The Big O
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Ha! It was a trick question! You get bored! Burke's problem is: his book has only weirdos. Nobody to like, nobody to relate to. Any one or two of these bizarros would be hilarious, if let loose in the real world, but unfortunately they're locked up in Burke's zoo: a place populated only by other crazies. Why is the Kramer character from Seinfeld fu ...more
Oftentimes a book that is attempting to be a "caper" has a bit of a complicated set-up; that is certainly the case for THE BIG O. Let's start with one of the lead characters, Karen King. Karen is a receptionist for a disgraced plastic surgeon named Frank. Being somewhat short of viable financial options, Frank decides to hire someone to kidnap his wife, Madge, in order to cash in on a sizeable insurance policy. Madge is also Karen's best friend.
In addition to her day job, Karen is a ...more
Passes the Bechdel test with ease (no small feat for a straight up noir crime novel written by a man), for what that's worth.
A terrific palate cleanser. Good for what ails you. Highly recommended.
Ray lit a cigarette and cracked the window, humming along with the stereo. Wondering how it was that Bruce always got himself hooked up on these women named Mary. 'Thunder Road,' 'The River,' 'Mary's Place'… Christ, the man was obsessed.
Ray, if he was Springsteen, he'd have shot through for Mexico long ago, nabbed himself a Juanita, some shit like that. Ray had only ever met one Karen before, this Kiwi blonde in Hamburg with an oral fixation. Ray getting blowjobs on busses, trains,...more
Frank lives the high-life, but he’s bankrupt. He needs a lot of money, and fast, to resolve his many problems. So he employs local crook Terry to kidnap his ex-wife, Madge. The plan – get an insurance payout for $500,000 and jet off somewhere hot.
The trouble is Madge is Karen’s best friend and Ray is the ...more
Ray is not without his problems. It just so happens that he's been hired to kidnap Karen's best friend, Madge. It also isn't such a good thing when police detective Stephanie Doyle takes a shine to Ray and starts giving him more attention than he'd like. Stephanie Doyle is investigating Fra ...more
I read it again. Liked it even more.
Much of that is due to my maturing as a reader and writer myself. (it’s not like the book changed in the interim. It’s the same copy I read in 2008. Any changes must be some Harry Potter sh ...more
We meet Karen, a stick-up woman, and Ray, a professional kidnapper. They are the protagonists in the plot, with Frank, a plastic surgeon, his soon-to-be ex-wife, Madge, a career criminal, Rossi, and Doyle, a policewoman, being the remaining central characters. There is also the mysterious Anna. Frank and his lawyer concoct a sc ...more
THE BIG O, thank goodness, adds a big dose of humor to the template. But be forewarned, the humor here is specific to its intended crime-reading audence. For example: "Frank was startled to realize he'd been daydreaming about Margaret. Seeing her gagged, cuffed and blindfolded ...more
Burke drew the short straw when in a fit of downsizing, Houghton Mifflin not only cancelled the paperback, but cancelled the sequel. Shortsighted of you, HM, or I guess that's now HMH, because now they're mer ...more
Cool narrative technique used by Burke - tiny sections headed with a character's name as we switch to their POV ... Otherwise, the book is divided into chapters that correspond to days, a nice "countdown" to the crime/solution technique that I just used (*wink, wink) in my new novel.
Lots of character ...more
Although I found the ultra-short, POV-driven, character-titled chapters confusing (to a point), the characters themselves came off as sympathetic and identifiable, with the possible exception of Rossi...and even he wasn't ALL bad; just human.
My one quibble is the parenthetical subtitle "a screwball noir," as I believe dubbing it "screwball" does it a disservice. It reads more like what ...more
Alternating as needed between the POVs of the main players (each fully formed and well defined, not to mention entertaining as hell!), Burke keeps the plot and pace r ...more
I won't go into any detail about the characters or the plot, the revelations in the reading are just too much fun. The story twists and turns and the character relationships manage to retain depth even when everything around them gets crazy.
That's the secret to the book' ...more
Read another book of his, was loads of fun. This was not.
Crime Always Pays, a comedy crime caper, will be published by Severn House in 2014.
He is also the editor of Down These Green Streets, a collection of essays, interviews and short fictions about the rise of Irish crime writing.
With John C ...more