Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Big OThe Big O by Declan Burke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Declan Burke's "The Big O", a comedic mystery, happens to be very funny. It is a hard-to-put-away book, and a pleasant, easy read, with zero depth, but quite well-written.

We meet Karen, a stick-up woman, and Ray, a professional kidnapper. They are the protagonists in the plot, with Frank, a plastic surgeon, his soon-to-be ex-wife, Madge, a career criminal, Rossi, and Doyle, a policewoman, being the remaining central characters. There is also the mysterious Anna. Frank and his lawyer concoct a scheme to have Madge kidnapped to get a big insurance payoff. Through cunning, coincidence, or sheer stupidity, all characters have their own take on the scheme, and participate in it one way or the other.

Mr. Hughes seems intent on having each character connected in some way to every other character. Coincidences galore. Obviously, this is implausible, but in some strange way it makes the novel funny. Unlike most mysteries and thrillers, "The Big O" manages to maintain the pace and tension of the plot from the beginning to the end.

What mostly bothers me about the book is that it was not until page 67, where I read the phrase "off-licence", that I realized the plot does not take place in the U.S., but rather in Ireland. Aside from this single phrase, there is nothing that localizes the plot in any particular country or place. While some readers may find it interesting, to me it is a bit jarring. On the other hand, I really like the writing and several passages (for instance, about a good exercise for wrists or about not coming up for air for fourteen minutes) made me laugh hard. This is a perfect book to read when one wants to pleasantly spend time, without having to think much.

Three stars.

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