Hayden McGlynn grew up on the same street as I did in Clontarf, Dublin. Like me he moved to London and became a standup comedian. Which makes me the perfect person to tell his extraordinary story.

As it begins, Hayden is onstage in London, but he’d rather be at home writing his crime novel, so when his mobile rings in mid-gag the audience urges him to interrupt his jaded act and answer. It’s his three nonagenarian aunts, the bane of his life, phoning from Dublin. His Uncle Eddie has just died. Excellent. Any excuse to get off the circle of hell.

He goes over for the funeral, but is soon convinced Eddie has been murdered. No-one believes him, or so they say, so he becomes ‘the accidental detective’. He can also get on with his book. ‘It’s sort of Celtic Screwball Noir.’ No ideas as yet, but isn’t that part of the process?

He’s more of an anti-sleuth, hoping the crime will solve itself. Besides, if Dublin’s leading criminal family, the Popes, is involved, he’ll end up dead himself, and that’s the last thing he wants. He’s delighted when he gets a signed confession from the meek, but possibly psychopathic, Pascal O’Dea. It turns out, however, that Pascal has also murdered JFK, Julius Caesar, and the fictional father from
Playboy of the Western World.

He soon has a list of suspects, including the detective inspector who should be solving the case but isn’t, the youngest Pope, whose relationship with Eddie is complicated, and a beautiful neighbour who may be running a house of ill repute from this most sedate of suburbs. His three aunts, who seem to know everything, follow Hayden’s progress with possibly unhealthy interest and supply, in the process, the book’s title: ‘Are you a sloot? Are you, Hayding?’

My problem throughout, as the narrator, is how to follow the action while intermittently distracted by my comedy guru, Emeritus Professor Larry Sterne, cycling past on his way to City of Dublin University. When I discover that there’s a UCD and a DCU but no CDU, I become obsessed with finding out where he’s going, which means I’m always in danger of losing the plot. Literally. Not to mention metaphorically. This journey of discovery leads me to the very heart of comedy itself.

Hayden eventually has a list of prime suspects, but hasn’t a clue who did it. Based on an idea from one of the crime novels he’s reading when he should be writing his own, he invites them all, under false pretences, to a celebration of Eddie, who was a great, if reclusive artist. ‘One of the people in this very room is guilty.’ The perpetrator, apparently, always cracks.
It works. The crime is solved, but not in the way he’d anticipated, and the solution leads him into a spiral of existential despair. But wait! When things can’t get any worse he’s overheard by the hugely celebrated actor, Wolfe Swift, pouring out his tragic story in local bar
The Nautical Buoy. Wolfe has just finished one film and is on the lookout for a new project to stretch his extraordinary talent.

‘There are seven basic plots,’ says the greatest method actor of his age. ‘This is number eight. And what a twist. My people, your people.’

Hayden is back on top. He’s got his crime idea, his fictional plot supplied by the story he’s just lived. Except it’s not a novel, it’s a film, and Wolfe Swift – the hottest property in cinema – is going to do it. He ends the book triumphant.

Unfortunately for him, though, there’s a second book. But Hayden doesn’t know that. Yet.