Even though it’s been six years since Burke published The Big O (2008), this manic sequel seems to begin five minutes after its predecessor’s fade-out.
OK, listen up. Ex–cosmetic surgeon Frank Dolan’s plan to have his wife, Madge, kidnapped—a plan facilitated by obligingly feral criminal fixer Terry Swipes—has gone belly up. Madge’s abduction by her best friend, Karen King, has morphed into a plan to fleece $200,000 from Karen’s ex-husband, Rossi Callaghan, who’s partnered with Sleeps, the aptly nicknamed narcoleptic getaway driver. This new, improved plan has claimed two casualties, neither of them Madge. Karen’s pet wolf, Anna, has torn off Rossi’s ear, and Madge has shot Ray Brogan, Karen’s companion in crime, in the arm. And this is all before Page 1. Since Karen can hardly fly Anna to their rendezvous with Madge in the Greek islands, Ray, despite his broken arm, volunteers to drive her there over the Alps. And since a trip like that involves some capital expenses, they decide to amortize the costs by hauling a sealed package for Amsterdam coke dealer Johnny Priest. Travel agent Melody Shine, who’s just gotten a $12,000 grant for a screenplay she has no intention of writing, helps make some of the travel arrangements and then decides to follow her clients to the islands. And suspended Detective Stephanie Doyle, getting wind of the exodus, feels this would be just the time to reconnect with Niko, the dicey Greek cop who served as her interpreter last time around. Burke’s plot, if that’s what you want to call it, sucks every character who walks by into a vortex of schemes, coincidences, double crosses, shifting alliances, and talk talk talk.
Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the latest realignments among criminal conspirators so uniformly energetic and amoral that long before this installment is over, it’s hard to tell them apart.