Just in time for Bloomsday, 15 Irish poets, playwrights, and novelists have banded together to raise money for Amnesty International by contributing chapters of the shaggiest mystery you’ve ever read.
As in Ulysses, things start off straightforwardly enough with Roddy Doyle’s opening line of dialogue: “I think he was dead before I shot him.” But the murder (if it really is murder) of retired pharmaceutical researcher Tommy Reynolds is soon lost in the clatter of corpses. Gene Kerrigan dispatches one of Reynolds’s killers; Marian Keyes kills off the simple soul who’s been intimidated into confessing to that second murder; and before long it’s hard to escape the suspicion that the contributors are using homicide as their main therapy for the wildly proliferating subplots. As the cloud of gunpowder smoke lifts, what remains is a robbery ring run by the formidable Pauline Bloom and her half-sister Betty Blixen; a sex triangle involving Inspector Grainne O’Kelly, Garda rookie Pascal Greer, and Mrs. Jacinta Kinch, the minister for justice who fancies the unplucked Greer; scared lowlife Micky McManus’s dream of turning himself into a Rastaferian; and the search for the text of James Joyce’s lost last novel, written entirely in mathematical notation. Donal O’Kelly does his best to provide an excuse for all the mayhem, and Frank McCourt provides two hilarious sex scenes in lieu of the other sort of climax. Co-conspirators equally eager to salt the trail with Joyceana include Conor McPherson, Gina Moxley, Anthony Cronin, Owen O’Neill, Hugo Hamilton, Tom Humphries, Pauline McLynn, Charlie O’Neill, and Gerard Stembridge; and editor O’Connor (The Salesman, 1999, etc.).
If you can forget that the nominal mystery plot ought to be going somewhere, at least half the chapters will make you laugh out loud, which is more than you can say for most of Amnesty International’s brochures.