Eoin Colfer is best known in the States for the Artemis Fowl books—his series for children about a boy genius—and fairies. He was also chosen to continue Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker trilogy. Plugged, therefore, is a complete departure from his usual speculative fiction. It’s a non-magical, hard-boiled but humorous crime story set in New Jersey, the direct opposite of fairy land for sure. It’s full of just plain odd characters and situations. It reads like Janet Evanovich with a bit of the old ultraviolence stirred in. And it’s weird. Really weird. But in a good way. That’s what I liked about it. I think the strange characters and offbeat situations were just what I needed to read while hiding inside during the Midwestern heat wave.
Danny, the protagonist, is ex-military and now works as a bouncer in a very low end Jersey casino. When Connie, a co-worker and Danny’s on and off girlfriend, is murdered, Danny gets dragged into a mystery and interrogated by the cops.
“Police” she says, and taps the badge on her belt.
“Oooookay,” I say, interested to hear what’s coming next.
“Was it you?” she demands, and her gun is in my face. Shaking. Give me a steady weapon over a shaky one any day. Shaky guns tend to have shaky fingers on the trigger.
“Was it me what?”
Deacon screws the barrel into my forehead. Feels like a Life Saver mint, only not so cheery.
“Don’t fuck with me, McEvoy. Was it you, soldier boy?”
The shaking gun is wiggling my eyebrows.
“You trying to be funny? You making faces at me now, McEvoy?”
“It’s the gun, I say helplessly. ”I’m just standing here.”
If you laughed out loud at comparing a gun barrel to a mint life saver, then you get Colfer’s twisted humor. It’s got bite and spark. The title of the book is not only hard-boiled-speak for getting shot, but it also refers to Danny’s hair plugs, inserted by a no- at-all legal plastic surgeon, who may or may not be dead. And who also talks to Danny in Danny’s head. Telepathy? A ghost? A transmitter in the hair plugs? Who knows?
Is the “Doctor’s” disappearance related to Connie’s murder? Or was she killed by the casino patron who bit her on the butt the day of her death? Does the crazy lady in the apartment upstairs from Danny’s, who yells curses through the vent, know anything? Did she hear the Irish Mafia trash Danny’s apartment? And why does Irish Mike, leader of that gang, call everyone “Laddie”? That’s not Irish! It really doesn’t matter. When butt-biting is part of the action, the detective work can take a back seat.
This isn’t a mystery to read to admire the cleverness of the plot, or to look for red herrings and try to solve the puzzle before the end of the book. This is a book to read to admire the twisted imagination of the author and to revel in some cool weirdness.
Amy Dalton is a buyer for a large, Midwestern library system. She has written news and reviews for several book and film sites over the years.