Daniel McEvoy is a scarred ex-Irish Army sergeant who, after one stint too many in Lebanon, decided to turn over a new leaf and emigrate to the USA. Now he works as a bouncer at Slotz, a seedy small-time casino in Cloisters, New Jersey. Cloisters is a backwater town with supposedly very low level of criminal activity. One night, however, Daniel has to throw an egomaniacal lawyer out of the casino and soon he finds out everything there is to know about Cloisters’ allegedly non-existent crime scene. And then some.
It starts with Connie, Dan’s favorite hostess and love interest, found murdered in the parking lot behind the club. Then Zeb Kronsky, Dan’s friend and an unlicensed doctor who was supposed to take care of the freshly implanted McEvoy’s hair plugs, has disappeared (yes, the title refers to Daniel’s hair implants or maybe also to him being shot at -it’s that kind of book). In no time at all McEvoy’s gets half the New Jersey mob, dirty cops and his man-crazy upstairs neighbor after him. Bullets are flying, blood is flowing, furniture is being destroyed and McEvoy still doesn’t have a clue about what’s happening and why.
Dan’s serious skills left over from his army days and an illegal stash of firearms hidden in his flat mean he can defend himself successfully. He also has a gift for improvisation and an invisible friend in his head, talking and quarreling with him almost all the time – it’s Zeb who refuses to disappear completely and starts haunting Dan’s thoughts to make sure his friend doesn’t forget about rescuing him.
Will Dan go mad or will he find a way out of his troubles? Or maybe both?
I liked the Artemis Fowl series well enough but always wished the author left the cozy waters of young adult prose and tried something more adventurous, more mature. Be careful what you wish for, right? The caption at the top of the cover (above the name of the author in white) says: “If you loved Artemis Fowl…it’s time to grow up”. Is ‘Plugged’ really a ‘grown-up’ crime story? After reading it I have my doubts.
The whole book gave me an impression that Colfer was torn between wanting to write a serious crime novel and something with a fairly humorous bent; as a result he didn’t quite succeed in pulling off either of these. There’s enough grim violence and vulgar language in the book as to make the more comedic parts seem not quite right. This isn’t a ‘noir’ story so much as ‘muddy’ and ‘dirty’. Consider how Daniel is introduced: he and his fellow bouncer are spending time determining if females they see in the casino have implanted breasts. Dan explains that there is no better topic to talk about at work – he tried with some documentaries he’d watched on the National Geographic Channel and failed miserably. The passionate breasts discussion is ended abruptly when he has to intervene: a criminal lawyer, enjoying his time off work in a seedier part of the town, licks the bottom of one of the hostesses breaking the ‘do not touch the staff’ rule. Well, it’s true the girl was clad just in a polka-dot bikini but it was also her official Slotz uniform. After that scene everything goes firmly downhill; you might enjoy that ride but afterwards it makes you think less of your own literary tastes and yourself – not exactly an effect the author was counting on, I guess.
Overall I feel there are one or two too many oddball characters and one or two too many scenes where the suspension of disbelief was just a bit too strained even if I was occasionally enjoying myself. I guess the exaggeration that worked fine most of the time in a magic-filled, YA- oriented plot, full of fairies, pixies, leprechauns and centaurs, here started to grate after a while – it was supposed to be an ‘adult’ book, right? In the end I got the feeling the sum of the parts of this one may not be quite up to the level of some of the parts themselves. Still I have to admit the cover is good.
To his credit, Eoin Colfer maintains all of the tropes from the first few chapters throughout the novel, so his book remains readable, with some really funny parts. Still I felt the originality was sacrificed for artificial cleverness and the result left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was really hoping that the writer would take all of those crime story old clichés and do something unique and creative (read: magic) with them – no such luck.
I honestly cannot say whether or not I will be tempted by the second part of this series (‘Screwed’).