Caimh McDonnell Continues the Comedy of Errors
Humour might have always been a subjective notion, but I would argue comedy has overall become more difficult to write. There are many ways of making different people laugh, but over the decades conventions become outdated and no longer tickle our funny bones. In the fast-moving world of today, it means these conventions demand to be changed increasingly more often, and the amount of authors who can be classified as talented comedians is definitely shrinking.
Nevertheless, there are still many carrying the banner of comedy into battle, and few wear it as prominently as Caimh McDonnell with his series The Dublin Trilogy (which now has four books in it). The book we’re going to be looking at is the second one, titled The Day That Never Comes.
Leading off after the events of the first book, the story opens with virtually everything being a total mess. Tempers in the city of Dublin are running high: activists have overtaken the headquarters of a bank, three property developers are on a joke of a trial, a mysterious organization is formed and hell-bent on getting revenge for the little people, and the evil-doers who destroyed the country’s economy are now being killed off on their yachts.
Even the law itself isn’t spared from the mania gripping the country, as the new anti-terrorist squad is looking for any excuse to get some exercise, and overzealous citizens might just prove to be the right fit.
In the middle of it all is Paul Mulchrone, trying to shield himself from the worries of the world around him in order to focus on his collapsing detective agency. One of his partners, Bridget, won’t talk to him due to the mother of all misunderstandings, and Bunny McGarry has gone missing (probably on a massive drinking binge).
With the world in ruins and not a penny to his name, Paul does his best to get through the comically-dark times ahead of him, hoping to perhaps one day lead a life with a tiny dose of sanity in it.
Laughs Before Story in The Day That Never Comes
To begin with, I did mention above this is the second book in the series, and in strictly technical terms, you don’t need to have read the first one to understand this one. You will be able to understand the story, the world and its characters for the most part, although it might take you a bit of time to get used to the often-ridiculous atmosphere.
However, I would personally recommend that you do read the first novel, mostly because it does a great job at giving us a profound introduction into many of the characters we follow here, and McDonnell, they are the crux of his art.
While there is definitely a story and a plot to follow (which I will discuss a bit further down), what really makes the novel memorable in my opinion is the rich and colourful cast of characters. You’ll never have any problems confusing them with one another, and each one’s very distinct personality – often coloured in one way or another by some form of outlandish strangeness – opens up many venues of comedy.
In my opinion, there is simply something timelessly funny about watching misfits bumble through failures and annoyances to begrudgingly arrive at goals they don’t even really want anymore.
If there is one thing which consistently jumps out at me in McDonnell’s writings, it’s his ability to write humour without always making it overtly obvious, or making you feel like the pages are saturated with it. He knows how to switch up the source of the comedy often enough to bring a real feeling of variety to it, but most importantly, he knows when to keep it more subtle and subdued.
To this end, I feel his now-famous Irish acerbic wit helps carry the humour and prevents it from getting stale despite it being almost everywhere in one form or another. For me personally, this was the book’s greatest strength and appeal, even above the plot itself.
The Story of a Thousand Failures
With everything I’ve said about the characters and humour in The Day That Never Comes, I don’t want you to come out of thinking the story is barely worth mentioning, because it does make for an amazingly worthy vehicle to deliver it all to the reader.
The various plot-related elements I mentioned before are only the tip of the iceberg, and as we progress further our characters are constantly thrown into unexpected situations, barely giving them time to process what just happened. In other words, it moves along without losing a beat and boredom isn’t a concept it’s familiar with.
While in most stories we are used to seeing our heroes facing a bit adversity but ultimately succeeding in most of their endeavours, I loved how McDonnell took the other route and made it more about failure than anything else.
Sometimes due to sheer bad luck, other times because of gross incompetence, we never suffer from a shortage of characters failing at whatever they envisioned to do (except for Bunny McGarry, who always succeeds at getting drunk). While I did think it might get old after a certain point, the intermittent successes they have are just prominent enough to keep you wondering how their next endeavours might go.
In the midst of all these elements we actually have some investigative plots to follow, such as the murders of the rich people responsible for collapsing the economy, and the mildly-mysterious disappearance of Bunny. Along the way some smaller mysteries pop up here and there, and while they aren’t the focal point of the story, they still serve their purpose and entertain us while giving a few brushstrokes of seriousness to the plot.
The Final Verdict
The Day That Never Comes by Caimh McDonnell is a delightful second entry in The Dublin Trilogy series, building on what the first book did and offering us another wild ride with barrels of laughs. If you’re the type who enjoys dry and sarcastic humour and are looking for a novel mixing crime and comedy which strays off the beaten path, then I strongly recommend you give this book a try.
Caimh McDonnell is an Irish full-time author as well as a former professional stand-up comedian and television writer. His work on British TV shows earned him a nomination for the BAFTA award, his debut novel A Man With One of Those Faces was nominated for best novel at the at the 2017 CAP awards, and I Have Sinned was nominated for the 2019 Kindle Storyteller Award.