Saturday, October 12, 2019

Galway Girl - Ken Bruen

Galway Girl, book number fourteen in Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series, adds yet another brutal chapter to Jack Taylor’s long, dark history. Taylor is a former Irish cop with a history of mental illness who regularly drinks himself into the kind of stupor that can take days to recover from. The man has suffered the kind of personal loss that would have driven weaker men to suicide – but Jack Taylor is anything but a weak man. Nor is he a bad man.

What he is, though, is a cynic with a big mouth; a man who understands exactly how the real works and is not afraid to shout about it in public. Taylor can count the friends he still has in the Garda on fewer than half the fingers on one hand, and he gave up counting his active enemies on the force a long time ago. And while Galway is still very much a Catholic-Church-dominated city, Taylor has some very powerful enemies (particularly one who hopes to soon become a bishop) there, too. His few real friends are found among the regulars in Galway’s pubs. But most dangerous for the church, the Garda, and Galway’s criminals, Jack Taylor is still a do-gooder always willing to rush to the defense of those who can’t defend themselves.

But now members of the Garda are being assassinated one-by-one, and it looks like Taylor is somehow connected to the deaths. The killers are three young sociopaths who have bonded over their shared desire to destroy what little mental stability Taylor still has, and killing his ex-colleagues is just part of their longer-term plan. As the number of assassinations mount, the police turn to Taylor for help – much to the consternation of both sides.

Ken Bruen
But as usual in a Ken Bruen novel, the main plot is not the most important thing about Galway Girl; Bruen’s novels are more about atmosphere and character development than they are the main plot. Along the way, there are sometimes so many side plots being explored and resolved that the reader can easily forget what the main plot even is. Jack Taylor has a reputation on the streets (and he tries to make his meager living as one of Galway’s few private detectives) so it is common for him to receive visits from people afraid to go to the police for help. And, especially when those needing help are women or children, Taylor is always ready to drop everything else to see what he can do to help.

Bottom Line: Galway Girl is Irish noir at its best, a novel in which the city of Galway herself plays as important a role as any of the book’s characters. Surreal and dreamlike at times, the novel often requires a healthy suspension of disbelief to move one of its several plot lines forward, but that’s all just part of the fun for regular Ken Bruen readers. Bruen’s sparse and stylistically-unusual writing style is the icing on this Jack Taylor cake, a book that I particularly recommend to fans of really dark crime fiction.

Review Copy provided by The Mysterious Press 

10 comments:

  1. I haven't read many books set in Ireland. I might have to give this series a try.

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    1. Bruen's books offer a very dark view of life in Ireland's big cities. It's all pretty grimy and depressing for those characters he generally features: criminals, good cops and bad cops, alcoholics and addicts, etc. His crime fiction is definitely of the noir type.

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  2. I like the setting, but right now, I'm not sure I'm ready for something this dark.

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    1. It's among the darkest crime fiction I've ever read, Jenclair. And Jack Taylor is probably the most flawed good-guy character I've ever read. But the writing is amazing.

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  3. Now you've got me humming the Ed Sheeran song. ;<))
    I gave up on the books after the first one, and can't watch the tv shows either.

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    1. I don't like the TV shows either, Nan. I just can't get into them for some reason. The series though has intrigued me from the first book I read. I think I've formally reviewed about nine of the books on Book Chase now.

      Oh, and Ed Sheehan gets a mention in this latest book, too. :-)

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    2. How cool! I am a big fan. You've convinced me to read book 2.

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    3. What Jack Taylor endures in this series is astounding, Nan. It's hard to believe he's still standing fifteen books into the series.

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  4. I thoroughly enjoy Bruen's books. The Jack Taylor novels are very dark but can also be very humorous. I also like the references to music and books that are strewn throughout.

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    1. Totally agree. The Taylor books are a weird combination of the darkest topics and dry, sarcastic humor. I say "weird" because it works so well.

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