The above illustration, "Blowing Bubbles," has been adapted for use here by generous permission from the artist, Cyril Rolando.

February 22, 2009


SYNOPSIS: Does Jack Taylor have a problem? He's abandoned his plan to escape Galway and fly off to the USA, staying in Ireland instead to oversee the recovery of his friend Ridge, who's trying to offset a recent mastectomy by indulging in Jack's favorite vice: drink. Meanwhile Jack is fighting, with only partial success, his own addictions. In the midst of his wreck of a life comes a letter from a psychopath: a death list that includes two cops, a judge, a nun and a child. Oh, yeah, Jack has a problem all right. You see, he doesn't know his name was omitted from the list, sort of accidentally on purpose. And the cops -- never Jack's most indulgent acquaintances -- don't believe the list is genuine. So Jack Taylor does have a problem. You think?

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."


  1. Corey, what a great review. I've heard of the author, but haven't read anything by him. Your inclusion of Bruen's written words in the post were so damn intriguing for a character I had yet met. It had me scurrying to find what was available on audiobook. And, it's criminally thin for this author--all of the four, recent. No chance to start a series with Mr. Bruen. I will give this a go, but, crap.

  2. Ah, Michael, that is too bad. Still, I started out reading the Jack Taylor series out of order (the Brant series, too, in fact) so it can be done. But if at all possible, don't read out of order the Taylor books from 'The Magdalen Martyrs' up to 'Sanctuary.' Because there is an event in 'Martyrs' that resonates in every book afterward. If you read the later books first, that will be a major spoiler for you.

    I see that they had 'Calibre' in audio. That's one of the Brant series, and it was the first Bruen book I read. For a long time I thought I would always like the Brant series better than the Taylor books. It's still a close call for me.

  3. Oi! Corey - are you buying your books from across the pond now? I haven't even felt a whisper on this one from my sales rep or anyone at St. Martin's. No fair! Now I know how it feels, I guess - and it feels bad.

    But I can wait, because Jack never disappoints. Unless, of course, he "actually join(s) the human race". Now that would be tragic.

  4. Seth, you need to talk to the sales rep again. My copy is the ARC, that's why my bookseller just gave it to me. So they must have others out there ready for reviewers. My bookseller is not a Bruen fan (heaven forgive him) so he emailed me to come and pick it up. And for the first time ever, he let me go through the boxes of ARCs he'd received and take whatever I wanted, so I also picked up Craig McDonald's 'Rogue Males' and Adrian McKinty's 'Fifty Grand,' and several other titles. I was so happy I was a danger driving home.

    I don't think you'll be disappointed by Jack this time around either. I trust Jack will never really go soft on us.

  5. Ken is the man. He's everywhere these days and getting great reviews.