Colfer, Eoin - 'Plugged'
When I arrive, Marco is trying to hold this guy away from Connie, which is probably more for the guy's safety than he realises. I once saw Connie deck a college footballer with her serving tray. Guy's face was in the metal, like a cartoon.
Daniel McEvoy, Irish expatriate and ex-soldier, is working the door of Slotz, a New Jersey casino, when he is called inside to cool a dispute between a customer and waitress. The waitress Connie has slapped a customer who had taken advantage of her leaning forward to serve a table and licked her bottom. The customer, an obnoxious attorney, is now threatening to sue the casino for Connie's slap. But Daniel knows the score and when the offensive troublemaker taps him on the forehead - a forehead that Daniel protects fiercely because of a recent hair transplant - Daniel also claims an "assault". Knowing that the game is up, the attorney backs off with much bad humour and throws compensatory dollar bills around before leaving the club. The next morning, Daniel visits the surgery of his old wartime colleague, Dr Zeb Kronski, for his regular transplant check. Their paths had crossed during one of McEvoy's tours of duty as a UN Peacekeeper in the Lebanon. Many years later Kronski surfaced again in New York. Now Kronski is running a quack office in a strip-mall in the same New Jersey town as McEvoy's club. There is a closed sign on the office door but Daniel has a key and lets himself in. Still, there is no Zeb to greet him. Instead McEvoy finds himself in conversation with a man that he recognises as one of the local crime bosses' soldiers, a guy nicknamed "The Crab" because of his trademark sideways shuffle just before he closes in with his knife. All is going OK with the conversation until Daniel spots the sideways shuffle. In a moment Daniel has sidestepped the knife, his key is buried in the guy's neck, and the guy is on the floor bleeding to death. Bad enough for Daniel, with Kronski missing and a dead gangster to dispose of, now events darken further. Back at the casino car park Daniel finds the lovely Connie - dead.
PLUGGED is Irish writer Eoin Colfer's first foray into adult crime fiction. Already a successful author of young adult fiction, in particular the Artemis Fowl series, Colfer has dedicated PLUGGED to fellow Irish crime writer Ken Bruen who, says Colfer, "made me do it." You probably can't get active encouragement from a better source and the result is a tough, fast-moving, dark and witty thriller in which McEvoy battles to find out who killed Connie whilst also searching for his missing hair-doctor friend, Zeb Kronski. Not that his friend Zeb is exactly missing from the action. He has invaded Daniel's subconscious and provides a running commentary that ranges from philosophy to wisecrack, not forgetting continuous reminders that Daniel find him before he, Kronski, is truly dead. Their shared wartime background injects a flavour of Catch 22 into McEvoy's reminiscences, and the backchat between Daniel and his interior "Zeb" smacks strongly of the dark humour of the TV series M.A.S.H.. The novel is filled with a selection of vividly drawn characters: the obnoxious attorney with a bad line in 1970s fashion, a menacing Irish American crime boss, McEvoy's unhinged blonde landlady who turns into a Madonna of the Lasagne, even his army psychiatrist; they all add to the richness and humour of PLUGGED. This may be Colfer's first adult thriller but there is enough experience of writing successful books for Colfer to retain control of his story. The dark realism amongst the humour grounds the book. He arms McEvoy with strategies for psychological survival despite the rapid and sometimes random-seeming violence. After fatally wounding an attacker Daniel makes himself sit and watch the man die "because that way it means something". Incidents like this turn the story from gag-a-minute entertainment to hard-boiled thriller. I greatly enjoyed PLUGGED and sincerely hope to read more of McEvoy and his interior companions in the not too distant future.
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Lynn Harvey, England