I’ve been a fan of Eoin Colfer’s since I was around 9 years old, mainly for his Artemis Fowl series. But I was only really aware of him as an author of children and young adult books, so when I saw Plugged, a crime novel for adults, I was intrigued.
Daniel McAvoy’s life is decidedly on the discontent side. Working as a doorman at a seedy casino in New Jersey, he goes from dealing with sleazy customers at work to dealing with a psychotic neighbour and encroaching baldness at home. His life is about to become a whole lot worse, however, when his on-off girlfriend is found dead outside the casino and his best friend, a doctor practicing without a license and with a dubious grasp on both medical procedure and good business practices, goes missing. With conspiracies crowding in and making his life ever more hazardous, Dan must draw on his former army experiences in order to get out alive.
Normally I would shy away from a crime novel that was this blatantly aiming for humour, but because my experiences with Colfer’s work has been largely positive thus far, I decided that I’d give it a shot. It works really well, and for one reason that is normally absent in crime fiction. I think the reason that the comedy works in Plugged is because all the characters are kind of rubbish. Normally in crime fiction, the stakes are really high and every mistake is going to come back at some point to bite the characters where it hurts. In Plugged, everyone involved are ultimately small players in the wider scheme of things. They’re not in New York proper, they’re in some ratty small town in New Jersey. While the crime boss that Dan has to deal with is a threat, he’s only a big player on this small stage. It makes it feel kind of like a story that the Cohen brothers would direct, full of characters who are, to quote the game Fiasco, full of “powerful ambition and poor impulse control”. Mistakes happen almost constantly throughout the narrative, and it’s absolutely wonderful to see Dan just have to add that to the list of shit that he needs to deal with. It really makes the humour work, and I was already a big fan of Colfer’s sense of humour. I don’t think I’ve grinned so much at the bus stop in a long while.
In comparison to the comedy side of things, I think that the actual crime part could use some work. While I’m all for seeing more of Colfer writing about these small-time crooks, I think the tone maybe needs a bit of tightening. While I did like the humour, I thought that it was sprinkled perhaps too liberally during the scenes that should be really tense. Shootouts and standoffs feel like they should be handled more seriously, even if the people involved are nowhere near as important as they think they are. I mean, considering how high the body count gets, it doesn’t really feel all that shocking, even when it really should do. It’s not a huge problem for me, but if you like your murders with a bit more seriousness then this might be a bit blase for you.
A very funny novel about conspiracies and small-time crooks who want to be big-time crooks. The humour is absolutely stellar, though it does take away from the impact of some scenes that would otherwise be more shocking and impactful. 4/5
Next review: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C. S. Lewis