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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir as a Blunt Instrument
It's impossible to categorize Ken Bruen. His jarring, disjointed chronicles of crime follow no convention, and while his respect for the masters of pulp fiction:

McBain
Chandler
Thompson

is faithfully imbedded in his prose, Bruen mimics none of them. His style and his formulae are all his own:

Fresh
Brutal...
Published on January 6, 2007 by Gary Griffiths

versus
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Worthy Tribute to His Influences
I really enjoyed Ken Bruen's, The Guards, in which I met Irish ex-cop Jack Taylor for the first time. I was taken with Bruen's unusual style and his love for all the classic crime novelists who preceded him (my thoughts on The Guards) so I looked forward to reading something else from him.

Bruen has two crime series going at the moment, one series of four...
Published on August 20, 2007 by Sam Sattler


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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Noir as a Blunt Instrument, January 6, 2007
By 
Gary Griffiths (Los Altos Hills, CA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
It's impossible to categorize Ken Bruen. His jarring, disjointed chronicles of crime follow no convention, and while his respect for the masters of pulp fiction:

McBain
Chandler
Thompson

is faithfully imbedded in his prose, Bruen mimics none of them. His style and his formulae are all his own:

Fresh
Brutal
In your face
No apologies

"Calibre" is the latest Bruen masterpiece from Hell. A serial killer is on the loose, reaping vengeance on the rude, the inconsiderate, the boorish clods that spread their venom often and indiscriminately. The killer, "Ford", follows Jim Thompson's classic, "The Killer Inside Me", like it were the holy writ, a student of CSI dispatching his random and manner-less victims with vicious and intelligent efficiency. The perfect criminal - or so he thinks...

Back to crack the case is the incorrigible sergeant Brant of the Southeast London police, a character as unconventional and unique as Bruen himself. Brant's disregard for authority is legendary, but Dirty Harry is perfectly prissy compared to Brant's distain for rules and the law, which he routinely breaks with impunity. And while Brant's superiors would like to see him on the other side of the bars, he keeps his tracks covered while solving crime with methods guaranteed to keep the self-appointed watchdogs of politically correct police procedure in an uncomfortable state of apoplexy.

Take note: Ken Bruen and Sergeant Brant are not for all tastes. If you're looking for a clean police procedural with cool crime scene forensics, intricate plots, and a tidy conclusion, Bruen's rapid-fire dialog and sketchy story development may leave you wanting. Bruen, like his anti-hero Brant, are more suited to writing with a Molotov cocktail than a typewriter. But if you're looking for a new definition of noir, of grit and reality and black humor that is told without apology that could not care less who or what it offends, well, what are you waiting for?
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another page-turner from Bruen, August 14, 2006
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
Many American readers are familiar with Ken Bruen from his four acclaimed hard-boiled mysteries featuring Jack Taylor, a drug and booze addicted Galway private eye. If you only know Bruen's work from the Taylor series, you're in for a treat. For Bruen is also the author of a police procedural series set in southeast London, featuring the amoral Sergeant Brant.

CALIBRE is the sixth entry in the series that began in 1998. This is one of those books that once you read it, you immediately will have to search out and buy all the other books featuring Brant and his fellow constables. It's so enjoyable and fast-paced that if you're like me, you'll want to catch up with everything you missed.

Bruen, who lives in Galway, Ireland, is a brilliant, creative, original voice. He is a writer clearly seeped in the American hard-boiled and noir tradition; he had been called a "Celtic Dashiell Hammett." And indeed, if you are Irish, you instinctively know about the dark side of life even before you learn to read. History resonates. But part of being Irish is to leaven the bad stuff with a caustic, fatalistic, often-hilarious sense of humor. And that is evident in Bruen's work.

The constables in CALIBRE work in a section of London where the kids view the police in an atmosphere of "hostility on speed" and cops carry around "simmering rage." This social tension is bound to produce trouble. Enter the "manners psycho."

In a letter taunting the cops, he makes clear his goals: "Anyone, and I mean anyone, who behaves like an a------ in public shall be terminated." This mission, he writes in his journal, is "my reality TV."

Now here is a serial killer for modern times. This is a serial killer who would require weapons of mass destruction and a large appointment book. His first victim viciously berates his girlfriend in a café, reducing her to tears. He meets his grim fate when he is pushed in front of a Brit Rail train. Victim number two is a harried female executive who curses out a cab driver. The killer simply follows her into her office building and tosses her out the window.

