Last time I met the hero of the McDonnell’s comi-noir, Bunny McGarry, he was happily sowing mayhem across Dublin (if you want to know more a out that check out the four books in the Dublin trilogy). Since then Bunny has emigrated to the ‘Big Apple’, I can only say ‘good luck New York!’ McDonnell gets hardboiled and that’s why this homage, now camped in the US, is so much fun. Don’t underestimate the thriller element, plenty of action, plenty of tension – I Have Sinned is superbly plotted and very well written. But this is black comedy central delivering a barrel load of belly laughs, quips, snappy dialogue, enigmatic confrontations and a train wreck down in the distance. One thing leads to another and another and . . . you get the picture.

Bishop Ramirez is kneeling by his bed saying his prayers, maybe if he’d had security like his predecessor the man standing behind him wouldn’t have been able to get into his private quarters, but he did. As a ‘man of the people’ type of clergyman Ramirez didn’t want a bodyguard. To be fair, the assassin is a polite man with the good grace to allow the bishop to finish his prayers. He’s also angry, this is retribution for something that happened many years before but he can wait a few more minutes. The murder could have happened in the street, or on the steps of a church, but the would be killer wanted to sure that Bishop Ramirez understood why this was happening. To let him know that he hadn’t got one over on him in the end. He’d find the boy, get him back. As for the bishop, one shot to the forehead . . .

Father Gabriel is feeling proud, St. Theresa’s is slap bang in the middle of a three-way turf war but in his seven years he’s had a few successes. The boxing club, Bianca for instance, no long mistrustful and withdrawn. Of course, there’d been a drive-by revenge shooting earlier in Weston Avenue, poor Little T and every first Wednesday he visited the graves but he was making a difference in Coopersville.

The fella in the confessional was Irish and the way he was going he must have married the Blarney Stone. Running through the ten commandments claiming credit for the ones he didn’t break since his last confession. That was a while ago, about when Princess Di died, although he had nothing to do with that. Eventually he gets to:

“Thou shalt not kill.” There was a long pause. “That’s a tricky one.”

Turns out he had killed a few people, mostly in self defence or at least with some justification, only the kind of people who deserve it. Then he gets to the point of making his first confession in twenty-two years. One of the guys he killed had kidnapped a good friend, well, a woman he loved actually, and he was going to kill her, so Bunny intervened. Simone means a lot to him so he couldn’t let that happen, that was back in the day, in Ireland. Now Simone is in trouble again in New York, some bad guys are after her so Bunny has come to help. First he needs to find her. He thinks that the mysterious excommunicated order of nuns, the Sisters of the Saint, might be able to help, only they’re ex-directory. A little birdie told Bunny that Father Gabriel might just know where to find them. Father Gabriel vehemently denies this so Bunny leaves his number for when the priest changes his mind.

As a tourist Bunny leaves the church reading a map, which prompts a couple of the locals to offer help with directions in exchange for his wallet and phone and coat, of course. They have a gun and a knife and this chastening experience leaves Bunny a lot richer. With the confiscated drug money he can have the priest tailed until he contacts the Sisters. When some thugs try to kidnap the priest Bunny and his mates are on hand to help the man of the cloth . . .

Fast, furious and funny. Bunny McGarry is superb comic creation. This comedy thriller is a joy to read.

Paul Burke 4/3

I Have Sinned by Caimh McDonnell
McFori Ink 9781912897087 pbk Jun 2019