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This Charming Man by C.K. McDonnell

Writing.ie | Book Reviews | Speculative Fiction

By Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

This Charming Man by C.K. McDonnell is published with Bantam Press and is the second book in The Stranger Times series. The Guardian described book 1, The Stranger Times, as ‘a filmic romp with great characters, a jet-propelled plot, and a winning premise’ and The Financial Times called it ‘a tennis match of witty banter’.

Now as many of you know I am no stranger to the writings of Mr. McDonnell. Under the name Caimh McDonnell, he has previously written a collection of books, The Dublin Trilogy and its spin-off series McGarry Stateside. I think it’s fair to say that I am a fan of Caimh’s writing so when he landed a publishing deal with Bantam Press I was thrilled for him. Caimh has worked very hard over the years to get exposure to a wider audience and I think it’s safe to say that his persistence has paid off. Caimh McDonnell has a huge following. Anyone who has read one of his books immediately wants more. As a once-upon-a-time stand-up comic, Caimh seems to have a bountiful supply of witticisms and sharp dialogue that he can filter through his writing, bringing much needed enjoyment to every reader.

In the wonderfully quirky The Stranger Times series, C.K. (Caimh) McDonnell has gone off on a tangent. We are no longer on the streets of Dublin with Bunny McGarry or chasing badass folk Stateside. We are actually in Manchester. To be precise, in the offices of The Stranger Times newspaper. In this media setting anything, and I mean ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING, can happen. With the completely bonkers and very unconventional Vincent Banecroft as the Editor-in-Chief and an extremely unorthodox and seemingly random collection of employees doing his bidding, the offices of this bizarre newspaper are in a constant state of flux and disarray. Here nothing is extraordinary, nothing is impossible. The team have seen some very strange behaviour and have all had their lives threatened in some form or other through some otherworldly experience.

The local population see the paper as a joke, as garbage for the nutjobs in society who believe in the most fantastical of stories but, dear reader, it is much much more than that. The supernatural works in mysterious ways and the team of The Stranger Times are not just there to report on the ridiculous and outlandish tales of some rather strange folk. It’s existence is vital for assisting with the balance between worlds being maintained. It is a message board so to speak and it is up to certain individuals to sieve out the dross and the outrageous from the stuff of nightmares that could have huge repercussions for the community at large.

Following on from book 1, The Stranger TimesThis Charming Man sees the gang knee-deep in all things vampire, or what they believe must surely be vampires. But there are those who say differently, those who say that vampires do not and never have existed, those who say that they are an allegory representing something else. Yet, there is evidence of a vampire, a body with all the obvious trimmings including the pointy, sharp teeth and there is more…..

As the supernatural rumblings increase, Banecroft and his team go into action, so to speak. Banecroft is an ex-Fleet Street journo, whose life has spiralled out of control for many reasons, but he still has an ability to get things done. His methods are crude, his management skills are non-existent, he has little self-respect yet he strangely enough garners loyalty from his team. As murder and mayhem is about to be unleashed across Manchester, Banecroft et al need to pull together to uncover these wild and mysterious goings on. Orthodox policing is no match for what is coming. It is time for the weird and wonderful to take centre stage, it is time for The Stranger Times to step up and be counted….

This Charming Man (The Stranger Times series) falls into the bracket of urban fantasy, which is dictionary-defined as ‘a genre of imaginative fiction featuring supernatural characters or elements in an urban setting’. C.K. McDonnell adds a fantastic layer of humour to both books, with his perfect comedic wit pulsating throughout. Most conversations are packed with snappy exchanges and impeccable humour giving the reader a wonderful feeling of being 100% entertained.

I know I’m being so very vague in my review (again) but really you just have to dive into these books yourself to experience the energy and the pure fun that C.K. McDonnell brings to paper. This Charming Man is a fabulous addition to this series that is being compared to the writings of Terry Pratchett and Ben Aaronovitch, but , as I mentioned in my review of The Stranger Times, let that not be a deterrent if you do not normally read in this genre. C.K. McDonnell makes his own niche on the bookshelves bringing his Irishness and his wonderful timing to the fore with an unruffled air and a playfulness that is guaranteed to make you laugh. Go on, treat yourself to a bit of fun…you deserve it!

(c) Mairéad Hearne (Swirl and Thread)

Order your copy online here.

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