I exist in the middle of a difficult Venn diagram sometimes: I enjoy crime fiction, particularly when there’s a magical or humorous element, but I’m also pretty squeamish and can’t handle too much gore. However much I try to kid myself that I can. Turns out experiencing near-perpetual nausea actually makes it harder to deal, not easier.
I requested A Man With One Of Those Faces from NetGalley in the hope that it would exist in the same part of the diagram, mostly because it was shelved under ‘humour’ as well as under ‘mystery & thrillers’, and that struck me as a good sign. It turned out that my hunch was correct, and this ended up being an enjoyable read.
It had just enough tension and murder to keep things interesting, but avoided major gore or body horror. There was also plenty of humour to keep things light: some of the witty one-liner variety, some of the kind where it’s a deadpan statement that’s only funny in context. I found myself highlighting a fair few parts that made me snigger.
It’s set in Dublin, which makes a nice change — I haven’t read a lot of Irish crime fiction, and there’s something refreshing about people getting their heads smashed in with a hurley rather than the usual weaponry. (Although you’d think after all the medieval Irish lit I have to read for uni, I’d be sick of that kind of thing.) Not to suggest that it’s full of cliches or anything, because it isn’t, but it’s impossible to overlook the Irishness of this.
I don’t know if everybody has a sort of mental voice when they’re reading, but I really wish mine was capable of an Irish accent so I could have experienced this more accurately.
I enjoyed the combination of characters, who ranged from a fierce old lady to a heavily pregnant lawyer to a criminal who would probably have benefited from some family therapy. Even the main character Paul, who is supposedly forgettable because he’s got ‘one of those faces’ and could be anybody, has plenty of character and depth.
Even better? There was no romance, which is remarkable for a book where the main male and female characters are thrown together into terrifying circumstances. Here and there I felt almost certain it would end up with them kissing or something frustrating like that, but it didn’t, and that definitely pleased me.
I don’t have any particular critiques to make about the plot — it was unpredictable but not impossible to follow, with enough threads to keep the pacing up even when one aspect wasn’t developing for a while. I got a tiny bit confused with the actual reveal / denoument: it could probably have been stated more explicitly instead of leaving the reader to join up all the dots, but after a few pages it was clear what they were saying had happened.
My reading of and ability to review this book probably suffered because I mainly read it late at night — I started it at 2am because I make bad life choices — and that makes giving specific details a bit harder. However, despite the circumstances I found it an engaging read with interesting characters, and just the right balance of tension and humour to keep me interested.
Plus, unlike other books I’ve read lately, it managed not to gross me out with gore in the process. Which is pretty impressive when you consider how much murder there was.