Have you ever stumbled across a novel that contains such an implausible plot and a vague setting—and it doesn’t even allow you to feel for any of the characters? Believe it or not, I did—and I ate it up. Irish writer Declan Burke has managed to get away with breaking all of the rules with his fun comedic thriller, The Big O.
The action takes place in a period of just one week. Frank, a disgraced plastic surgeon, is losing tons of money each day. Not only is he suspended from practicing medicine due to a botched surgical procedure, but his daughters and soon-to-be ex-wife, Margaret, are also costing him thousands by the minute. His extravagant young girlfriend, Gen, isn’t helping the situation, either.
An ill-conceived plan to take out kidnapping insurance and then have Margaret abducted would solve his problems. However, he must convince his insurance agent/golfing buddy to cooperate, and pronto—because the divorce becomes final within a week.
Meanwhile, Karen, a receptionist and part-time armed robber has problems of her own. Her ex-boyfriend, Rossi, is getting out of prison after five years, and he’s bent on getting even with her. After his arrest, it was she who made off with his sixty grand, his Mag .44, and his Ducati motorcycle. Karen also has to figure how to fit her new love interest, Ray—another criminal—into her life. Throw in Doyle, the lonely female police officer, and you’re headed for an amusing kind of disaster.
The Big O takes readers on a wild ride of pure entertainment as these troubled characters converge. As the story progresses, you’ll learn a little more about the characters. Each subchapter focuses on the antics—past and present—of one the protagonists. You may not love, hate, or even care about any of these self-indulgent characters, but you’ll be grateful to them for forcing you to enjoy their decadent and absurd lives. Then, just as tension builds, Burke abruptly switches to another character. But the diversion isn’t frustrating; it just adds to the suspense.
The Big O moves quickly as it continually keeps you in stitches. This hilarious novel is filled with plenty of drugs, sex, and even a little rock ‘n’ roll. The humor is raw, but Burke manages to keep the satire short of slapstick.
I hope that Declan Burke will continue to come out with more satirical crime novels like this one. After all, life doesn’t always have to be that serious.
(review previously published on www.nightsandweekends.com)