Plugged represents something of a departure for the acclaimed author of Artemis Fowl and other young adult novels, his latest novel heading for the more adult territory of crime fiction. But while the tone and content is definitely adult - it features a semi-delusional bouncer at a pretty sleazy "hostess" (ie. stripper) club who manages to get himself uncomfortably immersed in the crime and drug dealing world of suburban New Jersey - the reader will be happy to find out that there is still plenty of humour to be had with the subject along the way.
That's not to say that Colfer doesn't take Plugged seriously, or that he approaches the crime genre in any way half-hearted or tongue-in-cheek. Well, maybe just a little, since the hardboiled title could also refer to the hair-transplant treatment that Daniel McEvoy, the Irish-born bouncer at Slotz nightclub, and former soldier in the Peace Keeping forces in Lebanon, has been receiving from an old friend and doctor of dubious qualifications, Zeb. Zeb however has gone missing, seemingly mixed up with the worst of Cloisters' organised crime gangs, but before Dan can look for him, another incident at the nightclub involving one of the hostesses presents him with potentially a lot more trouble.
Colfer's venture into the crime genre doesn't sound like it offers anything new, not even the fact that Dan is a little bit deranged, suffering flashbacks to his time in Lebanon and hearing voices in his head - an imaginary Zeb constantly berating him for getting distracted from the case - but Colfer's angle is managing to make these problems witty and amusing. There is some amount of parody of the noir genre, but it's affectionate rather than poking fun at the genre, and not quite as broad in the humour as Bateman's Mystery Man novels, for example. When you're dealing with a crazy world however - and Dan comes across many entertainingly deranged characters - you have to laugh in order to survive.
You also have to laugh at yourself, particularly when you are Irish, are getting on in years and having something of a mid-life crisis, as Dan is here. That makes Dan an entertaining character to be with as he navigates the murky New Jersey underworld, and tries to keep on the right side of the not so perfect law enforcement services - to say nothing of the rather strange women who throw themselves at him. Nothing new then, but Plugged is a fast-paced and entertaining read that plays well within the crime genre while finding a new outlet for the author's trademark wit and humour.