Drawing upon dark humour and clever use of coincidence, Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is a kidnap caper that’s violently funny and is written in a manner eerily reminiscent of Elmore Leonard. The kidnapper, Ray, doubles as a painter; an occupation he readily uses to scope his targets. Wanting to retire from the business, Ray takes on one last job to snatch the wife of a doctor for the purpose of netting some insurance cash. Along the way Ray becomes involved with the doctors receptionist and later discovers the target and Karen (receptionist) know one another, having formed a common bond in despising the no-so-good doctor.
Karen is the strongest character here; it’s her past that catches up to Ray and throws the scheme off balance when a former boyfriend is released from prison. Demanding a stash of cash, gun, and bike – all of which Karen is unable to return proves to be the catalyst for a train wreck of unfortunate events that turn a simple snatch and grab into a deadly showdown.
I really liked Burke’s easy flowing narrative and inventive characters. While coincidence upon coincidence has a tendency to become unbelievable and disinteresting, in THE BIG O it actually works. Each scenario is plausible (if you suspend your belief a tad) and down right funny. The light hearted nature to the serious scheme complements these characters perfectly. I liken the overall style to a cross between Elmore Leonard, Victor Gischler (SHOTGUN OPERA-Gishler), and Carl Hiaasen. Dubbed a screwball noir – the subgenre couldn’t be more apt.