(Overlook)Daniel McEvoy works as a doorman at Slotz, a seedy dive/gambling house in Cloisters, New Jersey. There, he gets entangled with Faber, a lawyer who is attempting to do Braille on the backside of his main squeeze, Connie. Through a complicated series of implausible events, Faber gets plugged and McEvoy gets on the wrong side of the one mobster you don't want to cross in the Cloisters: "Irish Mike" Madden, who looks more or less like a fire-hydrant.
Bodies fall left and right, impaled with bullets, knives, high heels (!) and even a door key. McEvoy suffers from the usual traumas, blows, electric shocks, knee jabbings, fisticuffs and near misses, but survives to take over Slotz.
You know as well as I do that trying to detail the plot line in a detective story is like trying to get the shell out of your soft-boiled egg, or get your kids away from the computer. Plus, one doesn't go into a volume like this to try to figure out the Seven Types of Ambiguity. We're there for the boffs ... and Plugged is jam-packed full of those.
In fact, I haven't had so much fun with what we used to call "a murder mystery" since I got involved in Chabon's Yiddish Policemen's Union. McEvoy is as neurotic as all the other fictional detectives around nowadays ... maybe even more so. He goes in and out of psychotherapy; he's ashamed of going bald for chrissakes; and he's got a crank doctor named Zeb to give him a series of plugs to furrow his pate with a whole new field of locks. This leads him right into the arms of Irish Mike, who has had the same doctor, the same hair operation ... when he is not seeing his shrink.
Mike was a UN peacekeeper on the border between Israel and Lebanon. "Most of the time we wore camouflage," he reports, "went on patrol and were baked by the sun until our skin cracked, but sometimes things got a little primal, which tends to happen when bunches of hot, grumpy men have loaded weapons and different ideas about God."
But the dialogue: it's a show stopper. Mike's fellow doorkeeper has a secret crush on Fellini movies, and asks him one day, "You got anything, Dan? Any good memories of your pappy back home in Ireland?"
"Yeah. There was this one day when he beat me with his hand because he couldn't find the shovel. I'll never forget it, still brings a lump to my throat."
Then this, when Dan meets up with the policewoman Ronelle Deacon: "Her mouth is up, snarling, wanting the kiss. So I kiss Detective Deacon, feeling a premature post-coital regret that should warn me off but doesn't."
She has a wide brow, strong nose, full lips, skin the color of polished rosewood. Her body is lean and muscled like she beats suspects a lot, and there's a welt on her upper arm looks like a bullet wound.
I touch the scar gently; feels like there's a marble under there.
"Nine millimeter?" I ask. Mister Romance.
"Branding accident," Deacon grunts, still half asleep.
§ § §
Finally, there are the extras. Madden's goons have names like Abner and Wilbur. In fact, it may be less Chandler and more Dada. Guns do pop up and off all over the place, stiffs appear hither and yon. People get slugged and stabbed. Sofia Delano, the lady upstairs from McEvoy, claims he is her husband, and repeats back to him everything she hears through the light fixture.
McEvoy becomes owner of Slotz in a poker game with Victor. Huge drums of pills turn up, complete with another body. A guy named E. Bomb tries to shoot McEvoy, which leads him to muse,
Christ, what have nicknames come to? The problem is that these guys are inventing their own names. No one christens themselves Four-eyes, or Shit-breath. One guy back in Dublin, did six months for peeping Tom offenses, guys called him Windows 2000. Now that's a nickname.
Like I say, it's pure dada out there in Cloisters, N. J.--- Leslie Winans