By Kris Neri
You gotta love a noir that signals its tone through the tough, succinct title of — PLUGGED. PLUGGED is the first mystery by Irish writer Eoin Colfer, author of the bestselling young adult Artemis Fowl fantasy series, which Colfer himself describes as “DIE HARD with fairies,” showing he’s no stranger to a hardboiled world, even if he is new to the mystery genre.
PLUGGED features Daniel McEvoy, a damaged Irish bouncer working for a sleazy New Jersey club. When Daniel’s sometime lover, bar hostess Connie, is found dead, and his best friend, unlicensed Israeli physician Zeb Kronski, goes missing and is presumed dead, he’s drawn into a darker world than any he’s encountered in either his former army career or at the door of this Jersey town’s scummiest club.
I like my tough guys like my chocolate, with soft centers, and Daniel doesn’t disappoint. Despite his barely-managed PTSD, he doesn’t hesitate to leap to Connie’s defense when a bar patron refuses to accept her boundaries. As the story moves forward, it gives us glimpses into the past that shaped him, a nasty childhood with a drunken father and some brutal war experiences. Daniel genuinely cares about the people in his world, understanding that their bad choices are often the result of the poor cards they’ve been dealt, and if he can, he wants to make things better for them.
Actually, I like my chocolate with nuts — I simply couldn’t resist the perfection of the soft-center line. But the nuts-connection works, too. There are lots of wackos in this novel, from the mostly harmless, like his delusional landlady, who thinks he’s her late husband, to a tough female detective, whose feelings toward Dan change as fast as schizophrenic mood swings on steroids, to some seriously twisted bad guys.
Daniel himself borders on the quirky, maintaining an ongoing dialogue with his missing doctor friend, whom he calls Ghost Zeb, and sometimes sliding from thought to speech without having any awareness of having done so, until he suffers the consequence of uttering the wrong thought aloud. Though his former army shrink insists the voice of Ghost Zeb is really Daniel’s own internal guidance, we’re never really sure he isn’t really channeling his maybe-departed shifty friend.
Initially, the plot wanders into familiar hardboiled territory…a bent attorney, crooked cop, mobsters and missing drug money. But it takes enough twists, some surprisingly off-the-wall, to keep most mystery readers guessing.
It’s not just the plot that takes turns, either. The tone offers up just as many surprises. One moment it’s wickedly funny, with some of the best banter in print, sometimes offering hilarious observations about American life, while in the next, it veers into painful observations that’ll hit you where you hurt.
I usually develop some quibbles in the course of reading a book, though I mostly didn’t here. When I thought things might come together too easily for Daniel, they didn’t, sometimes taking unexpected turns that actually made things harder. But I do dislike present tense voice, which Colfer has used, though I get over it if the mystery is good enough. I did get over it, yet I still wish he’d told it in past tense. That’s just my bias, however.
While the different aspects of the mystery are wrapped-up effectively, not all the threads are neatly tied off, though they are dealt with well enough…for now. We get the sense that some of the choices Daniel had to make may come back someday to bite him on the butt, and the stalemates he established with some characters, may shift in future adventures. We can only hope there will be more Daniel McEvoy capers.
Bottom line: the story is fresh, the characters walk off the page and the voice is wonderfully engaging, despite being told in present tense. So…do yourself a favor. Get PLUGGED. You won’t be sorry.
Visit www.poisonedpen.com to order a signed, first edition copy of PLUGGED. To find out more about Eoin check out his website (click here)
Many thanks to our latest reviewer, Kris Neri, author as well as co-owner of The Well Red Coyote Bookstore in Sedona, Arizona. She has graciously agreed to write reviews for the blog.To find out more about her check out the PFR Bloggers tab or visit her website.