Wednesday, May 09, 2012

The Devil

Ken Bruen is one of the true masters of noir.  The man’s writing style, some kind of cross between outright poetry and weirdly formatted prose, is a nice visual representation of the genre – and private detective Jack Taylor is the perfect noir character.  It just does not get any darker than Jack Taylor.

As this eighth novel of the series begins, Jack is disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that he has been denied passage to the States because of his past run-ins with the law.  Always moody, the deeply introspective Taylor stops at the first airport bar he sees, to load up on Jameson and Guinness before heading back to Galway.  There he makes the casual acquaintance of another bar patron he will come to know as “Mr. K” – and will regret the encounter for the rest of his life.

Jack Taylor is a contradiction.  On the one hand, he can be as physically vicious with Galway’s criminal element as is required for him protect the innocent from them – even if the thugs end up floating face first in the river.  On the other, he has a soft spot for children and their mothers, so when asked to find a missing university student by the boy’s mother, Taylor feels compelled to take the case.  But when the boy’s mutilated body is discovered, and it appears that Mr. K might have something to do with the horrible death, all hell (literally) breaks lose.

Ken Bruen
When Jack Taylor begins to wonder if Mr. K might be the incarnation of Satan himself, The Devil veers wildly from the solid footing of the seven previous Jack Taylor novels.  At this point, the novel becomes not so much a piece of detective fiction, as a beautifully written supernatural thriller.  This development will probably disappoint some Ken Bruen fans at least a little, me included, but there is enough of Jack Taylor in The Devil that this is still a must read for regular readers of the series. 

Jack Taylor aficionados will always welcome another chapter of the Irish detective’s life story and “be-jaysus,” we can’t wait for the next one.

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