Thursday, December 25, 2008

THE BIG O by Declan Burke - guest review by Tony Black

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008, ISBN 978-0151014088

Declan Burke has been on quite a trip with his hugely-acclaimed second novel, The Big O.

After starting life on the lists of tiny Irish publisher Hag's Head Press the Sligo-born author's follow-up to Eight-Ball Bogie has recently been given an American release.

No mean feat for a book that Burke gave up his hard-earned mortgage deposit to see published, and for which he had such modest hopes as to ''recoup the costs''.

It's a trip, though, that pales by comparison to The Big O's rollicking plot.

When stick-up artist, Karen, meets Ray -- a crim with a side-line in kidnap -- you can expect fireworks. Figure on worse when Ray is commissioned to snatch Karen's best mate, Madge. Throw in a dodgy plastic surgeon with an immediate need for cash ... and an insurance policy on Madge, and the the mix a heady one.

The Big O is one big-old crazy caper with an eerie hint of Elmore Leonard and a brash, bold, ball-bustin' tempo that puts the genre so close to The Edge that Larry Mullen might be nearby busting his sticks!

As a stylist, Burke is as kick-ass Irish as the great Ken Bruen and is already taking the back-roads to the same place in American hearts with this latest Houghton Mifflin Harcourt release.

The really big appeal of The Big O, however, is that there is simply nothing like it -- nothing close -- on the bookshelves today.

The Big O is a perfect confluence of craic and cracker-barrel craziness. A white-knuckle ride with pace and taste and a winding, weaving storyline that will have you moving through those pages faster than a hobo with a free meths ticket.

Burke has hit a bullseye with The Big O, and, blessed as he is with such a slick and impressive command of language, his achievement has more than earned all its big old praise.

Tony Black's PAYING FOR IT is out now. The nice folk at Crimespree said: "I'd put him up there with Rankin and Kernick and Billingham with just this first novel." Visit his site at: