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Where to Start With Irish Crime Author Caimh McDonnell, Renaissance Man

A skillful blend of comedy and crime.

caimh mcdonnell and three of his book covers

Caimh McDonnell has been going from strength to strength throughout his career. The central theme is making people laugh throughout his work. Even his monthly newsletter is funny. It makes sense that he’s been a professional stand-up comedian, written for several television shows, and now author of three crime series.  

Plus two of his author notes have gone viral; the first one is about the spelling differences between the U.S. and the British Isles: “The author recognizes some North American readers may find this upsetting and while he is of course scared of them, he is considerably more scared of his Mammy, who taught him how to spell.” 

The second author’s note is from his most recently published book Relight My Fire about not using artificial intelligence in his work. These are worth a read on their own terms. 

In a conversation with Caimh McDonnell earlier this year, he talked about the use of comedy in his crime fiction.

“Crime readers are very sophisticated; they’ve read hundreds of crimes. They’ve seen so many devices,” McDonnell said, “it’s very hard to catch them off guard.  Frankly, if you're spending your time trying to come up with ways to do that, then you're in danger of making a sort of weirdly lopsided book.  But the great thing with fantasy and comedy is, it's a brilliant way of disguising something.” 

He continued, “if you can slip something in funny, people think that's the reason that sentence is there is because there was a funny thing about a view from the window or something like that. Then later on, it turns out that it is actually a really key fact. People who probably would have spotted it in a straight crime book, don't see it as much because it was hidden under something else.” 

McDonnell’s works are often compared to Sir Terry Pratchett, whom he adores and even has a bust of Pratchett in his office, but McDonnell pointed out that his books don’t take place in any world like the one Pratchett wrote in.  

The Stranger Times: (The Stranger Times 1)

The Stranger Times: (The Stranger Times 1)

This is his newest series (published under C.K. McDonnell) that combines mystery and fantasy. As an Irishman living in Manchester for decades right now, McDonnell explained that it is a love letter to the city. 

The Stranger Times is a Manchester-based tabloid newspaper, the kind you’d find in a grocery store checkout that promises stories about people giving birth to their own grandparents. It’s not most people’s first choice but Hannah really needs a job. She’s in the midst of a nasty divorce and hopes that this job will be the start of something…well, something.

The editor Vincent Banecroft is a belligerent, foul-mouthed and foul-smelling man who puts almost everyone (even his staff) off. But Hannah and the rest of the Stranger Times staff soon learn that the truth is far more terrifying than what they report in their pages.  

Interspersed in the books are articles from The Stranger Times itself.

McDonnell said, “the articles themselves are by far and away the hardest thing to watch. You have no idea how hard it is to find something that's more ridiculous that genuinely happens in the world.”

For instance, he wanted to write a spoof about people being afraid of 5G and was going to write a funny article about trains. Then he learned that originally when trains were built, people had wild theories about them. 

And on top of the four books, he’s got a podcast by the series name, that features short stories mostly in the world of The Stranger Times read by comedians. The stories are more fantasy than crime, but they are ways of fleshing out the world, McDonnell said. 

A Man With One of Those Faces

A Man With One of Those Faces

By McDonnell, Caimh

In the first book of the “Increasingly Inaccurately Titled” seven-book Dublin Trilogy series, Paul Mulchrone just has one of those faces. He reminds everybody of somebody, which works well in his career at a retirement home, since he can appear like family members or friends to people there. Until one of them tries to kill him.

Apparently, he reminded them of someone they wanted to remove permanently. Then a second attempt on his life is made, and now he has to figure out who wants to kill him and why.

He teams up with the nurse at the retirement home, named Brigit, who is well-versed in all the mystery books, and Detective Sergeant Bunny McCarry, who lives on his own terms and own rules. If (and when) this series gets a movie, everyone is pretty much in agreement that Bunny should be played by Irish actor Brendan Gleeson. 

And of course, it’s hilarious. Case in point: “In the meantime, he was dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s, waiting for the S and the H to show up.” 

Disaster Inc

Disaster Inc

By McDonnell, Caimh

In the first book of the McGarry Stateside four book series, Bunny McCarry goes to America; what could go wrong?

Attempted murder and mayhem, of course.

Bunny makes his way to a diner, in dire need of a non-existent tea, when two robbers come to spoil everyone’s meal. Bunny does what Bunny does and he foils the attempt…but now he’s in hot water.

A woman, Amy Daniels, offers to help him and admits that the robbers were after her. They are part of a mysterious investment firm called Disaster Inc. that helps former government workers get a big boost in their pensions causing murder and mayhem themselves. Amy is wanted for knowing too much.

Now Bunny has to get them both out of hot water in his own way. 

Welcome to Nowhere

Welcome to Nowhere

By McDonnell, Caimh

In this standalone novel, Smithy needs money in the worst way, thanks to some mounting gambling debts that might literally be his death.

Bad job after bad job, things go from worse to terrible when he takes a humiliating job: prey numero uno in a leprechaun hunt by people who have too much money than sense (and taste). Smithy decides to take revenge on the man responsible but things go awry when he ends up saving the man’s life.

He and his friend find themselves on a wacky journey trying to stay alive—and maybe foil someone’s horrible earth-changing plans.