Book Review: A Man with One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell.

Time for a book review!

A Man with One of Those Faces is the debut novel from comedian Caimh McDonnell. A crime thriller set in Ireland, it follows title character Paul Mulchrone as his “one face fits all” look gets him into more trouble than he can handle.

Now. I’m not a crime addict. I had better put that up front. I’ve not read much crime fiction, unless you count the Watch books in Terry Pratchett, and as for “true crime” I get enough of the interesting and boring bits in together by reading medieval court cases. My boyfriend is  a fan of police procedural dramas but even those I can take or leave. So you must realise how much of a nice surprise it was for me that I absolutely loved this book. I was at a wedding over the weekend and I was sad that I couldn’t pack it in my bag to take it to the wedding, and it I picked it up and read it right to the end the minute I got back from the party. That’s crazy levels of book obsession right there.

McDonnell has written an utter triumph of a thing. His writing stays perfectly poised between buttock-clenching suspense (not a book to read on the toilet) and the wonderful humour he has developed over his years on the comedy circuit. In his first foray into novel writing from comedy it’d be very easy to overdo the jokes but while the jokes puncture the suspense they do not mar it in any way. I don’t know if “humorous crime” (as in, not straight up parody) is already a genre but regardless McDonnell has unequivocally stuck the flag in and claimed it for Ireland.

The Irishness of the book is something that should also be praised. If you are from Ireland, have lived there or – like me – have Irish relatives that just won’t quit, the novel is a wealth of observational charm and humour. That said, even if you have no contact with Ireland the effect is welcoming rather than exclusionary. The skill that it takes to weave in-jokes into a narrative and not alienate those that aren’t part of them cannot be underestimated and McDonnell does it with a warmth I’m pretty sure I couldn’t manage.

The characters are on occasion the kind of stereotypes you would expect from a crime novel, but they are also so much more than their familiar aspects and are interspersed among characters you couldn’t predict for the life of you. Add this to a plot that keeps you relentlessly on the edge, and you’ve got a book I highly recommend and need the sequel to immediately.

Caimh McDonnell, A Man with One of Those FacesMcFori Ink Publishing, available for £7.99 on Amazon: