Caimh McDonnell Calls for the Curtain
Caimh McDonnell has, in my opinion, injected a much-needed dose of humour, depth and originality into the detective genre with The Dublin Trilogy series. With Last Orders, the fourth and final book (for the foreseeable future) in this so-called “trilogy”, McDonnell attempts to bring the whole show to a close by taking us to the past where mortal peril surfaces to take hold of Paul and Bunny, marking the beginning of the end, the ultimate sacrifice and the big showdown.
On their end, Paul and Brigit are struggling to keep their detective agency up and running after Bunny dangled a suspect (albeit a bad person) over a balcony and threatened to kill him.
Things only escalate for the duo from there on out as Paul starts a rivalry he simply can’t let go, no matter how serious its consequences might be. Soon, keeping their agency open starts to take up a back seat to ensuring they don’t end up under the strict fist of the law themselves, if not something worse.
Meanwhile, Bunny McGarry is facing a slew of his own, potentially more serious problems. Long ago he buried two bodies in the mountains, one of them belonging to an FBI agent, hoping he had settled a certain problem forever.
Needless to say, this didn’t work as planned, and now both the FBI and Garda are taking a close interest in Bunny’s affairs, perhaps having finally enough to nail him to the wall.
With fewer and fewer options available to him as each minute ticks down on the clock, Bunny is frantically racing to try and find a way to shut the overflowing Pandora’s box of his personal history, but at this point, enormous sacrifices are more or less inevitable.
The Conclusive Prequel of Last Orders
I think those of us who are familiar with McDonnell’s writings, at least to some extent, can all agree he isn’t exactly one keen to tread the beaten path and seems to take pleasure in doing things in a different and unconventional way.
With Last Orders, it feels like this quality shines brighter than ever and is visible right from the get-go: concluding a trilogy with a fourth book which takes on the guise of a prequel. Despite its placement in the series’ chronology, I do strongly recommend it be read last as intended by the author.
Even though it is technically a prequel, much of it will be difficult to follow and confusing without former knowledge of the world, the characters and their history.
In any case, personally-speaking, I am not exactly very fond of prequels in a general sense, largely because our knowledge of the future removes a lot of tension from whatever conflicts might be fought.
However, in this case I found not much, if anything at all was lost by using the prequel format. We can already more or less take it for granted our main characters will live on to see the light of the day, and as was always the case with this series, the adventure to the finish line is the major attraction.
In Last Orders McDonnell also takes the opportunity to shed some light on the more enigmatic aspects of the characters we’ve come to know and love over the series, exposing the origin of a few quirks and mentalities we never got to see explained.
In the end, I think he achieved something magnificent as overall the novel does manage to feel like a proper send-off; rather than showing us the future ahead, McDonnell closes the doors of the past still standing ajar.
The Full Force of the Squad
Moving on the actual plot and story itself, it really feels like the author really poured every inch of what he had left into making the characters more pronounced than ever before.
Bunny is more resolute than ever before and acts with unprecedented determination, Brigit is absurdly efficient and calculated, while Paul is passionate as ever about the feud he found himself in.
The villains are also memorable in their own right, consistently defying our expectations about how they are supposed to think and behave. Some of them might even be as worthy of respect as our heroes.
The action moves along rather quickly as we keep jumping between Bunny’s plot and the detective agency run by Paul and Brigit. Our characters are constantly on the move, working to achieve something concrete, and as usual for this series, the action was surprisingly easy and simple to follow for how much of it there was.
In this sense, I have to credit McDonnell’s wordsmithing abilities; he knows how to be concise and effective, with a good instinct for precision in his descriptions.
Finally, no book in this series would be complete without the author’s clever and unique sense of humour, which I believe has almost become like a trademark for him at this stage.
The chapters are coloured in strong shades of sarcasm and lashing wit, and I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions at the ridiculous situations and the absurdity of some people’s deliberations.
In my opinion, humour is one of the most difficult things to convey correctly on paper, but McDonnell has mastered it like few others ever have.
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.