Monday, October 13, 2008

The Big O - Declan Burke

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!


Serena October 13, 2008 at 8:08 PM  

Can I just point out that this is one of the books I would choose simply by the cover!

Corey Wilde October 13, 2008 at 8:13 PM  

Grrrrr... If I don't get my copy of this book soon you may have to go my bail, Jen, for pistol-whipping the bookstore personnel!

Jen October 13, 2008 at 8:24 PM  

Go ahead, Corey, you can use your one phone call to call me. I'll come bail you'll just have to wait a short while for me to get there - or can I just wire the money? :) You do realize that if we'd have gotten our butts to Bouchercon we could have seen Burke and Bruen together on a panel??

Declan Burke October 14, 2008 at 1:51 AM  

Thanking you for the kind words, ma'am ... I'm delighted you liked the book. As for the 'coincidences' - well, a crime novel called The Big O will always have its tongue firmly stuck in its cheek! Cheers, Dec

beauvallet October 16, 2008 at 5:53 PM  

Oh, lud, it's da man himself, Big D!

I'm with Corey, if my book isn't here soon, someone (probably some innocent soul) is going to feel my wrath. And it's so unbecoming when my nostrils flare!

Corey Wilde October 19, 2008 at 12:05 PM  

Burke and Bruen together on a panel? Jen, Jen, would I have had enough aspirin for ensuing hangover?

Corey Wilde November 10, 2008 at 9:34 AM  

Jen, I have to ask: Did you not fall out of your chair, laughing, when you read, "Call me...Israel?"
I did that terrible thing, snorted, when I laughed. Really caught me offguard, that line did.

Jen November 10, 2008 at 6:20 PM  

Yes, Corey that was an especially great line in the book. There were quite a few times I ended up with pains in my side from laughing. And so much of it is very subtle and smooth so if you're doing the "quick read" thing you might chance to miss it. If you miss the Isreal line, though, you're reading WAY too fast. Like my dogs when they get a biscuit...they don't even taste it. Slow down - ENJOY it! :)

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