From Publishers Weekly
With his second Jack Taylor crime novel (after 2003's The Guards), Irish author Bruen confirms his rightful place among the finest noir stylists of his generation. A year after the newly sober Jack Taylor left Galway to start a new life in London, the former member of the Gardai Siochana (the Irish police) returns home, a failed marriage behind him. The PI is sinking back into alcoholic oblivion when an Irish Gypsy, Sweeper, approaches Jack for help in solving the murders of a number of young men in his clan. The Guards aren't interested, since, after all, "it's only tinkers... and everyone knows, they're always killing each other." The quintessential outsider himself, Jack empathizes with the roaming Gypsies and feels comfortable in their company. Enlisting the aid of Keegan, a burly cop friend from London, Jack sets about investigating the killings, while at the same time he struggles to keep his own personal demons under control. Bruen's spare, lean style reads like prose poetry. Indeed, beneath the surface of Jack's jaded, self-destructiveness is a romantic with a poet's sensibilities. An autodidact, Jack continually references his literary heroes, from Chester Himes to Thomas Merton. Next to his bottle of Jameson is always a book to help him through the hard times: "I needed Merton and a pint. Not necessarily in that order." This is a remarkable book from a singular talent.
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Jack Taylor, who left town at the end of The Guards [BKL D 15 02], is back in Galway. Struggling with drink, drugs, and a thrift-store wardrobe, he's still staggering from a welcome-back hangover when he's offered a job. Someone is murdering young tinkers, and the police are refusing to investigate; the head of the tinker clan wants answers. Taylor--also a bookworm and a pop-culture sponge--isn't just an antihero, he's an antidetective who spends far more time committing crimes against his liver than following leads. The supporting cast (including a character from The White Trilogy [BKL F 1 03]) moves the action forward while Taylor gets puking drunk, screws up his relationships, and goes days on end without getting to work. The payoff, for some readers, is Taylor's worldview. He may be a drunken shambles, but his wry humor, regret, and sense of impending mortality--often expressed in lines that are like aphorisms of the doomed--keep readers coming along. Crime solving aside, this is a strong piece of crime writing. Keir Graff
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