Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell

Review published on February 4, 2018.

And now for something completely different, as a well known comedy of yore used to say. Well, not entirely because although the Spanish Inquisition get an honourable mention and reading Angels in the Moonlight is like going to a rowdy party, this is also a well-crafted thriller which grips your attention. You will laugh but you will love the plot, the intricate structure and intelligent parody. Angels in the Moonlight is written by comedian, Caimh McDonnell and it’s witty, fresh and sharply presented. Lighter than my usual taste but not lacking in a bit steel at times. McDonnell writes regularly for other comedians and shows like ‘Mock the Week’ and ‘Have I got News for You?’ He also has a talent for crime.

There’s a lot of fun to be had, there are belly laughs and loads of guffaws along the way but you can’t sustain a crime story unless there is real substance, a bit of tension and some intrigue and Angels in the Moonlight has that too. McDonnell is very good at taking a number of strands and lots of characters and making them come together in a clever way – part of the art of a good crime story.

Of course, it never gets totally serious. Some of the characters are comic book outrageous and they behave very badly (that’s the good guys!), and the humour is not exactly politically correct all of the time. The dialogue sassy and wise cracking and has that lyrical Irish lilt without resorting to too much dialect. McDonnell avoids the gratuitous and in some ways this is a pleasant read, certainly never graphic. I think it would be suitable for older teenagers looking for something a bit irreverent as well as young at heart adults, not one for the traditionalists.

Set in Dublin in 1999 Angels in the Moonlight is the prequel to the Dublin trilogy, a bit of having your cake and eating it (a trilogy of many parts!). Detective Bunny McGarry (there is some irony in that name) is “a big lummocks of a man with a thick Cork accent…” He talks a would be suicide, Rory Coyne, down from a ledge. When the man panics McGarry headbutts him to calm him down – crisis averted. Not far away across town Detectives Delaney and Mulholland are finding out what it like to be threatened with a grenade in the course of an armed car robbery. Everyone knows it’s Tommy Carter’s gang and the armed robbery squad are looking to draft in more men for the job of bringing them down. McGarry and his partner, Sgt Spain (Gringo, who incidentally is into a loan shark for €8,000) are co-opted. Carter runs the Clanavale Estate, a no go area for Gardai (police officers). There are rumours that the heist guys are thinking of moving into drugs. The IRA aren’t too happy about Tommy Carter’s independent streak and a diamond heist at the airport sets everyone off. Meanwhile, slightly shy McGarry has fallen for a barmaid come singer, Simone, a woman with a shady past that is about to be exposed. Things get very rock and roll, watch out for the Cuban psychopath – did I mention that was an American angle?

McDonnell has fun referencing noir movies and even L.A. Confidential, “..full and docile co-operation…”, which adds to the fun.

The mad characters and bad behaviour are a riot. When Carter is introduced and him and McGarry have “words” I was hooked. Prior to that it’s all about the laughs. Precious few actual angels in Angels in the Moonlight as it happens but all the better for their absence. I will happily seek out the Dublin trilogy now and when I want something that stimulates the gray matter and makes me laugh that’s what I’ll read. A bit of black humour goes a long way – Great Craic.

Paul Burke 5/3

Angels in the Moonlight by Caimh McDonnell
Mcfori Ink 9780995507548 pbk Aug 2017


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