Compliments of Hurricane Irene, we had two feet of water in our basement, were without power for three and a half days and spent an additional day without Internet so first off, I want to thank Jeff for taking over for me last Sunday on very short notice. It's been a messy and frustrating week and a half but there were a lot of people affected by the storm far more seriously than we were, so I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining. Irene did exhibit terribly bad manners, but let's not forget that she came from out of state and was only traveling through New Jersey; any resemblances between Irene and certain New Jersey reality show personalities (flipping trees rather than tables, passing water in public) were purely coincidental.
So now, back to Jersey cool. Several weeks ago, in an attempt to bring some levity into my life, I decided to read the ARC that I had picked up at Book Expo of Plugged, by Eoin Colfer. Set in the fictional north Jersey town of Cloisters, the novel is narrated by Daniel McEvoy, an Irish expat and former military man currently working as a bouncer at a dump of a casino called Slotz. Daniel's friends and associates are what popular culture currently considers to be a typical Jersey cast of characters: Connie, the obligatory single mother cocktail waitress; Victor, the sleazy casino boss; and Zeb, an Israeli expat physician who runs a distinctly unorthodox medical practice. Joining the fun are some colorfully unsavory bad guys, a young and very attractive (of course) African-American policewoman and telephone appearances by Dr. Simon Moriarity, Daniel's shrink from his days as part of the international peace keeping force in Lebanon.
Beginning with the double entendre of the title, the fact that Colfer is one funny guy is never in question. Daniel's Irish speech patterns play off nicely against the typical "low Jersey" dialect and the different foreign accents of the other characters; there were occasional turns of phrase and bits of dialogue that actually had me laughing out loud. Also, because many of the action sequences were so outlandish,I never lost sight of the fact that Colfer's goal was to keep me - the reader - entertained amd amused rather than depressed and disturbed by the depravities of human behavior.
I found the plotting of the crime elements to be the weakest part of the novel; there were several interlocking mysteries that needed to be solved but I felt no real sense of satisfaction as the various perpetrators were revealed. It was as if Colfer put most of his creative energy into crafting characters who readers would want to revisit, with the plot being worked out almost as an afterthought. It was obvious that Colfer left one loose end dangling in anticipation of one or more sequels. With his zany cast of misfits and New Jersey setting, I couldn't help but wonder if Colfer isn't hoping to accomplish for a male audience what Janet Evanovich has already so successfully achieved for her overwhelmingly female readership.
A couple of additional thoughts: if Colfer intends to cash in on New Jersey cachet, someone needs to do a little more editing as his version of New Jersey just didn't completely ring true. In spite of the fact that in real life, gambling casinos in New Jersey are permitted only in Atlantic City, I could suspend my disbelief enough to allow for the presence of casinos located in the north Jersey suburbs. What I could not accept was a casino so small that it had only a dozen employees. Also, if Colfer intends to write for an American audience, he needs to remember not to include references to public health clinics.
Hey, Eoin, come visit us - there are a lot of people in New Jersey right now who could use some cheering up and we'll make sure you get the Jersey details right for Daniel's next adventure.
I also do not want to let today go by without somehow acknowledging the 10th anniversary of 9/11. If you have not already read it, I highly recommend Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is an extremely and incredibly moving piece of literature about the events of that day.