Dead Man’s Sins by Caimh McDonnell

Read March 2022
Recommended for mild mystery laughs
★   ★   ★   1/2

Really best if one just sits back and enjoys the ride. Relax into the exaggerated writing that is McDonnell, because some of the rat-a-tat-tat is sure to land. Not gonna lie, though: there’s an extended bit at the beginning with my new favorite character Deccie, a twelve year-old with a gift of gab and debatable ethics:

“’We are not having a vote,’” said Bunny, before turning to Deccie. ‘And didn’t you say to me last week that you’d no faith in democracy? That voters were a bunch of sheep too easily fooled’
‘I did,’ said Deccie with a firm nod, ‘but I’ve never been the shepherd before.’”

The beginning conflict elicited a smile and ended with out-loud laughter at Deccie’s description of a brawl to an investigating Guarda. But now that I pause a moment, I’m also quite fond of Butch (the name supposedly joins her last, Cassidy, very well, but she also happens to be a lesbian). She’s the department martial arts expert and has a knack for the one liners, particularly when she’s maintaining her composure:

“She had tried not to form an opinion when she’d picked him up from the train station and, after a grunt of acknowledgement, he’d handed her his suitcase to carry back to the car.”

or trying to get Bunny to focus:

“’Why didn’t you say something when you walked in?’
Bunny shrugged. ‘I thought you were going for a sort of Bond-villain vibe.’
‘Why would I … Never mind. Forget about the cat,’ she said, while stroking the cat. ‘What are we going to do?'”

Anyway, it’s a decent enough mystery. It apparently has its roots in another story about Bunny’s former partner but is  explained well enough here. I didn’t read it, but wasn’t bothered by any missing details. In fact, it ended up annoying me just a touch because of the amount of times it is stressed that Bunny is protecting his former partner’s reputation or dear ol’ ma. Or maybe that’s because Bunny’s a simple man, and that really is all he comes back to at the end of the day.

“Bunny awoke to a pounding noise. No, that wasn’t right – two pounding noises. One appeared to be in his head, but the other was coming from an external source. They were infuriatingly out of sync with each other, as if the outside world and his hangover were conspiring against him.”

It is always challenging for an author to find that delicate balance between humor and violence, particularly when you want to include issues like domestic abuse, economic crimes and murder. McDonnell mostly succeeds here. What begins as rather jokey and extreme gradually strips much of the silliness away into some core issues of family and community.

“It was always the way with places like this – you spend ages raising funds to get them built, and then, as soon as they’re finished, the thing starts slowly falling down.”

McDonnell also does a decent job of maintaining tension, but because Bunny is one of those character that no one wants to take on directly, it means we hop into the viewpoints of the aforementioned Butch, as well the wife of the deceased, Angela. There’s also a side road into a domestic abuse issue that may result in some catharsis (and again provided an opportunity for outlier humor) but probably could have been trimmed, particularly a random viewpoint from a hanger-on.

Now that I’m writing this all up, I’m feeling like this is definitely a book I want to re-read. Or at least through Deccie’s bit.

“’Will do. So, what’s this information worth?’
‘Excuse me?’
‘I’m a busy man.’
‘You are, in fact, neither of those things.’
Deccie ploughed on. ‘Fifty quid?’”


About thebookgator

avid reader and Goodreads reviewer looking for a home.
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1 Response to Dead Man’s Sins by Caimh McDonnell

  1. Pingback: Adrian Tchaikovsky, Shards of Earth (2021) – Re-enchantment Of The World

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