Pat Coyne is a sad bastard indeed. Fortunately, he's seeing a
therapist, not that it's particularly helping him. Injured in the
line of duty as a Garda in Dublin, he has been off work for five
months as the novel opens. The physical scars have mostly healed,
but he's still battling some serious psychological defects, some of
which even may have predated the fire that took him off the job.
Being returned to bachelorhood recently has not improved his
When his son Jimmy, prone to criminal mischief, becomes the main
target of a murder investigation, Coyne bristles with fatherly
indignation and channels some of his abundant energy to help clear
Jimmy's name. With his father thus engaged, Jimmy distracts himself
by falling head over heels for a woman nearly twice his age.
Totally involved in his pursuit of Nurse Boland, Jimmy doesn't
notice the threat that is getting ever closer to him. Meanwhile,
Coyne has his hands full. When he's not actively working on Jimmy's
defense, he's hounding his ex-wife, mistaking her every look and
word as an invitation to return home. He never seems to believe
she's left him forever. Between his endeavors to regain his wife's
love and his efforts at keeping his son alive and out of jail,
Coyne amuses himself by terrorizing an old bank manager who he
perceives ruined his life. His affections are misplaced, his anger
is out of all proportion, but all in all he has a good heart.
A central gathering spot, The Anchor Bar, brings the characters in
contact not only with each other, but with their deepest thoughts
and feelings. This pub contains a subculture of regular patrons,
each with his own downtrodden reason for being there. For Coyne, it
affords him a venue to spout his philosophies on the decline of
humanity in general and the "new Ireland" specifically, and he
takes every opportunity to do so.
Hugo Hamilton has created an incongruous hero in Pat Coyne. At the
very moment you despise him for his actions, you admire him for his
convictions. His sense of the absurd sets you chuckling even when
you know it's inappropriate. You'll find yourself wrinkling up your
nose in distaste at his eccentricities, but I guarantee you'll be
nodding in agreement at some point, despite your best efforts to
condemn most of what he does.
SAD BASTARD is a melancholy look at dark Irish humor. The
characters are impish and violent, naive and gentle, political and
worldly, and entirely unique. Pat Coyne will be back, mark my
words, and you'll be clambering to read his next hilariously sad
Reviewed by Kate Ayers (firstname.lastname@example.org) on January 23, 2011