A man working for a Dublin funeral home runs afoul of one of Ireland’s top gangsters in this dark, comic, and sometimes-romantic debut.
The Paddy of the title, age 42, is having an awful half-week, starting with sleeping problems caused by memories of his pregnant wife’s sudden death, and loss of the child, two years ago. He manages, though, to brush aside his grief and professional ethics when his dealings with a newly widowed 60-year-old woman develop rather quickly into sex and she experiences both the small and large deaths. Covering his involvement in this fresh piece of business—the autopsy’s a big threat, “with my DNA lining Lucy’s birth canal”—warms him up for several days of fatality, snafu, and deception. The peak, or nadir, is a car accident in which he kills one of the country’s most violent criminals, sneaks off, and then has to discuss the funeral arrangements with his even nastier brother. Paddy also manages to get involved with the willing widow’s equally willing daughter when it comes time to discuss details for what is now a double funeral (maybe the movie will be called Funeral Crashers). That grief might galvanize the libido is at least more plausible than the mystical tricks Paddy’s father taught him about leaving his body or hypnotizing vicious dogs—in this case a cross of fox, wolf, and Alsatian. An undertaker himself, Massey throws in interesting and quite believable sidebars on embalming, corpse-dressing, and cremation. Personal experience probably lies behind one of the funeral home’s funnier mess-ups and the need to convince a bunch of angry Irish mourners that a closed casket is the best way to go.
Highly readable and entertaining, though far-fetched in key moments, the novel benefits especially from Massey's mostly restrained, deadpan Irish sense of humor.