Book in a Minute: I Have Sinned

ihavesinnedmcdonnellI Have Sinned by Caimh McDonnell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Caimh McDonnell is back with another tale of the legendary Bunny McGarry in I Have Sinned. The brawling Irishman made his first appearance in A Man With One of Those Faces, the first book in McDonnell’s Dublin crime trilogy. Bunny’s a temperamental, hard-drinking cop who should definitely be played by Brendan Gleeson in the film. Bunny masquerades as a hard-hearted cynic, but in Dublin, he made time to coach a kiddie football team, so we know his heart can’t be too hard. On the other hand, Bunny has been known to disarm criminals using only a pot of hot coffee, a fork, and his sparkling Irish wit. So we know he’s both genuinely a tough guy and also hilariously entertaining.

In the course of the Dublin series, we learned that Bunny had and lost one great love, an American jazz singer named Simone. For reasons that would give too much away, I can’t tell you how the two lovebirds parted–but part they did, and Bunny’s been carrying a torch for her ever since. When he learns that Simone is in grave danger, he makes his way to New York City to find her, warn her, and (probably) win back her heart.

Bunny arrived in NYC in the first book in the Bunny McGarry Stateside Series, Disaster Inc. , and although he found some new friends, he did not find Simone. Hence the need for Book Two.

Even though Bunny doesn’t disarm anyone using coffee and a fork in I Have Sinned, it’s still a grand rollicking adventure. Bunny’s new American friends, the chronically underemployed actors Smithy and Diller, are on hand to aid Bunny in his quest to find Simone. Attempting to stop Bunny is an order of reclusive nuns known as The Sisters of the Saint, who have been guarding Simone ever since she left Dublin. These are some fantastic kick-ass nuns, with drone technology the U.S. Army only wishes it had. In fact, if nuns had been this kick-ass when I was in Catholic school, I probably would have joined up.

In any event, Bunny and his friends eventually catch up to the Sisters of the Saint, only to be tasked with helping the Sisters protect a do-gooder priest with a mysterious past. Will Bunny succeed in the mission the Sisters have assigned to him? Will they reward him by revealing Simone’s location? And will Sister Zoya share her brilliant drone technology with the military or just sell it to Google Earth for an exorbitant amount of money?

The answers to most of these questions and a few you haven’t even thought of will be found within the highly entertaining pages of I Have Sinned. It’s a great read, but you’d do well to start with Disaster Inc., the first in the Bunny McGarry Stateside series. You might even want to go all the way back to the very beginning and check out A Man With One of Those Faces.

A good read-alike for fans of Mick Herron’s Slow Horses Series or Elmore Leonard’s Get Shorty.

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Book in a Minute: Another Library Edition

Dr. Knox: A novelDr. Knox: A novel by Peter Spiegelman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A tale of human trafficking and refugees masquerades convincingly as an L.A. noir thriller in Dr. Knox, the latest novel from Shamus Award-winning author Peter Spiegelman. In three previous books featuring banker-turned-detective John March, Spiegelman pretty much created the genre of “Wall Street noir.” Now, he takes that same grim sensibility and applies it to Dr. Adam Knox, a man whose apparent death wish is constantly at war with his desire to save the world. These conflicting goals lead to lots of trouble, not only for Knox, but for his employees and the few friends he has.

In Dr. Knox, a woman fleeing Russian mobsters leaves her little boy at Knox’s shabby clinic in L.A.’s Skid Row. Rather than turn the child over to Social Services, Knox becomes convinced he can save both child and mother. He sets out to do so with the help of his buddy Ben Sutter, a former Special Forces operative. The vibe between these two was very reminiscent of the relationship between Robert Parker’s detective, Spenser, and his sidekick, Hawk.

Like that master of L.A. noir, Raymond Chandler, Spiegelman keeps much of the real story bobbing just below the surface throughout this tale. As Knox searches for the boy’s missing mother and runs afoul of mobsters and corrupt American business tycoons, readers get unsettling glimpses into Knox’s own messy backstory. It becomes clear that while the doctor’s heart is in the right place, his penchant for self-destruction could hurt the very people he seeks to help.

Fans of classic noir fiction and old-fashioned “hard-boiled” detective stories should enjoy Dr. Knox.

This review originally appeared at “Between the Covers,” the book review blog for the Baltimore County Public Library. For more great reading ideas, check out all the reviews there. We cover everything from fiction to nonfiction, children’s books to adult graphic novels. And if you’re in a spendy mood, here’s the buy link at Amazon.

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Book in a Minute: Library Edition

27246115-_uy400_ss400_ I’m doing book reviews for the Baltimore County Public Library‘s Between the Covers blog under my real life name now. At some point in the indefinite future, I’m planning to merge the “real me” website with this site. In the meantime, it seemed to make more sense to post a link to my first review for the library blog here, since this is where I’ve posted all my other book reviews. So here you go, a little review of Delia Ephron’s Siracusa. Enjoy!

Delia Ephron is best-known for her humorous writing and for lighthearted screenplays like You’ve Got Mail and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. But her latest novel, Siracusa, displays a decidedly more cynical view of relationships.

Siracusa begins with Lizzie, who thinks a vacation in Italy is just what she and her husband David need to revive their flagging writing careers and their dwindling passion for one another. They’re joined on the trip by another couple — Finn, Lizzie’s fun-loving old flame from college, and his uptight wife Taylor. Dragged along for the fun is Snow, Finn and Taylor’s sullen preteen daughter. If bringing an old boyfriend and his family along for a vacation sounds like a bad idea to you, you’d be right. In fact, few vacation disasters can rival the nightmarish results when this group makes its way to the ancient island of Siracusa.

Each main character takes a turn recounting the trip’s gradual descent into tragedy.  Without exception, all of them are breathtakingly self-involved or delusional (or both). Thus none of them can see what the reader sees — the huge disaster heading straight for them.

Like The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, Siracusa presents readers with difficult to like protagonists who never tell the whole truth. The crumbling city of Siracusa provides an excellent symbolic backdrop for Ephron’s well-written blend of dark domestic drama and deadly suspense.

And if you aren’t anywhere near the Baltimore County Public Library, find your own library here. Or if you’re in a spendy mood, here’s the Amazon link.