Caimh McDonnell Opens The Dublin Trilogy Series
Crime novels are probably as popular as they’ve ever been, especially considering the globalization of the market thanks to international retailers and publishers who help push books across different countries. While this is fantastic news if you’re a crime novel lover such as myself, but at the same time it creates a new problem: over-saturation of similar content. After a while, the novels inevitably begin to blend in with each other, following the same beats with only minor differences. As such, it’s always encouraging to see an author capable of separating himself from the pack, as Caimh McDonnell managed in my opinion with A Man With One of Those Faces, the first book The Dublin Trilogy series (which now has four books).
The story begins by introducing us to our ill-fated protagonist, Paul Mulchrone, a man of many contradictions. While he does have some considerable intellectual abilities, he is also lazy with some outdated forms of thinking, and more importantly, he prefers doing easy charity work rather than actually getting a real job. Currently, he passes his time visiting old and dying people, keeping them company and pretending to be someone from their past. However, this little act gets him far more than he bargained for when an old man mistakes him for the nephew of a Dublin crime lord and tries to stab him.
Having barely survived what seemed like an accidental assassination attempt, he soon has to get through a very intentional one. From there on out, he and Brigit, the nurse who asked him to visit the old man, are plunged into a chaotic world of hostility and peril where every step could be their last. Additionally, there are some allies to be found in the darkness, in particular a cop with a penchant for violence. The noose is tightening around the unlikely trio, and they are scrambling hard to find a way to solve what might be the most ridiculous series of events in Irish crime history.
The Crass Side of Humour in A Man With One of Those Faces
To begin with, I think we should take some time to discuss the main element which sets this book apart from its peers: the humour. Now, I think it’s worth acknowledging there are many different types and levels of humour, suitable for all sorts of people. Many of the things we ourselves find funny, we know for a fact others do not. In the case of this particular book, the type of humour majorly employed is fairly crass and low-brow. In other words, it definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
McDonnell has no problem picking low-hanging fruit and giving his novel a few juvenile passages and jokes. While they’re not literally there in every single paragraph, they do appear consistently enough to leave an imprint on our overall impression of the book, aside from the characters and the story itself. Generally-speaking, I’m not averse to this type of humour, but there were a few segments where I wished we could just stick with a more serious tone for a little bit. Comedy can be made much more effective through scarcity and strategic timing, something I believe this book could have benefited from.
With this being said, there is also a good amount of more high-class humour, if you will, stemming from the context and situations the characters find themselves in, as well as the nature of the plot’s development. There were plenty of moments which had me laughing, generally at the irony or absurdity of the situations presented. McDonnell also knows how to be classy and witty when there is call for it, and personally-speaking, these moments were much more of a highlight of the humour which caught my attention.
The Relentlessness of Stupidity
I am not entirely certain what the author’s intention was in creating his characters, but if he wanted to make it difficult for us to find someone to root for, I think he succeeded quite well. Our protagonist, Paul Mulchrone, while having some beneficial attributes largely feels like not only a loser, which would have been forgivable, but a generally-unlikable person. From his misogynistic thoughts to the blind luck which carries him forward even though he should be dead by all accounts from his stupidity, it becomes a little difficult to find a reason to root for him, besides him being our designated main character. Don’t get me wrong: while it can all be funny at times, we readers do need someone we can actually like and whose story we care about.
With this being said, I generally found the other characters to be a little more compelling, especially Brigit. Contrary to most of the other characters, she has a real depth to her, is fleshed out and simply compelling in the way she tries to interpret the world through the scope of fictional novels. Ultimately, I found myself rooting for her more than anyone else, and I think perhaps it would have been better to have her as the main character.
As for the plot itself, it moves along relentlessly from start to finish and the author makes a point of consistently reminding us the danger his characters are in. It’s a fast-paced page-turner, an action-packed crime thriller at its core. I think this actually helps the novel in the sense I was able to get past the few parts which were less interesting rather quickly without seeing my interest wane in the slightest.
The Final Verdict
A Man With One of Those Faces by Caimh McDonnell is a high-paced crime thriller with a heavy focus on both action and humour. While the type of comedy might not exactly be for everyone, if you enjoy ridiculousness, the famous British wit and virtually non-stop action, I do think this novel is certainly worth a read.
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.