Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Magdalen Martyrs

The Magdalen Martyrs is the third book in Ken Bruen’s addicting (pun intended) Jack Taylor series and for me it was the book that finally caught me up on the series to-date. I mention this only because of the way my knowledge of the future of a few of the characters in The Magdalen Martyrs might have affected my reaction to the roles they play in this book.

Jack Taylor, by many standards, is an awful man. He is no stranger to violence - an alcoholic, a user of hard drugs both recreationally (including during sex) and to escape his troubles, not a man to be taken lightly. By other standards, though, Jack is a good and an interesting man. He will not walk blindly past a father publicly abusing his child; he respects the elderly for their experience; he is loyal to the core when it comes to old friends and old haunts; he is a literate man who knows history and loves books as much as physical objects as for what is inside them. Jack is also smart enough to know that he has caused most of his own problems in life but not smart enough to change the habits that keep him in so much trouble.

When Bill Cassell, an Irish mobster to whom Jack owes a personal favor, asks him to find the woman who helped Cassell’s mother escape the old Magdalen laundry decades earlier, Jack gets busy because he knows that no one refuses Bill Cassell and lives to talk about it. The Magdalen, once a church-run home for promiscuous young women, was staffed by nuns, one of whom, in particular, took delight in physically abusing the girls as punishment for their promiscuity. A few of the girls died at this woman’s hands, so to have escaped the Magdalen for a new life on the outside was akin to a clean jailbreak.

The Magdalen Martyrs is about fighting demons and there is no one better equipped to battle demons than Jack Taylor, be they demons from the present, from his past, or even from before he was born. Taylor, while simultaneously working two separate investigations, confronts the evils of the long-gone Magdalen laundry, his own multiple addictions, his violent temper, his intense hatred of his elderly mother, and his contempt for his mother’s pet priest, the odious Father Malachy – among other demons.

As always, a Jack Taylor novel is more about the man than the cases he works – exactly what keeps fans of the series coming back for more. Despite his many flaws, Jack Taylor is an easy man to like, and I wholeheartedly recommend the entire Jack Taylor series to readers who enjoy delving into an intriguing character to the depth that a long series, such as this one has become, allows.

Readers with the stomach for dark, hardcore action simply will not want to miss Jack Taylor.

Rated at: 5.0

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