BTW, the book jacket on the left is the UK version, on the right is the US version. I'm much more partial to the one on the left. Not only does the UK version appeal to my eye, but that white feather pictured has much to do with what's in the story.
REVIEW: What to say about a Bruen book that hasn't been said? As always the pace is swift, the action harsh, the hurt deep. Bruen keenly points out, in ways that fill the narrative rather than interrupt it, the early results of the worldwide recession being sharply felt in Ireland, only recently the world's second richest nation. He also captures the gradual loss of Irish culture due to the effects of globalization. The churches and the pubs are the most numerous reflections of the old ways, and the churches are losing ground fast. Or maybe their sins -- the pedophile priests and the Magdalen laundries and the brutal teachers -- are coming back to haunt them. And in Jack, Bruen personifies the ruinous results of the national preoccupation with alcohol.
Bruen is a master at creating characters without really describing their physical features. Beyond Jack's limp, hearing aid, and artificial teeth (yeah, the years, the booze, and the beatings are all catching up now that Jack can't run so fast), I've no idea what he looks like. But Jack's soul, severely scorched round the edges, is a perfect picture to me. And it is in this book, the seventh in the series, where the reader begins to see the culmination in Jack of everything that has gone before. Maybe this time, at last, the deaths of the innocents will mean something more to him than an excuse to reach for the bottle, because this time Jack's story ends with a touch of hope rather than of black despair, and the reader finds that Jack may have learned a measure of forgiveness. And if he can forgive the one person who has most grievously wronged him -- well, is it possible Jack could actually join the human race? And if Jack can do that, isn't there hope for the rest of us?
Here are two excerpts from the book, just to show how Jack can swing from deep tenderness to calculating sarcasm. In this first scene, Jack is with a dying man, a man grossly obese and whom Jack had met only one time previously.
Jesus, I couldn't help but like this poor sad bastard. He was unable to move because of his sheer girth and he still had fucking manners. That killed me and I swore an oath, an unholy one, that I'd make that bitch suffer as I killed her...
I have never hugged another man, not even me own beloved father. It's our upbringing -- you never put your hand on another man unless you want to lose it from the shoulder. Now I leaned over and put me two arms around this massive man.
He started to cry, muttered, "Thanks, Jack."
Fuck, fuck, and fuck it all.
This hugely obese man, lonely as only the truly lost can be, was thanking me and he wouldn't let go. I had the horrendous thought, He's never had a hug in his whole life. And that the first should have to be from a fucked, deaf, limping trainwreck like me...
In this second scene, Jack has encountered Father Malachy in the park. Malachy is Jack's long-time nemesis. Malachy was also his late mother's best friend, and it's an understatement to say that Jack didn't get along with his mother.
I asked, "Do you believe in angels?"
He looked at me, suspicion writ huge. "Why?"
I could feel a warm mellowness beginning to take hold. God bless pharmaceuticals.
"Well, you're a priest, sort of, and angels and all that stuff is your... How should I put it? Your merchandise."
I saw a slow cunning light his eyes and knew he was ready to retaliate.
He said, "Your mother was an angel."
I let him savour that for a bit then said, "So was Lucifer."