Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE BIG O by Declan Burke Kirkus Star


by Declan Burke

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-15-101408-8
Publisher: Harcourt

A hard-boiled caper goes belly up.

Karen has a monotonous day job as receptionist to a plastic-surgeon consultant. Her night job is edgier: She holds up convenience stores to support herself and Anna, the half-blind half-wolf she loves. During one stickup she meets Ray, a self-described babysitter who minds abductees until their families cough up the ransom. Rossi, Karen’s ex, is about to get out of the joint and come find her and his bike, his gun and his $60,000 so he can launch his new scam, the Francis Assisi Rehabilitation Concern, a charity allegedly devoted to helping ex-cons. Karen’s boss Frank, stricken from the medical roles for malpractice and bled dry by his soon-to-be ex Margaret and the shopping habits of his new love Genevieve, takes out insurance on Margaret, planning to have her kidnapped for it. Then all these miscreants’ lives collide. Margaret, it turns out, is Karen’s best friend. Ray has been hired to snatch her. When Frank gets mugged and loses the insurance papers, Detective Doyle, who finds his briefcase, can suddenly link Karen, pilfered drugs and slimy Rossi. Amid the ensuing double-crosses, even Doyle takes a crack at that insurance payoff, which actuaries have whittled down from a cool million to $200,000. This latest from Burke (Eight-ball Boogie, 2004, etc.) ends in a hail of bullets and a gnashing of half-wolf teeth.

Imagine Donald Westlake and his alter ego Richard Stark moving to Ireland and collaborating on a screwball noir, and you have some idea of Burke’s accomplishment.