Book review: A Man With One of Those Faces

When one hears the words “international crime thriller”, I’d imagine the reaction would be to immediately respond with either “Stieg Larsson” or the “Dragon Tattoo series”. However, while this series is one of the better known international series, I’d like to give attention to a hilarious, well written, sometimes dark debut novel from Irish writer Caimh McDonnell. Naturally, the Irish sense of humor is prevalent, and I think that it gives extra credence to an already strong book. If you want a book that, as the Irish themselves say, (lovably) takes the piss out of the crime genre, this is the one for you!

The tagline of the novel grabs your attention from the get-go with, “The first time somebody tried to kill him was an accident. The second time was deliberate.” Naturally, that sets the bar very high for what you’re about to read. Don’t worry, you’re in for you a rollicking good time.  The plot hinges around a lovable loser named Paul who happens to find himself stuck in the murky world of the Irish underworld, thanks to having “one of those faces.” Along the way, an abundance of colorfully believable and lively characters offer their own unique sense of dysfunction to an already chaotic situation. For me, the best part was thinking, “Oh yeah, I know someone like that” every time a new character popped in. That right there is a sign of a good book when you instantly feel that connection. For me as well, because I’ve visited the Emerald Isle, McDonnell’s portrayal of Ireland felt even more realistic; perhaps that’s the true strength of the book.

As far as the book goes, it is the first in a trilogy. However, McDonnell himself has said that there will be no cliffhangers, so you can be content in knowing that the last page won’t induce rage.  Thus, the pacing unfolds at a pleasant rate-there’s no unnecessary chit chat or exposition. Not that you’d put the book down anyways, but the refreshingly low amount of cliches plus the usage of certain tropes helps keeps things turning on track. A certain amount of mania is intermittently sprinkled in at times, allowing the black humor to thrive. The zaniness is that good! This should come as no surprise, since Mr. McDonnell has worked professionally as a writer, comedian, and a commentator for the rugby club London Irish. Honestly, it’s hard to believe that this is his first book since it’s incredibly polished and riveting.

Upon reading the very last word, it sucked knowing that the shenanigans of a puckish rogue and his ensemble were over. Sure, the conclusion was surprisingly poignant (there’s a massive wham line involved), but true to fashion, the madness quickly overran it. All of this serves to whet my appetite for the rest of the trilogy, and I cannot wait to see the extent of Paul’s further misadventures!


Available on Amazon for $11.99 in paperback, $4.99 on the Kindle.


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