Home » “Dead Man’s Sins” by Caimh McDonnell – A Magnet for Trouble

“Dead Man’s Sins” by Caimh McDonnell – A Magnet for Trouble

“Dead Man's Sins” by Caimh McDonnell (Header image)

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Short Summary

Caimh McDonnell never seem to run out of original scenarios for The Dublin Trilogy series into which he can insert the ever-captivating Detective Bunny McGarry, and in the fifth book, Dead Man’s Sins, he decides to crank things up a notch. Though McGarry thought he could enjoy a break from the force, his dead former partner’s murky past has resurfaced to haunt him, a boy and a former acquaintance desperately need his help, and someone decides it’s the perfect time to frame him for murder.

Caimh McDonnell Takes a Trip to McGarry’s Past

From time to time, I think everybody enjoys reminiscing about simpler days in their own past, especially when faced with the ever-increasingly complex problems reality foists on us. However, we also tend to forget how much we curate our memories of our own past, how much we cut out and modify, and how it might not have been all that much better than the present. At the very least, it’s the cast for Bunny McGarry in Dead Man’s Sins by Caimh McDonnell.

This novel is indeed part of a series titled The Dublin Trilogy (yes, it has exceeded three books, I suppose the author wasn’t planning this far ahead), but I don’t think you need to have read the previous novel in order to enjoy this one, though I do recommend it as well. If you do want to have some sort of base before heading into this novel, I would recommend reading the third book, Angels in the Moonlight, due to it being a prequel to this one.

That might have sounded a little confusing, but this novel takes us away from the modern storyline and winds back time to the year 2000, when Bunny McGarry was only two-months removed from the suspicious death of his partner. He thinks he can take some time off the force and stay away from trouble, but needless to say, it has a real knack for finding him.

For starters, his former partner had his share of secrets and buried skeletons, some of which are starting to resurface, threatening to drag McGarry down with them. His reputation now on the line, McGarry also becomes embroiled with a case involving a woman from his past, now trapped with a monster in a loveless relationship, and some kids from St. Jude’s who desperately need his help.

With a whirlwind of escalating problems swirling around him, it becomes quite clear to Bunny he’ll never get to enjoy his sabbatical, no matter how well-earned it might be. As a matter of fact, it might even place him in a greater heap of trouble than before; someone seems to have decided this to be the perfect time to frame the detective for murder.

The Faces of Dublin in Dead Man’s Sins

Those of you who have read at least one of the previous novels in the series will likely agree with my statement that one of Caimh McDonnell‘s greatest strengths is his immense talent when it comes to characterization. It’s a talent he has been honing and developing like a true skill since his first novel, and I feel like it has reached a pinnacle in Dead Man’s Sins.

Starting with our main character, Bunny McGarry, he is one of the better portrayals I’ve seen of the mean law-breaking detective with a secret heart of gold. It’s quite a difficult balancing act, to make the kind of character few people could actually be in real life without making him look like a ridiculous cartoon, but McDonnell manages it perfectly here.

I believe one of the keys which allowed him to achieve this was his ability to make the reader understand Bunny’s profound inner world, to make it clear to us why this man does the things he does, why he makes certain decisions and not others, and why he thinks in such a particular manner. There is much more to the man than meets the eye, and some of the more introspective segments reveal a few interesting elements which add to his being, making him more and more relatable.

The rest of the main characters are naturally given a bit less attention than our protagonist, but they’re still described and fleshed out to a much greater extent than they would be in the hands of countless other authors. No character feels like a stereotype or a copy-pasted clone of someone else; each and every person has a distinct voice, a unique face, and ultimately, a place in the city of Dublin.

Naturally, I understand these aren’t real people, but Caimh McDonnell‘s ability to portray them as such is what lends this novel, and his previous ones, such an air of authenticity despite some of the more ridiculous moments showing their faces here and there. In turn, this goes a long way towards truly captivating the reader, to the point where they can’t tear themselves away from the pages until they’re done with it.

The Detecting Freight Train

Caimh McDonnell is indeed becoming increasingly serious as a writer, as many other people out there have noted as well. However, if there’s one element which hasn’t changed about him from one book to the next, it’s his ability to turn Bunny McGarry into a freight train we can board to charge through an adrenaline-packed story chock-full of twists, turns, and problems to smash through.

As I mentioned it before, there are multiple challenges for McGarry to deal with, and he goes from one scene to the next seldom wasting any time on meaningless gestures or anything which won’t get him closer to his goal, really. To say it as simply as possible, I find it truly entertaining to watch this kind of person race forward and subject himself to all the dangers it entails, while I get to watch from the sidelines and enjoy the fruits of his labours.

I don’t want to make it sound like my faith in the author was ever shaken, especially considering the quality of the previous novels in the series, but I wasn’t certain he would be able to juggle this many plot lines for our main character and make me care about all of them. After all, there is a limit to how much I’m willing to keep track of as a reader.

Thankfully, my worries were proven wrong, and I think it’s in large part because he knew to take his time and not to rush anything. He understood how crucial it was to have a proper set-up which would make the reader appreciate the weight of the events about to unfold before them, and by the time the action go started I was already captivated and locked in place.

Finally, another element which made Dead Man’s Sins so amusing was the sharp and clever dialogue, another one of the author’s major fortes. There are loads of witty remarks and exchanges with superb comedic timing and value, and what’s more, the dialogue always flows smoothly and sounds realistic. Writing speech as it is in real life is, in my opinion, one of the hardest aspects of writing a novel, and Caimh McDonnell simply nails it yet again.

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The Final Verdict

Dead Man’s Sins by Caimh McDonnell is a remarkable fifth entry in The Dublin Trilogy series, which only seems to be getting better as it gets older. It offers a fast-paced dark humor detective story coloured by absolutely fantastic characterization, expertly-timed comedic beats, and intelligent dialogue, and is also a great novel for newcomers to the series, for the way in which it stands apart from the main storyline. If you’re looking for a solid detective novel with an enjoyable sense of humour, memorable characters and some clever twists along the way, then you can’t go wrong with this novel.

Caimh McDonnell

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.

David Ben Efraim (Page Image)

David Ben Efraim (Reviewer)

David Ben Efraim is a book reviewer living in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, and co-owner of Bookwormex, as well as the Quick Book Reviews blog, along with Yakov Ben Efraim. With a love for literature reaching across all genres (except romance), he has embarked on the quest to share its wonders with the world by helping people find their way to books which truly speak to them, whether they be modern sensations or relics from a bygone era.

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