What begins with Jack's search for a missing college student ends with a metaphysical tour de force, and in between are packed all of Bruen's hallmarks: Biting wit, dark laughter, heart-wringing sorrow, and enough generosity toward other writers and musicians to earn Ken Bruen his place in heaven, had he not already earned it. At this point though, it's all just polish for the halo.
In Sanctuary, the previous installment in the Jack Taylor series, some measure of redemption for Jack was hinted at by the author. Readers, we should have known better. This is Ken Bruen's work here, this is his Jack Taylor, not ours. And the author quickly disabuses any notion (a thing in and of itself to be despised, according to him) that Jack may have at last found his center of mass (hey, you read this book and see if you can refrain from religious puns!). Right up front, in the prologue, a mysterious figure known as Kurt says to Jack, "... evil hones in on those closest to redemption."
How's that for a harbinger? You can pretty well guess that there's some black misery in store for Jack. Here's a word of advice: Set aside the time to read this one twice. First, just read it. It's quite a story. Then read it again and take notes. When you've done that, let's get together and talk about what you think that ending means. Because Bruen's Devil isn't William Peter Blatty's evil that can be dispensed with ritual and faith; it isn't John Connolly's evil that is simply the vacuum left by the absence of empathy. It isn't even the devil that Garth Brooks sang about (in Tony Arata's song, Face to Face), the one that hides deep inside everyone. Bruen's Devil is of the walking-around, in-your-face, what-are-you-gonna-do-kill-me unstoppable evil. Not just a force but a knowing presence.
Sure, Bruen may well be using the devil as metaphor for what has replaced the Celtic Tiger, but he's got more to say here than that these are miserable times. And it's worth reading. Oh, hell, yeah.
Here are a couple of pithy excerpts:
"Evil is only a concept to those who've never experienced it. To those who've met it, the term 'concept' dropped from their vocabulary."And:
"Every day, like jig time, Sawyer played nine holes.
And he cheated.
O.J. Simpson did, too, and there's a moral there.
Not of any uplift."