The constables of the Southeast London "Met" who get the case have issues of their own. Brant, we learn, "was heavily built with a black Irish face that wasn't so much lived in as squatted upon." Inspector Roberts is trying to keep alive his perfect record of solving cases while finding the funds to buy clothes he thinks are stylish but aren't. Female Constable Falls is trying to resurrect her career after a disastrous earlier case lands her literally in the basement. Porter Nash has to deal with being both diabetic and gay. PC McDonald is badly burned out, terrified after being shot on the job.

Throughout this book, Bruen pays homage to the American masters of noir, which Brant likes to call "Nora." At one point, the serial killer, a crooked accountant by trade, tells us, "America appreciates a decent killer." It is probably something that won't make the travel brochures, but both our killer and Brant read and love American mysteries.

The killer is a big fan of Jim Thompson and takes his pen name, Ford, after the protagonist of THE KILLER INSIDE ME. He also dreams, lucky for us, of coming to America, where he will "Get me a pick-up, rifle on the rack, dog on the front seat, a coonhound of course, Hank Williams on the speakers."

Sergeant Brant owns the entire Ed McBain 87th Precinct series and is inspired, sort of, to write a book after McBain's character, Fat Ollie Weeks, does the same in FAT OLLIE'S BOOK. Brant could be Fat Ollie's English cousin, only far worse.

Bruen clearly models this series after the 87th Precinct novels. He establishes the individual story lines of the cops and weaves them seamlessly throughout the book. But the comparison ends there, and Bruen provides his Irish, ironic twist. McBain wrote his series to honor the hard-working, high-integrity cops; Bruen turns that notion on its head.

Bruen's series is kind of the 87th Precinct drunk on power and twisted by drugs and personal demons. In other words, the anti-87th Precinct.

Take Brant, for example, who has more in common with Thompson killer cop Sheriff Ford than McBain's hero cop, Carella. Brant steals dope from drug dealers, has sex with hookers who are also witnesses, lies, manipulates people at will, drugs other cops, breaks into homes and seems to be not above murdering bad guys without a trial.

What a delightful bad good guy or good bad guy. He is described by others in the book as "attractive in a mad dog fashion" and a "brute force." His prospective literary agent, who he has just bedded in yet another ethical lapse, calls him "you animal." "His history was littered with darkness, and the way he survived that was to keep it locked up tight," Bruen writes.

But through it all, there is plenty of dark humor and a hell of a lot of fun, as readers can't wait to see what Brant will do next. He is, after all, an excellent detective.

Bruen is a terrific writer and he might have created the police procedural for the early 21st century. Remember that McBain started his series in the more innocent and optimistic 1950s. Bruen paints a picture of an existential world where sometimes really bad guys will do things for good reasons and basically good guys do really bad things. But hope never dies. The book ends with the words of poor Porter Nash:

"Worse, somewhere in his mind was the mad notion that the cops were still the good guys, but this proved they were seriously deranged...Mainly, he was saddened. Sighing, he figured that he'd do what he did best, continue to fight the bedraggled fight."

If you read CALIBRE, you are going to do exactly what I did: go right online and order another Brant story. Ken Bruen writes fast; this is his 17th book. That is very good news for mystery fans, who can look forward to many more years of Sergeant Brant and Jack Taylor.

--- Reviewed by Tom Callahan
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet another great book from Ken Bruen, August 6, 2006
This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
I opened this book early this afternoon, and couldn't put it down until I finished it. Calibre is both a tribute to Ed McBain and Jim Thompson, and once again establishes Ken Bruen as one of the top crime-fiction writers working today. Fast-paced, immensely enjoyable, this is one of Bruen's Brant books, and involves among other things, a killer who idolizes Jim Thompson's Lou Ford, and wants to help install better manners in London by killing people displaying bad manners. The book also takes a clever poke at the publishing industry in general. In short, any fan of Bruen's will love this book, and anyone who hasn't discovered Bruen yet, will become a fan after reading Calibre.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars pure rock-n-roll, November 23, 2006
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
This is the latest in Bruen's Southeast London series, and, no surprise, he again delivers the goods. As dependable as the Ramones or AC-DC in their prime, Bruen's series of ultraviolent "police procedurals" never fails to satisfy. These novels, featuring the ever charismatic Sargeant Brant, are deceptively simple on the surface, but Bruen's terse ultra-honed prose is more like poetry in disguise. On the surface you have basically a fabulously entertaining Road Runner cartoon or 2-minute punk rock song. But read them carefully and hear how the language sings. Not as dark or overtly existentialist as his Galway novels, these little gems are like nothing before them. No one else's writing is this hip, this smart and this good all at the same time. A 21st century Irish Jim Thompson with the writing chops of a poet. Think the young Van Morrison wired on crank fronting the Sex Pistols...
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5.0 out of 5 stars A different type of Ken Bruen book, August 13, 2009
This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
I'm quite used to the Jack Taylor series of books written by Ken Bruen, so this one took me by a bit of surprise. Instead of all the angst and trouble in Taylor's life, the police depicted here don't have that situation. Perhaps it's because the setting is England rather than Ireland, but I don't know.

