I will put my hands up straightaway and confess that `comic' crime does not usually sit well with me, and apart from Carl Hiaasen and Colin Bateman, I very rarely pick up books billed as such. However, Stiffed was a genuinely very entertaining and equally funny read. You know how sometimes you ruminate at the end of the day and say "Wasn't that just the day from hell", well, think twice, because Tadhg's day can easily trump the minor irritations of the average day! Waking up with a corpse, grappling with the realisation that your girlfriend is missing, being pursued by some very nasty characters indeed, and relying on the help of two hapless friends with dubious social skills, and you get a sense of how bad his day really is. Not only has Kitchin constructed a very readable and compelling plotline, but the comic touches are a joy. There are numerous completely laugh-out-loud moments that appealed to my dark sense of humour, and I loved the interplay between Tadhg and his friends, who bring a whole new level of ineptitude to the world of body disposal. There is a nice little twist involving Tadgh's girlfriend and his blundering avoidance of the baddies of the piece is well played out. All in all, a bit of a hoot!
on 20 September 2014
You know where you are right from the beginning of Stiffed. You’re in Tadhg Maguire nightmare that’s tense, edgy and funny. What you don’t know is exactly how badly things will become.
Tadhg (be careful how you say that, now) returns home from a bout of heavy drinking and wakes up in his bed with his arm round the corpse of a gangster’s heavy instead of his crazy girlfriend. As we’re soon to find out, the crazy girlfriend happens to have stolen a million bucks from the mob, which at least goes some way to explain the switch between the sheets.
Clearly Tadhg faces a dilemma. He can call the murder in, do a runner or dispose of the body. He chooses the latter and enlists the help of some good friends to make sure he gets the job done.
In retrospect, a runner might well have been the best option.
His good friends don’t know what they’ve let themselves in for.
It’s not long before there’s another body on the scene and the police come round to find out what exactly is going on.
This may have been a bad start to Tadg’s day. As he looks back on events, finding a body in his bed is going to seem like a bright spot. Things spiral out of control and fall to pieces.
To my mind, the piece feels very visual and has the energy of a slick action film. Overlaying the chaos and pace are the thoughts of a very confused Tadhg. This blend works really well.
The sense of America as a melting pot for the diverse certainly comes across and the list of supporting characters are really well drawn.
Essentially I thought the read was a lot of fun. The crime and action angles work well, in the main as platform that allows Kitchen’s comedy to play out. The humour comes in many forms – in dialogue, situation, action and slapstick – which means it’s an entertaining read and an ideal beach companion (even if that beach is a cold, rocky expanse on the East Coast of Scotland).
on 14 June 2013
Tadhg Maguire wakes to find himself spooning a dead man. The stiff is Tony Marino, lieutenant to mobster Aldo Pirelli. It doesn't matter how the local enforcer ended up between Tadhg's sheets, Pirelli is liable to leap to the wrong conclusion and demand rough justice. The right thing to do would be to call the cops. The sensible thing to do would be to disappear. Forever. The only other option is to get rid of the body and pretend it was never there. No body, no crime. What he needs is a couple of friends to help dispose of the heavy corpse. Little do Tadhg's friends know what kind of reward they'll receive for their selfless act - threatened, chased, shot at, and kidnapped with demands to return a million dollars they don't possess. By mid-afternoon Tadhg is the most wanted man in America. Not bad for someone who'd never previously had so much as parking ticket. If he survives the day he's resigned to serving time, but not before he saves his friends from the same fate.
It's a bit of a tricky review to write this one is. So we'll have a quick Q&A session to see if that can help instead.
Is it a straight-forward crime or mystery novel? Err, not really in my opinion, as the author intentionally strives for large doses of humour throughout. As a black comedy it's superb, with likeable good guys (for the most part) going that extra mile in the name of friendship. As a mystery or crime story with a ratcheting sense of danger and fear for the safety of our intrepid band of brethren, less so. Despite an ever increasing number of villains joining in the hunt for the missing $1 million, all brandishing a splendid array of firepower and inflicting regular doses of pain and injury on Taghg and his gang, I didn't really feel at any time that their lives were in jeopardy.
