Angels in the Moonlight, by Caimh McDonnell (40:00)

IOD score cardToday we see that humor and danger make a good team.

What I gleaned about the story: Bunny and Gringo are partners in crimefighting, two Irish policemen who make an unlikely but effective team. There’s a highly skilled gang of thieves that knocks over an armored truck with military precision. I expect these two plot threads will collide soon.

Find this book on Amazon.

Note: Caimh McDonnell is now a three-time treadmill survivor. One more punch on his IoD card and he’ll be eligible for a free car wash [offer good only in Canada]. See the previous reports for A Man With One of Those Faces and The Day That Never Comes.

Kudo #1: Attention-grabbing opener

Analysis: The opening sucked me in immediately:

Rory Coyne’s pulse thundered in his ears. He wasn’t great with heights – and when you’re standing on the six-inch-wide ledge of a building five storeys up, that’s a bit of a problem.

Not only does it introduce the scene’s central feature (a terrified man up on a high ledge), the understated “bit of a problem” tells the reader a lot about the tone of the book. He’s in a precarious position, but we’re allowed to snicker.

The next few paragraphs help flesh out the scene:

He tried not to look down but he didn’t have many other options. Looking to the left or right gave him a view of the Dublin skyline, but from an angle that only emphasised that he was now a part of that skyline. He had tried closing his eyes but his treacherous imagination insisted on showing him the ground rushing up to meet him again and again. He was regretting the four pints he’d sunk before getting up here. Four was either too many or too few. It was certainly not the right amount. He was sober enough to be terrified and drunk enough to want to cry.

A pigeon landed on the balustrade beside him and cooed. He tried to focus all of his attention on it.

The pigeon looked at Rory and then pointedly down at the ground.

“Feck off.”

His sweaty hands clung even tighter to the balustrade as the autumn winds tugged at his bomber jacket. The wind was worse than the view. He steadied himself then quickly pulled his left hand away to wipe it on his jumper. The movement was met with a gasp from the crowd below. A sickeningly giddy shock of excitement passed through him before his hand found its hold on the white stone again.

The narrative, like the pigeon, seems to be taunting the guy, offering a bit of relief to him before yanking it right back. After telling off the pigeon, the next paragraph conveys Rory’s fear earnestly, reminding us that—pigeon or no—the situation is serious.

Like Rory himself, the narrative is engaged in a balancing act, trying to slip in the jokes while keeping us well aware of the (ahem) gravity of Rory’s situation.

Kudo #2: Effective character introduction

Analysis: What makes a character interesting to the reader? What makes them important, or special, or just hard to look away from? What can you tell the reader to make them want to know more? I give you our protagonist: Bunny McGarry.

He was no longer alone on the roof. The Cheshire-cat grin of Detective Bunny McGarry appeared in Rory’s peripheral vision, about twelve feet away, leaning casually over the balustrade as if expecting a neighbourly chat about the football. McGarry was a big lummocks of a man, with a thick Cork accent and a scruffy, second-hand look about him. He was early thirties, six foot two and fat, but in a usable way; he carried the kind of bulk that could slam through a door or be thrown behind a punch as required. His left eye was lazy which gave people the impression he was slightly unhinged. That impression was frequently backed up by his behaviour.

Unnervingly calm in an unnerving situation? Check. Seems to know something you don’t? Check. Easy to visualize? Check. Dangerous? Check.

As the scene unfolds and Bunny starts talking to Rory, we notice that he’s not as worried as it seems he ought to be. He’s calm, he’s cracking jokes. In fact, he’s treating it all like a bit of a joke. Their usual negotiator is out of town, and apparently Bunny is filling in.

As the scene closes, Bunny lets us in on why Rory’s standing on the ledge, and why he seems so casually indifferent to the man’s plight. It turns out we only saw part of what was going on in Rory’s head, which is usually considered dirty pool. But sometimes, when the payoff is more than worth the price of the misdirection, it’s forgivable.

Later, at the bar, half the cops in Dublin seem to have shown up to celebrate Bunny’s birthday, even though it’s not his birthday. Long story. Won’t get into it.

His not-birthday has gotten to be quite the event, getting bigger every year. Bunny is obviously sheepish about the whole thing. But when he finds out that his partner has been telling a fellow officer (Moira) about his heroics that day:

Bunny could feel himself blush. Moira Clarke had been at the station a couple of years. She was a nice girl. Bunny had seen her play football for the Garda team at the civil service games last year; she had a good burst of speed on her.

Dude, that’s not why you’re blushing. Bunny clearly thinks highly of Moira, and we suspect that he’s attracted to her. But he’s either too polite or too shy around women to fess up to the fact, so even in his mind he compliments her indirectly.

I think this is a clever, effective bit of narration. The scene is being narrated from Bunny’s POV, and so our attention follows his attention. The indirect way that his mind deals with the subject of “what I like about Moira” shows his discomfort with the subject, and lets the reader puzzle out the reasons.

WTF #1 … I strongly considered handing out a WTF because the author named a character “Dirvla” just to see if he could get readers in the States to fall for it. But I’m going to let it slide, because I’m a bigger man than that and because Angels in the Moonlight is off to a spectacular start. I’m definitely going to read through to the end. The toughest part of writing this review was trying to figure out which fantastic things to highlight. You may want to read the series in order, but as Angels is a prequel, it probably stands well on its own.

Take the Pepsi Challenge: Want to know if my own writing measures up? Try the free sample on one of my books or short stories and decide for yourself.

Short Stories Part 1., by L.L. Caulton (1:16)
Criminalities: Three Short Crime Stories and an Essay, by Barry Ergang (1:42)