This is a book that quick flashes from one person's story to another's, and at first I found it a bit difficult to follow. Once I got the hang of it (and I think my initial difficulty was my own fault) I just went along with the changes, and thoroughly enjoyed them. The book doesn't show the police in the most perfect light, but by their own standards of morality they are keeping the people safe from criminals, even if it requires them to commit some crimes themselves.

This is quite a cynical attitude, but I think that's Mr. Bruen's style and I will not fault him for it. The characters grab your interest and don't let go until the end. You even find yourself rooting for a policeman to commit a crime to help his floundering career, and in addition rid the streets of two dangerous criminals. Vigilante justice by the law: what a novel concept! Trust me, you will enjoy this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars He's Back, January 15, 2010
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
Brant, Nash, Falls, and the gang are back at work. This time a killer is on the loose who has a problem with people who have bad manners. He gives the police a warning and informs them that even cops are not above his law. All the while Brant is trying to get a Crime novel of his own published.

Ken Bruen continues with his sparse, raw, and gritty prose that we all love and expect from him. I believe this man can do no wrong. Ken Bruen and Noir are synonymous.
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4.0 out of 5 stars London or Dublin is your choice, January 1, 2009
By 
Ron Lealos (Vancouver, WA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
If you are a Jack Taylor fan, Bruen has left the alcohol slosh of Dublin and moved to a horrific London of cops who will do most anything to make a pinch. The prose is terse and never fails to bring out the scene it attempts to invoke, even if it is classic noir. The reader will have to decide if the methods justify the result. Bruen gives you that opportunity in a stylistic and entertaining manner.
Ron Lealos author of Don't Mean Nuthin'
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerizing, June 29, 2013
By 
Srdjan Pesic (Minneapolis, Mn United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
It is hard to describe this strange and mesmerizing series. Short staccato sentences, rough, amoral characters and an immense heat. Ken Bruen manages to bring the smell(or better said, stench of London), the deafening noise of the metropolis and the depths of despair that ooze from the protagonists. I am sure that these short novels are not everybody's cup od tea. They are too harsh and unforgiving, but somehow I am torn between the desire to read about these flawed people and the panic need to escape from their sickening world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredibly Entertaining, Bruen Writes Like No Other, October 20, 2012
By 
William M Miller (Bronxville, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
4 AND 1/2 STARS

For me, author Ken Bruen, along with Tom Piccirilli, is one of the best crime noir / thriller writers working today. Calibre is chock full of outrageously interesting characters, crisp dialogue, and unpredictable situations. While the central premise involves a killer taking out people in London who publically express bad manners, multiple other storylines involving shady police and their personal lives create a stylized and interwoven, almost Robert Altman-like technique.

While Bruen's fast pace and short scenes keep the reader blazing through the narrative, some of the English terms threw me off here and there. No doubt I would appreciate it more if I lived in England. Fans of crime noir and thrillers not aware of Bruen, should seek him out as soon as possible. I'll be picking up more for sure.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brant brilliant, but when it comes to women, banal, September 2, 2012
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This review is from: Calibre (Paperback)
I'm a Bruen addict. I loved the premise of Calibre - guy kills people who are not only entitled, but rude. We need him here in America. However, I was surprised when Bruen wrote a few passages in which Brant is vicious about a woman - because she's old. Hey, he deigned to "pleasure" her, then was revolted by her withered arms and body. I was surprised because Bruen does a gorgeous job in the later Jack Taylor books (I've read all of them.) taking us into the mind, fears and insecurities of aging Jack Taylor. Yeah, I know Brant slams everybody, but all this woman had done to receive his contempt was grow old. We are all guilty of that.
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Calibre (Sound Library)
Calibre (Sound Library) by Ken Bruen (Audio CD - August 1, 2006)
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