Friday, June 10, 2011

Review of Plugged by Eoin Colfer (Headline, 2011)

Danny McEvoy is an ex-Irish Army sergeant that has served as a peacekeeper in Lebanon who, since leaving the army after a stint with psychiatrist due to his compulsion to embrace dangerous situations and protect people and a gambling addiction, has drifted through a series of doorman jobs. He now works the door at a seedy New Jersey casino owned by Victor Jones, a ruthless, callous boss. Danny looks after his fellow casino workers, worries about his hair loss, argues through the ceiling with his psychotic neighbour, and hangs around with dodgy doctor, Zeb Kronski, plastic surgeon to the desperate. His world is turned upside down over the course of twenty four hours. First, a smartarse lawyer licks his sometime-girlfriend, casino hostess, Connie, arguing licking is not touching. Then when he visits Zeb’s unofficial surgery it is in the process of being searched. Shortly after the right-hand man of an Irish mobster is dead and so is Connie. The police think that Danny killed Connie and Danny needs to find Zeb – who else is going to finish his hair transplant? Cue race against time and general confusion and mayhem.

I liked Plugged a lot. There’s plenty to like - a zip along plot; lots of action; plenty of twists and turns; some very funny scenes; a healthy dose of witty one liners; and a load of colourful characters. It reads like a movie script for a Jason Statham or Vin Diesel vehicle. In many ways, it kind of reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and Chris Grabenstein’s John Ceepak series. And like the Plum and Ceepak novels, it’s set in New Jersey. After Florida, New Jersey is clearly the place for comic crime capers, especially those involving the Mob. Where I had some difficulties was with the main character, Danny McEvoy. McEvoy is clearly meant to be hiding from the past, drifting along in a dead end job, living in a crappy apartment below a psychotic neighbour, in a nothing town, with no love life beyond the occasional tumble with a hostess, and no friends beyond a very dodgy doctor. And yet Danny does not come across as being the kind of guy who has no friends, barely any love life, and puts up with living in a crappy unit with mad neighbours – he’s too together, too self-reflexive, too resourceful and too nice. Something didn’t quite add up, despite his history with an army therapist. Clearly as a comic crime caper the plot is hardly believable, and its choched full of larger-than-life characters and cliches, but there has to be some ring of truth. Danny's backstory in Lebanon has that, but not quite the frontstory. This is not a deal breaker, just a niggle; as noted above there is plenty to like about the book. Indeed, Plugged is a very assured move into adult crime fiction by an author who has sold a bazillion kids books and is recommended to all those who like their comic crime capers with a healthy dose of violence and mayhem.

2 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Thanks, as ever, for this review. Funny you'd mention your questions about Danny. I admit I haven't read the book, but just from your description, I wondered the same things...

Bernadette said...

How true that the comic crime capers seem to gravitate to New Jersey...and Florida too. Now wondering why that is.

Am going to read this one, thanks for the review