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: I Remember You

I Remember YouI Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Disappointing! I was sold by the fact that the super-talented Simone St. James, a worthy successor to Daphne Du Maurier, wrote a rave review of this book. And many others have also loved it and found it super-scary. But for me it was utterly meh.

Three frenemies in dire financial straits have bought an old house on a remote island with plans to turn it into a bed & breakfast for outdoorsy, nature-loving tourists. They decide to go to the island in the depths of winter to do their renovations so they can start raking in the cash from tourists as soon as the weather breaks. Yeah, nothing wrong with that idea as anyone who reads suspense can tell you. Of course things start going creepily wrong right off the bat. There’s the charter boat captain who drops them off and warns them they’ll be totally alone on the island and he may not be able to get back to rescue them right away if the weather turns. There’s the word GOOD-BYE spelled out in seashells on the floor of the cottage. There’s that other person they keep glimpsing from a distance but can never meet. At least, maybe it’s a person…

If it were just a tightly written short story or novella about this trio and their adventures, I think I’d have been all in on this story and loved it. But there’s a parallel story about a doctor whose son has been missing for three years. I found that plot excruciatingly slow-moving and hard to believe. (view spoiler)

Lastly, there was the translation. At least, I hope it was a bad translation. Because the language was so clunky and reportorial, not at all visual and evocative, which to me is what a ghost story needs.

I listed this in my “Did not finish” shelf because I pretty much skimmed my way through the last ten chapters. I did my best in honor of Ms. St. James, but next time she recommends a read, I think I’ll just re-read one of her own books instead!

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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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