Caimh McDonnell’ debut novel A Man With One of Those Faces is a brilliant comedic thriller that follows unfortunate Dubliner Paul Mulchrone as he runs for his life from a nameless killer with his unlikely accomplice Nurse Brigit Conroy.
The story begins with Paul, a nondescript loner who spends his days stubbornly exploiting a loophole in his Aunt’s will, living on a pittance while undertaking voluntary work in order to remain a resident in his late Aunt’s home.
He has lucked onto a suitable niche for his obligatory altruism and he has become the ‘granny whisperer’ – visiting the elderly occupants of St. Kilda's Hospice. Due to having ‘one of those faces’, Paul allows the ageing citizens to believe he is a familiar face from their past and maintains his weekly visits to meet, mingle and fulfill his residential requirements.
Mulchrone’s mundane monotonous routine is thrown into life-threatening chaos when Brigit Conroy – in-house nurse at the elderly hospice and avid crime-fiction fan – asks Paul to chat to a cantankerous new resident as a favour. Living up to expectations, the mature malcontent assumes Paul is the son of an old acquaintance and proceeds to try and kill him before suddenly dying himself.
This lights the fuse on a suspenseful, yet hilarious adventure where Paul teams up with Brigit to try and clear his name, find out who else is trying to kill him, and uncover the truth behind a decades-old unsolved mystery that gripped the entire country.
A Man With One of Those Faces blends humour, masterful one-liners and genuine laugh-out-loud scenarios to keep you turning the page, while taking the edge off the nail-biting suspense created.
With Caimh’s background, most would expect his skillful wit and comedy to be the focus of the prose, but what blew me away was the tightness and flow of the language, the depth and breadth of the quirky characters and the depiction of Ireland’s beauty, uniqueness, customs and vernacular woven into the story.
It has been some time since I have thoroughly enjoyed a book as much as this. For anyone who loves crime fiction of a different ilk, wants to reminisce about the idiosyncrasies of the Irish or just needs a pick-me-up, this book is for you.
A Man With One of Those Faces reads more like the work of an experienced author than a debut novelist, I hope it gets the plaudits it so richly deserves.