Caimh McDonnell’s A Man with One of Those Faces was my first mystery/thriller of 2022, and it was certainly a fun one!
Mini Plot Summary: Paul is just trying to do some community service when a sickly man in a nursing home stabs him. And the old timer’s not the only one trying to kill Paul. On the run with Nurse Brigit (a crime fanatic) and with no one to trust but a couple of aging cops (one just days from retirement, the other a mean and cranky renegade), Paul needs to find out why he’s running and how he got mixed up in one of Ireland’s most notorious crimes before he winds up dead.
What I Liked About This Book: My favorite part of this book is how funny it is. Paul and his companion Brigit have the kind of witty repartee and amusing observations about the world that had me snorting and snickering my way through the story. For instance, there’s this part where Paul is on a rooftop and is accosted by a cat – it was ridiculous and somehow relatable and very funny. The book is also full of real characters – no one is a bland, regular Joe. You have Paul, who is living on a knife’s edge of poverty purely to spite his dead aunt. You have Brigit, an over-eager crime-novel enthusiast who sort of blunders her way through life. And you have a couple of grumpy police detectives who’ve seen it all and know it all – but still manage to be surprised. Even the side characters, like the pregnant law partner who ends up answering the phone when Paul is trying to reach his lawyer and the elderly millionaire who gives Brigit and Paul a safe place to stay, are richly imagined and full of personality.
The plot was also very engaging – it’s the kind of story where you know all along who’s chasing Paul… but the why and the how were surprising and kept me turning the pages.
I also love that this book takes place in Dublin. It’s full of fun words and phrases that I had to look up, either to understand their meaning or to know how to pronounce. That sounds like work, but I absolutely love reading books that use idioms and phrasing and terms that I’ve never encountered before.
What I Didn’t Like About This Book: This book started out a little slow for me, but that may have been the residue of my lengthy book slump. The thing I dislike the most about this book is that the title seems very misleading/inaccurate. I’m not saying every title has to be super meaningful to the book, but I am saying that when there is a tie in, the title can add more weight to aspects of the story than maybe it should. As in this case. Yes, there is a reason that this is called “A Man with One of Those Faces.” We get it right in the beginning, where we learn that Paul’s face is so generic and unmemorable, he can pose as the relatives of elderly retirement home residents. An interesting (if uncomfortable) concept, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. Okay, okay – there IS another time when his all-purpose looks come into play, in a backstory, but I don’t think it was important enough to make that feature the title. I realize I am being extraordinarily picky here.
I also felt like some threads were introduced that were never tied up. Not that I need every thread tied up neatly (although I said the exact same thing in my previous review, so maybe I DO need that), but sometimes it feels unsettling to end a book and still be wondering “what happened with…?” However! There is hope! This is the first book in a trilogy (which, if I understand correctly, then became a six-book series), so perhaps some of those threads will reappear in other books.
Should You Read This Book? This was fun, funny, action-packed, and full of really enjoyable characters. If you liked The Thursday Murder Club books, I think you would like this as well – although this has none of the deeper philosophical questions or heartfelt relationships of the Osman books. The action felt similar to that of Billy Summers – where you have a good idea of what’s going on, without seeing the full picture. I have already ordered the next two books in the series, and will report back!