By Marty Mulrooney
Screwed by Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl) is the follow-up to the critically acclaimed Plugged, which Alternative Magazine Online awarded Book of the Year 2011 and described as “an action packed, hilariously dark thriller with plenty of mystery to spare”. Former bouncer and ex-army sergeant Daniel McEvoy returns in a sequel that will once again see him facing the dark – and often darkly humorous – New Jersey underworld, fighting bent cops, hired muscle and a vengeful crime boss as he tries to survive to at least see the grand re-opening of his club.
I am lying in bed with a beautiful woman watching the morning sun light up her blonde hair like some kind of electric nimbus and thinking for the umpteenth time that this is the closest to happy that I’m ever likely to get and several degrees closer than I deserve after all the blood I’ve been forced to spill.
Daniel McEvoy has somewhat moved up in the world since we last spent time in his company. Following the events of Plugged, he has become a club owner and bona fide boyfriend – albeit to a delusional woman who often mistakes him for her missing, possibly dead husband. Local crime boss Irish Mike Madden has also promised that he won’t kill Daniel and his best friend Dr Zebulon Kronski, a douche cosmetic surgeon who sees himself as a player.
This promise is likely tied into the fact that one of Dan’s old army buddies is watching Mike’s mother like a hawk. Life is good – or at least as good as it’s been for a very long time. Then Zeb rings Dan with some bad news that takes him 6 pages of verbal diarrhoea and procrastination to spill: Ma Madden has been killed by a bolt of motherfucking lightning.
‘Here’s the situation, okay?’ says Mike, spit flecking his lips. ‘I own this town and you fucking owe me, McEvoy. Whatever way you want to dress it up. So, there are two ways to get yourself out of the hole. Either Calvin plugs you in the head right now and I have to Clorox the floor, or I need a dummy to deliver a package to a guy called Shea in SoHo, who can be a little touchy. That’s it. Two choices. A or B, no option C. Oh, actually, wait. There is an option C. Option C is Calvin shoots you in the balls first, then shoots you in the head.’
To stop Mr Madden killing him there and then, Dan reluctantly agrees to deliver the package. What should be a relatively straightforward life-or-death situation quickly escalates when corrupt police detectives Kreiger and Fortz kidnap Dan, zapping him with a Taser. When he comes to, he’s tied to a chair in a pink thong. The two cops are dressed in gimp masks and rubber aprons, busy setting up a laptop webcam. It’s a dark scene bordering on the surreal, with a close escape that culminates in the creative use of a large dildo. Dan’s a resourceful guy and the situations he gets into – and against all odds, out of – will make you laugh time and time again despite the dangers involved.
This scene is only the beginning. Dan soon finds himself embroiled in a plot involving his (not blood) grandmother, his aunt (his mother’s alcoholic baby sister) and a whole host of characters who want to kill him, including the wannabe head of a criminal empire (the aforementioned Shea, who is really just a kid) and a freckled hitman. Eoin Colfer writes fearlessly and with ferocious energy, mixing up extremely dark situations and exciting action sequences with pop culture references and humour that continually hits the mark. One of the book’s most tense – and outright hilarious – scenes involves a speeding taxi cab, reinforced glass, a handgun, handcuffs, a thong, a key and the Hudson river. Oh, and a collapsed pier that inspires Dan to come up with a joke to tell Zeb later on… if he survives.
It takes Irish Mike a moment to get it, but when he does, his reaction is comical. He executes a move that I can only describe as a reverse lunge, which I would not even have believed was possible for a portly geezer had I not seen it with my own eyes. He pulls out his gun and waggles it a little, giving genuine thought to killing everyone in the room.
‘He’s a male… guy,’ he finally blurts.
I cannot stop myself and I know Zeb would be proud. ‘A mail guy? Like a postman?’
Screwed is a superb sequel that only pales ever so slightly in comparison to its predecessor. Whereas Plugged offered a compelling murder mystery to underpin all of the crazy goings-on, Screwed hangs together much more loosely. In many ways this makes it a far more difficult book to review (if not to read), but hopefully it has become more than apparent by now that this is an extremely exciting, funny and well-written book that further cements Daniel McEvoy as one of the most unlikely – and likeable – heroes in modern fiction. He’s been plugged, he’s been screwed… long may his misfortune continue!
9 OUT OF 10