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The Guards: A Novel Hardcover – January 10, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Jack Taylor (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books (January 10, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312303556
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312303556
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,775 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

There's something about the job that leads (fictional) cops and PIs to drink, which is why booze always seems to be a minor character in the genre. This is certainly the case in Ken Bruen's debut thriller about melancholy Irishman Jack Taylor, whose luck at finding things keeps him in beer money after he's kicked out of Ireland's Garda Siochna. When the mother of a young suicide victim asks him to investigate her daughter's death, Taylor discovers that Sarah Henderson isn't the only teenager to take a long walk off a short Galway pier. His search for the perpetrator gets his best friend killed, destroys his nascent relationship with his client, and sets him up for a final betrayal few readers will see coming. This promising writer doesn't need all the tricky punctuation and excess quotations from other writers to punch up his sharp, lyrical prose, but these are minor quibbles--he's a newcomer to watch. --Jane Adams

From Publishers Weekly

Bruen flaunts genre cliches (the tough cop who loves books; the beating victim who insists on checking himself out of a hospital too soon) on virtually every page of this outstanding debut mystery. He gets away with it thanks to his novel setting, the Irish seaside city of Galway, and unusual characters who are either current or former members of the Garda Siochana, the Guards, Ireland's shadowy police force. Bruen, a teacher of English in schools in Africa and Japan, has a rich and mordant writing style, full of offbeat humor. "You don't know hell till you stand in a damp dance hall in South Armagh as the crowd sing along to `Surfing Safari,' " says Jack Taylor, kicked out of the Guards for various booze-related infractions and now working sporadically as a "finder." An attractive woman pays him to look into the supposed suicide of her teenaged daughter, and Taylor manages to stay sober long enough to do it, after a fashion. There's a tendency toward cuteness (three-line lists dot the already sparse narrative), and Bruen is determined to tell us just how well read and well listened his hero is by dropping in dozens of references to writers and musical groups. But these are minor failings. With the recent accidental death of Mark McGarrity, the American who wrote (as Bartholomew Gill) about a top Dublin cop, Bruen now has a chance to become that country's version of Scotland's Ian Rankin-and perhaps the standard bearer for a new subgenre called "Hibernian Noir."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Untouchable on February 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Readers hoping for a light mystery that is full of intricate plot devices that will challenge their own powers of deduction while being taken on a thrill-ride of adventure should be well advised this is not the book for you. THE GUARDS reads like a celebration of hardboiled fiction, the mood is dark, some might even use the term nourish and the style is spare as Bruen has stripped the prose down to the bare bones.
The story focuses on Jack Taylor, an ex-Garda Siochana officer (Ireland's National Police Service) who was kicked out of the service after he punched a member of parliament in the mouth. He spends his time, when he's not sitting drunk in his local pub, working as a private detective. Or at least, he would be working as a private detective if Ireland recognised the profession. As Jack explains it, he just finds things for people, thanks to two qualities, patience and pig stubbornness, particularly the latter.
One day, while sitting in Grogan's bar working on his latest drunk, Jack is approached by Ann Henderson who wants to hire him to investigate the suicide of her daughter, Sarah. Ann is convinced that her daughter wouldn't kill herself and wants Jack to find the truth. Jack, drunk at the time, agrees to take the case. Once Jack starts working the case, it becomes obvious that he has a specific sense of right and wrong as evidenced when he targets his enemies. But he offsets that with a distinctly underdeveloped sense of self-preservation, or perhaps it's just dulled by alcohol abuse, as evidenced by the forthright approach he uses to confront these same enemies.
Written in the first person from Jack's point of view, it is narrated in terse, clipped sentences as though Taylor is telling us his story through tightly gritted teeth, absolutely exhausted by his ordeals.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Vale-Allen VINE VOICE on January 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Here's a book that stands the typical procedural format on its ear. There isn't another novel like it anywhere. With exemplary skill, Bruen makes plot secondary to characterization, and splendid characters abound--primarily his hero Jack, a fatalistic ex-cop with a wonderfully self-deprecating sense of humor, along with a great and vulnerable heart--and lists, of anything and everything. Chapter headers with quotes from here, there and everywhere--from popular mystery writers to classics. On top of all that, author Bruen writes about the disease of alcoholism with great accuracy and not a single maudlin note. The Guards reads like simultaneous gunshots to the head and the heart. It is a stunning accomplishment.
My highest recommendation.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Larry Scantlebury on March 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I'm not sure where Ken Bruen came from. The "Publisher's-Editors" notes/reviews at the top of the intro recite "The Guards" as Bruen's debut novel. This is misleading as the book reveals nine other novels Bruen has written, The Guards being the tenth.
I am certain that if you read this one you'll be hooked. It's 2:30 in the morning and I couldn't put it down. That's the best compliment you can give an author.
Jack Taylor is often drunk. He hangs around drinkers and flirts with the insanity that constant drunkenness and binge drinking create. All of his relationships have been gunned down in the crossfire of alcohol. His friend Sutton is a vicious man that on rare occasions of sobriety, Jack rationalizes and explains to himself. He is kind to winos as in the ancient Padraig. He says 'I drink with'em; then buy them a foolish wreath when they die.' His closest friend is Sean, a bar owner. All of this takes place in Galway, Ireland, where Jack Taylor has disgraced himself and been cashiered out of the Siochna Guards, nearly impossible to do, and lost everything along the way.
A lovely woman, Ann, asks Jack to disprove the notion, public and private, that her teenage daughter committed suicide, and thereby proving that she was murdered. Jack begins to suspect that she stepped in front of harm's way from a part-time job she had at a business owned by shady characters.
There's a lot of James Crumley's "The Wrong Case" in The Guards. There is one enormous difference: we generally dislike Milo Milodragovitch and we can't help rooting for Jack.
Bruen's humor is infectious. Jack visits his father's grave when Ann takes him to see the marker for her daughter, Sarah, and mutters, "Da, I'm here by default. But aren't we all?" His assistant "finder," Cathy B.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on March 21, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This is a very slim volume which I was unable to put down and therefore read it in one day.Jack Taylor is a former member of the Guards-the Irish Police force-who was thrown out for belting a higher officer in the mouth.He is fighting a mostly losing battle with the bottle on a daily basis-sometimes winning but more often backsliding. He becomes what is known in Galway as a "finder"-private detectives being unknown, and is hired by a woman to solve the mystery of her teenage daughter's suicide.His quest leads him to a ring of molesters who seem to kill for thrills.We meet several of Jacks friends who are also living on the edge of society and although this should make it a dark,bleak book, somehow it avoids being depressing because of his masterly writing style.Ken Bruens habit of using just 3 words to summarise a point worried me at first until I realised that this was a perfect way to express,very succinctly,his whole point.Brilliantly done and can't wait to read more.
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