Anyone who finds the idea of Irish army peacekeepers inherently funny—as protagonist Daniel McEvoy, veteran of two harrowing tours of duty in Lebanon, puts it in his bemused manner, “you would use the Irish to keep the peace wouldn’t you, given they’ve such an excellent record of co-operation between communities on their own island”—is a potential Colfer fan. The Irish author has found commercial and critical success with his young adult series about Artemis Fowl, teenage criminal mastermind, and it was a safe bet that his first adult novel would also be a crime comedy. And Plugged—the title reflects both the shooting victims strewn through this tribute to 20th-century pulp fiction and poor Danny boy’s quest for a full head of hair—is very funny indeed.
McEvoy is a likeable mess of post-traumatic shock, convinced that the gypsy who told him he had an aura like “shark-infested waters” was sadly correct. But he’s a good guy. (Really: by page 31, he’s killed only four people, and each time—Gospel truth—it was self-defence. Actually, McEvoy has an irresistible urge to protect even total strangers, at least according to the army shrink who examined him after Danny volunteered to go back to Lebanon a second time.)
So when an occasional girlfriend, one of the hostesses at the scuzzy New Jersey strip joint where McEvoy works as a bouncer, is killed, and unlicensed cosmetic surgeon Zeb Kronski—the man responsible for McEvoy’s hair plugs and his sole friend in the world—goes missing, Danny goes looking for answers. He’s not a subtle man, and he quickly sets off a non-stop wave of violence involving homicidal cops, crooked lawyers, local Irish mobsters and his crazed upstairs neighbour. With Zeb—whether dead or merely missing—taking up residence in McEvoy’s damaged psyche, where he provides a sardonic Greek chorus of commentary, it all adds up to an exhausting but exhilarating ride, for character and reader both.