Book review: The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey

Paddy Buckley is a Dublin undertaker and, unsurprisingly, death stalks him everywhere… but, until four days ago, his own death was something he rarely contemplated.

Thursday, 6th August 2015, 11:00 am
The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley
The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley

Within that short space of time, the affable Paddy has taken some seriously risky career decisions, had an unexpected and unprofessional encounter with a grieving widow, and inadvertently killed the brother of the city’s most brutal gangster. Perhaps dying won’t seem so bad after all…

Get ready to be entertained, enthralled and bowled over in classic Irish style by a darkly funny and truly original debut novel from Jeremy Massey, a former Dublin undertaker and trained screenwriter whose trade secrets and creative talents converge in a glorious flight of imagination.

Brimming with the blackest humour, the realities of working in a funeral parlour, thrilling excursions into death and danger, and soulful observations on the human condition, The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley will have you hooked from first page to last.

Since his pregnant wife and unborn child died suddenly two years ago, Paddy Buckley has gone from contented 40-year-old husband to disillusioned widower with nothing to wake up for except other people’s funerals.

He has been employed for twenty years by Gallagher’s, a long-established and respected funeral home in Dublin, and now he has ‘buried’ himself in his work, taking in a seven-day week and hardly seeming to sleep.

But quite out of the blue, his dull, dreary, uniform life takes a surreal turn when he visits the home of a recently deceased man’s beautiful widow. Left reeling by the events of that night, Paddy is driving home when he hits a pedestrian crossing the street.

He pulls over and gets out of his car, intending to do the right thing, but as he bends over to help the man, he recognises him. It’s Donal Cullen, brother of Vincent Cullen, the most notorious gangster in Dublin. And what’s worse, Donal is dead.

Shocked and terrified, Paddy jumps back into his car and drives away before anyone notices what has happened. The next morning, the Cullen family call Gallagher’s to make the funeral arrangements and Paddy, their most experienced undertaker, is sent to meet Vincent and his entourage.

Vincent is hell-bent on finding the hit-and-run driver, swearing to wield all his considerable power to catch and destroy his brother’s killer, and when Paddy makes a dangerous error, he is plunged into a deadly vortex of intrigue, deceit and treachery…

What should be a grim tale of life and death, grief and loneliness, good guys and very bad guys, turns out instead to be an intriguing, moving and big-hearted odyssey encompassing love, truth, friendship and worldly wisdom.

In the charming but complex Paddy, we have a man for all seasons, an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances whose natural Irish wit is tempered by moments of sober contemplation and moving insight.

Massey allows Paddy’s tale of woe to unfold with the straightest of faces, all the warmth of a natural born storyteller and a clever, captivating narrative style, but steel yourself for gruesome moments in the embalming room, always expect the unexpected, and last but not least… enjoy.

(Riverhead, paperback, £10.99)