Review: The Devil by Ken Bruen

That’s the thing with Bruen novels, you can’t just read one. An unholy trinity I offer this week, ending with perhaps the oddest of the three. From the brutal realism yer man from Galway dips a toe into the dark swirling waters of magical brutal realism. Here’s the blurb:

The eighth novel in the award-winning Jack Taylor series by Ireland’s most acclaimed crime-writer: America — the land of opportunity, a place where economic prosperity beckons — but not for PI Jack Taylor, who’s just been refused entry. Disappointed and bitter, he thinks that an encounter with an over-friendly stranger in an airport bar is the least of his problems. Except that this stranger seems to know rather more than he should about Jack. Jack thinks no more of their meeting and resumes his old life in Galway. But when he’s called to investigate a student murder — connected to an elusive Mr K — he remembers the man from the airport. Is the stranger really is who he says he is? With the help of the Jameson, Jack struggles to make sense of it all. After several more murders and too many coincidental encounters, Jack believes he may have met his nemesis. But why has he been chosen? And could he really have taken on the devil himself?


I really can’t get enough of Jack Taylor; Bruen keeps chipping off bits of him — knocking his teeth out, breaking his bones with a hurley stick, and of course wasting his flesh with a variety of drugs, whiskey and the good old black gold, Guinness. Despite everyone’s attempts to do so, it seems you just can’t kill Taylor, much as he tries to do it himself. Of course everyone around him seems to snuff it regularly, even more so in this novel. Even his usual nemesis, “the nicotine czar, his own self, Father Malachy” is looking pale. When these two have a drink together, you know all bets are off. Is it really the devil who’s taken a dislike to Jack’s meddling? And is he the one bad guy Jack can’t find a way to stop? I suspect when the devil wakes up from a nightmare, he’ll have Taylor’s name on his lips.


Review: Cross by Ken Bruen

Sensing a theme, aren’t you? I love Bruen.


Cross (kros/ noun, verb, & adjective) means an ancient instrument of torture, or, in a very bad humour, or, a punch thrown across an opponent’s punch. Jack Taylor brings death and pain to everyone he loves. His only hope of redemption – his surrogate son, Cody – is lying in hospital in a coma. At least he still has Ridge, his old friend from the Guards, though theirs is an unorthodox relationship. When she tells him that a boy has been crucified in Galway city, he agrees to help her search for the killer. Jack’s investigations take him to many of his old haunts where he encounters ghosts, dead and living. Everyone wants something from him, but Jack is not sure he has anything left to give. Maybe he should sell up, pocket his Euros and get the hell out of Galway like everyone else seems to be doing. Then the sister of the murdered boy is burned to death, and Jack decides he must hunt down the killer, if only to administer his own brand of rough justice.


I love Jack Taylor: good thing he’s fictional, because he is definitely made, bad and lethal to know. This is another addictive read: once you start a Bruen, it’s hard to put it down until you finish. Since I was supposed to be writing something myself, I forced myself to stop at each chapter and get back to work. Brutal — so is this narrative. Wow — the horror elements are front and center in this one. If you like it dark, you will love this one. Bruen often skirts the border between crime fiction and outright horror and this one definitely leans to the horror side. Some of the set pieces will really make you cringe. The only reason it’s four and not five stars is that there were a few instances of rough passages that jarred me out of the narrative. The editor should have been tougher! Nonetheless, that’s fairly minor and maybe something that most readers wouldn’t baulk at in the least. Visit Bruen’s Galway, the one the tourist office tries to hide!