I’ve never had a run-in with anyone in the Irish mob, but if I did, I hope it would be 1/3 as funny as Caihm McDonnell makes it appear in his book A Man with One of Those Faces. In the opening pages, a young man fulfilling the community service quota required by his aunt’s will in order to receive a monthly stipend is brutally attacked by a nursing home patient. The nurse who requested he stop in to visit the patient accompanies him to the hospital and travels with him as the rest of the unusual premise of the book plays out, much to the delight of at least this reader.
Paul, the protagonist of the story, is in his late 20s and doing his best to live on a meager monthly inheritance left by a bitter family member that he despised. Should he get a job (or get in trouble with the law) the checks will stop, and he is intent on dwindling the account down to zero. You know, for spite. As you can guess from the title, Paul is a nondescript kind of fellow. That makes it easy for him to visit with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients without them realizing that he is not one of their favorite family members. He had a deal with Nurse Brigit at one of the long-term care facilities he frequented to meet with the patients that did not have visitors in order to cheer them up. It all went swimmingly until he was brutally attacked by a patient who, after his death, turned out to be a famous gangster who the authorities believed had died decades before.
After Paul learned that it was truly a case of mistaken identity that caused his near-death experience, he had another near-death experience. This one was actually targeted. As he goes on the run with Brigit, who keeps them alive using her knowledge of criminal investigations that she learned from American TV shows, we meet an array of characters (and boy are they characters!) involved in law enforcement, the legal system, and the Irish mob. There is Detective Sergeant Bunny McGarry, who is a washed up drunk with a few tricks up his sleeve, Detective Inspector Jimmy Stewart, who is counting the hours until his retirement and whose every action follows the letter of the law, and Detective Wilson, a book smart rookie with zero street smarts for whom Stewart is responsible during his last few shifts.
What a strange, hilarious, and twisted story. The accents are very entertaining as written, and I found myself looking up certain Irish phrases (though I could use my imagination to draw conclusions about what many of the words meant). I absolutely loved the fast pace, the observational humor of our protagonist, and the way every single character is treated as an important piece of the puzzle. The book isn’t ground-breaking but it sure is solid, fast-paced, and worth the time it takes to read. I laughed out loud in points, and even highlighted some of the astute remarks on life made by the characters as they were trying to stay alive and solve the case. All in all, a very satisfying read.