Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Review of The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey (2015, Riverhead Books)

Paddy Buckley has followed in his father’s footsteps and works in the funeral trade in Dublin.  Still mourning the death two year’s previously of his pregnant wife he’s been moving through life in somewhat of a daze.  Then on a single day his world is turned on its head once more.  First, he ends up in bed with an attractive grieving widow, who then promptly drops dead.  Then he meets her beautiful daughter and once again loses his heart.  Then he ploughs into and kills the brother of Vincent Cullen, head of one of Dublin’s most ruthless criminal gangs.  Realising who the victim is, he speeds off into the night.  The next morning he’s assigned the job of organizing Donal Cullen’s funeral.  It’s bad enough that he’s having to look after the funeral of a woman who died in his arms, but now he’s surrounded by thugs who are actively searching for him.  With a bit of luck he’ll manage to pull through, but with his present run of luck that seems doubtful.

In this debut novel, Jeremy Massey tells a farce about an undertaker who has the task of arranging two funerals for people whom he has accidentally killed.  Beyond what the law might think, the catch with one is that he is falling in love with the victim’s daughter, the catch with the other is that the victim is the brother of the head of a major Dublin criminal gang.  Just as Paddy Buckley is given the hope of a new relationship after mourning the death of this pregnant wife, the ground is pulled from under him and it looks like it might be a struggle to survive the week.  The tale is quite nicely told, with Massey carefully arranging the setup, and then spinning out the aftermath as Buckley tries to manage the fallout.  However, while it’s entertaining enough, the plotting felt a little over-contrived, the telling felt a little flat, lacking both tension and humour, and I didn’t really connect with the Buckley as a character.  That’s not to say that I didn’t like the book, just that I wasn’t bowled over by it.  Overall, a story with a really great hook that didn’t quite live up to its promise, but nonetheless was an interesting read.

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