Jack Taylor, the novel's narrator, is a former member of the Garda Siochana, Ireland's police force, who has attained somewhat of a local reputation for being good at "finding things." He is the closest thing to a private detective that a highly suspicious Irish society will trust to even a small degree. Unfortunately for Taylor, one of the things that he is best at finding is his next bottle of booze and he spends a substantial portion of his waking hours in a less than sober state. Taylor's reputation as a "finder" results in a young woman asking him to investigate the supposed suicide of her daughter and what he learns in the process will forever change his life.
On the surface, Jack Taylor is little different from many of genre's most popular detectives. He is an alcoholic fighting to stay sober in a world that every day confronts him with readily available booze, a man with a history of failed relationships, one handy with sarcasm and wit even when in danger.
But two things make The Guards different from the bulk of crime fiction being written today, the first being Bruen's writing style. The novel's prose is sparse, relying on short scene after short scene to move the plot along rather than on surrounding action scenes with the details of an intricate plot. Each scene is presented through the eyes of Jack Taylor and the reader's sense of what is happening is limited to only what Taylor sees or remembers from his own past. Bruen doesn't always hold himself to standard punctuation and is very fond of producing lists in place of simple sentences. For example,
"My clothes wereToo, many of the scenes are preceded by one of the author's favorite quotations from the works of other crime writers such as Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, Ed McBain and George P. Pelecanos.
at the end of the bed."
The second thing that makes this novel so unusual is how unimportant the plot really turns out to be in the long run. This novel is more about character development and the relationships of the characters than it is about the investigation that Taylor undertakes on behalf of the grieving mother. And it works beautifully. Jack Taylor is an unforgettable character who takes his rightful place among the Spencers, Robicheauxs, Spades and Marlowes of the literary world.
Rated at: 4.0