Did the lack of tension or danger then detract from my enjoyment of the book? Actually no, as the author gave his main characters sufficient doses of likeability, charm, intelligence, stupidity, naivety and frailty to off-set this. I viewed it more as a comedy than an out and out crime read.
Did the novel amuse, entertain, enthral and captivate you? Did you skip meals and bunk off work, in a heightened state of anxiety to try and finish in a record time? Yes, yes, hmmm...sort of, no - that's too strong, no and no. Enjoyable, amusing, fun, interesting, a few laugh out loud moments and a few moments of quiet contemplation whilst I considered my own friendships. I read it leisurely, dragging it out over the best part of the week.
What niggled about the book? Nothing especially, some characters annoyed and irritated but I think that was the author's intention. As the book progressed and Tadhg's longest day unfolded, some previous unknowns were revealed, offering explanations for some earlier behaviour.
Would you read more about the characters, more from this author? Yes and yes again. I'd happily re-visit Tadgh at some point in the future, if there's a sequel...are you listening, Rob? That said, I wouldn't be unhappy reading more of the author's fiction with or without Maguire and his cronies. But maybe Tadgh on a road trip to Mexico, or Cuba.....
Overall impression then? 4 from 5, a welcome diversion from my usual fare of grittier crime books. A wee bit like the first Dortmunder novel I read from Donald Westlake - The Hot Rock.
Rob was kind enough to offer up this copy for me to read and review - cheers.
on 16 May 2013
Tadhg Maguire arrives home one night, slightly more drunk than he thought. When he gets into his bed, Kate, his girlfriend, remains wrapped in the duvet without uttering a single word, at least that's what he thinks. They've been together for seven months, lately, only bicker. Before dawn, Tadhg wakes up suddenly and finds Kate screaming at the foot of his bed. There is another man in the bed. A naked man. With a hairy back. All covered in blood. A dead man. When he finally reacts. Kate is gone. The dead man turns out to be Toni Marino, Aldo Pirelli's right hand man. Pirelli is the local boss of organized crime in this small New England town of barely 35,000 inhabitants. Tadgh works for the local newspaper, The Spring Times. He has been covering all kinds of social events for the last five years.
The right thing to do would be to wait until the police arrive. The sensible thing would be to go away and disappear forever. The only remaining option is to dispose of the body pretending it has never been there. No body, no crime. Problem solved. Life goes on.
To help him getting rid of the body, Tadhg calls his best friend since he arrived to America from a small Irish town when he was fourteen, Jason Choi. Jason is a second-generation Korean who weighs 350 pounds. But Tadhg's problems won't end up there. A second body appears, and Annabelle Levy, another former school mate, also shows up. She's is mixed race - white Jewish father, black mother. She's intelligent, beautiful and pissed off with the whole world. To get rid of the two bodies they need a van. Here is where Paavo Poukkanes, another old school pal, comes into play. And then an unknown man shows up and demands a million dollars that belong to him. or so he claims. For some reason, he thinks that Jadhg has the money. Following a series of crazy races Tadhg will become the most wanted man in America. He may end up in prison without even knowing what's up. But first he is determined to rescue his friends who have been kidnapped.
Thanks to this book I have come to discover a new subgenre, at least to me, `screwball noir'. A combination of two film genres, the screwball comedy and the film noir, that can be applied to any other artistic expression. The name was first coined in the nineties. In Spain a pioneer in this genre is Pedro Almodovar with his film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, 1988. (Spanish title: Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios).
Stiffed is a farce, a crazy comedy and a black tale written in a humorous tone. As such, some essential features are: an amateur detective, a `femme fatale' and a dizzying action full of ridiculous but funny situations. It's also an easy and enjoyable read. For some it may be irrelevant, I disagree. Above all, it's nicely written. The plot is interesting and well structured, and the characters are very attractive. Tadhg and his friends will be hard to forget. And, who knows, maybe we can see them again one day. A highly recommended reading..