JACK O’CONNELL – Wireless. Quinsigamond #2. Mysterious Press, hardcover, November 1993; paperback, 1995.


   One thing you got to give this O’Connell dude, he don’t do the same old stuff. Box 9 was one of the strangest books I’d read in a while, and Wireless may be even stranger. It’s set in the same decaying New England town, Quinsigamond, and the presence of Lenore Thomas, the freak lady cop of the first volume haunts the second though she is not physically present.

   The plot? Yes, well the plot … there are these anarchist-type radio jammers, you see, and several ethnic criminal gangs, and then there’s this lady cop who’s sort of the spiritual heir of the heroine (?) of his first book, and there’s a couple of dwarfs, a radio show hostess with a late night sex show, and a renegade FBI agent who likes to set people’s heads on fire … no, hell, no, I’m not making it up, that’s who it’s about, and it’s not funny at all, blackly or otherwise.

   The activities of the jammers provide the focal point. but it’s about a lot more than that. All of these weird and diverse people come together and move apart, and things change, and there are several resolutions of a sort. It’s no doubt a metaphor for several weighty philosophical concepts, but I’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to which and how valid.


   It’s a difficult book to describe coherently, and impossible to categorize. I suspect, though, that semi-smug, middle-class whitebreads like myself are not really its intended audience. It’s well and powerfully written in the present tense, with shifting viewpoints that show each of the major players with sometimes startling clarity; though to say that it illuminates them might be misleading. It’s more akin to flashes of lightning on a stormy night, when a murky landscape is shown in bright relief for a brief instant, and then shadow reclaims the world.

   It’s about alienation and family and love and hate and power, and it’s worth you time to read it, I think. You may not be able to believe in the flickering, off-center world it presents, and then again you may; but in either case it’s likely to drag you along for the ride, shaking your head and wondering where in the hell it’s all going to end. Be warned, though, it’s rougher than a split-oak log.

— Reprinted from Ah, Sweet Mysteries #8, July 1993.

Bibliographic Notes:   There were two more novels in this series, The Skin Palace (1996) and Word Made Flesh (1998).

    Continuing to Google for information about either the author or his work, the series seems to have gotten more attention from Science Fiction fans than mystery readers. A long interview with the author, Jack O’Connell, can be found online here.