost-disbarred plastic surgeon (his lawyer, explaining to Frank the spot of trouble he’s in: “That malpractice suit isn’t going away ... even if you had it in writing, how that poor woman explicitly asked to look like Bob Mitchum, the jury’d take one look at the eyelids and--”); Frank’s ex-wife Madge, who’s also Karen’s best friend; his current amour Genevieve, a shopaholic, withholding bimbo; and Karen’s ex, Rossi, freshly out of prison, working on a con (a charity for ex-cons) and looking for his $60,000 from a previous job and the Ducati he thinks Karen has. Rossi styles himself after Cagney and starts his first week of freedom by ripping off an Oxfam store for a pinstripe suit with pink stripes, a red shirt, striped suspenders and a bottle-green tie (“Never in fashion, always in style,” he says). Then there is Doyle, the cop who has a tough day trying to decide how to file her case-load—“alphabetically, chronologically or by stench”; and Anna, Karen’s beloved one-eyed Siberian wolf. As for the plot, Ray happens to be a professional kidnapper, and Frank happens to want his ex-wife kidnapped to collect insurance money.
  Burke’s dialogue is spot on, as are his characters, even minor players like the Chinese storeowner in the initial hold-up who checks the time as he hands over the money, muttering he’s just about to close, get on with it. Nobody can whimper like Frank (MASH’s Maj. Burns comes to mind), especially after he hits the bourbon five or six times. Rossi is a nasty scumbag--why did Karen take up with him?--but he’s hilarious in his attempts to articulate his world view. This is a biting, wickedly funny noir farce that builds to a knock-out ending. – Marilyn Dahl

  Shelf Talker: A dark and crazy noir thriller about bad people plotting bad things, usually ineptly, often hilariously.
  The Big Question: Should I cop myself on, grow a beard and stop posting these reviews? Hit me where it hurts, people …

9 comments:

Gerard Brennan said...

Grow the beard, but keep the reviews coming. You know you want to.

gb

Mack said...

I'm with GB, keep posting the reviews. You put in the hard work, reap the rewards.

Don't know about the beard, though. You could start with a soul patch and go from there. Being a bearded person myself I'm always ready to welcome someone to the ranks if it's right for them. Check out http://www.beards.org/styles.php for ideas.

Declan Burke said...

I like John McFetridge's beard. I might come back from this Bouchercon road-trip with a goatee. Cheers, Dec

Anonymous said...

Lilyput may want some input on that facial hair thing. Just so ya know.

Conduit said...

Every man should have a beard at least once in his life. Down with razors!

Anonymous said...

Pearls of wisdom:

"The male beard communicates an heroic image of the independent, sturdy, and resourceful pioneer, ready, willing and able to do manly things."

"inside every clean-shaven man there is a beard screaming to be let out."

bookwitch said...

Not a goatee!

bookwitch said...

Btw, that was one of the best reviews of that book of yours that I've read.

(I've just woken up. I'll take one thing at a time...)

Declan Burke said...

Okay, no goatee ... maybe a handlebar moustache. Cheers, Dec