With the “trip to Jerusalem” THE BIG O would have no chance: The book falls between all chairs. It is not one of those humour crime novels, but it is rather subtly funny, it does not show off with local colour, still plays recognizably in Ireland, it is no real thriller, nevertheless, uses this form and it is not a noir, but is heading that way … For those who don't regularly read the blog Crime Always Pays, whose keeper Declan Burke is, THE BIG O makes it clear that it is written by an eminently widely-read author who has thought a great deal about the genre at hand.

It is fairly difficult to summarize the book. Too easily it could happen that fondly laid-out feint are betrayed. The general idea underlying the book is easy. Mostly small scenes are told in short chapters by varying persons. Now and then a scene is handed over from one person to another, so that the reader gets two (often different) interpretations. At the beginning of the book single stands are displayed by the author but in the course of the story these get more and intertwined. At the end of the book there is a complex network that can not be surveyed anymore. Relentlessly Burke pushes the story. Relationships get more and more interconnected and ever so often things are not happening as expected.

All together there are six major and some minor figures who appear before a scenery which could be everywhere - the book would perform perfectly on stage. Typically Irish is particular the language that people speak corresponding to the fact that the book is driven by it's dialogs.

THE BIG O is great fun: The humour comes from within, without canned laughter that announces jokes. Persons are drawn with a broad pencil and develop coherent personalities, the “Celtic tiger” is part of the background and the book is suspenseful. Even if the reader might at a certain point anticipates the way things go, there is still the question whether Burke brings this book with all it's complexities to an end in a dignified manner.

He does and THE BIG O stands out as an independent book which does not follow any fashions. Here someone risks something ... and wins. The book which was self-published with Hag's Head Press will come out in autumn in the US with one of the big publishing companies. Past then the times where the author can report about the fact that the book is offered as a reward with Amazon for 195.36 US $.

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Comment by John McFetridge on February 17, 2008 at 3:31am
Great review. "Too easily it could happen that fondly laid-out feint are betrayed." Thanks for that.

I was already looking forward to reading this book, but pointing out the subtle humour and chance-taking makes it even more anticipated.

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