When Karen the armed robber runs into Ray the kidnapper in the midst of a hold-up, sparks start to fly. However, Karen comes with some rather serious baggage - an ex about to be released from prison and Anna.
Ray is not without his problems. It just so happens that he's been hired to kidnap Karen's best friend, Madge. It also isn't such a good thing when police detective Stephanie Doyle takes a shine to Ray and starts giving him more attention than he'd like. Stephanie Doyle is investigating Frank, Madge's soon-to-be ex-husband, for illegal distribution of prescription drugs. Frank just so happens to be the one who hired Ray to kidnap Madge so he could con the insurance company out of the ransom money.
And if that circle of "just so happens" isn't dizzying enough for you, Karen's ex - the one being released from prison - throws another ball into the air for Burke to juggle. And juggle them he does!
If someone had given me a summary of this novel as enticement to read it, I probably wouldn't have given it much thought. But once I picked it up, I was hooked! Characters who normally wouldn't interest me, had me turning pages to find out just what craziness was going to happen next. It was a constant comedy of errors.
Throughout the book I couldn't help but hear "It's a Small World" humming in my head. Everyone is intertwined to everyone else in some rather strange coincidences. But the coincidences simply add to the humor. If I was asked to describe this book, I might say, "if you crossed the land of the misfit toys with Desperate Housewives, you might come close to this crew!" Some people with far too much money and time on their hands crossed with the societal outcasts...all of them misfits in their own ways, and everyone wanting what they don't have. No one is happy with what they do have.
Burke's juggling act in this plot is really genius. How he makes everything somehow link together is amazing. I kept picturing the flow chart he had to have while he was writing to make sure there were no loose ends. But the genius is actually in the way he leads you by the nose right up to the end. I was following, following, following: "oh, of course that's what's gonna happen next!" Then bam! I was blindsided by the final "coincidence." Didn't see it coming at all, but I was grinning from ear to ear when it was revealed.
I have to say that this was one of the rare plot-driven books that really kept me entranced. I wasn't especially fond of the characters, save Anna. They were crass, some were overly spoiled, others were career criminals. They were all smoking pot so often I was getting high just reading the book. But, I had to find out how everything was going to play out in the end. I felt exactly the same way about The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie.
If you're looking for something deep and realistic, you'll have to look elsewhere. The Big O is funny, at times ridiculous or even absurd, and just plain entertaining. It's a fun book; enjoy it - don't look for enlightenment!