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The Killing of the Tinkers: A Novel (Jack Taylor Series) Hardcover – January 23, 2004

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
Book 2 of 10 in the Jack Taylor Series

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Editorial Reviews

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Product Details

  • Series: Jack Taylor Series (Book 2)
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books; First Edition edition (January 23, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312304110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312304119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,254,973 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is an odd, but thoroughly enjoyable, novel. Set in Galway, Ireland, Jack Taylor is an alcoholic and cocaine addict, recently bounced from the Guards. He arrives back in Galway, looks up old friends, consumes quantities of booze and coke and is approached by a man who wants him to help solve the murders of several "tinkers," formerly known in less politically correct days as Gypsies.
Taylor's approach to things is, putting it mildly, chaotic. He is given to a love of old rock 'n roll music, has an expectedly odd assortment of friends, makes enemies easily and suffers fierce hangovers.
But he does solve the mystery in the end in an unpredictable way.
Overall, Bruen's writing is wonderfully quirky. Jack Taylor is a well developed character; so well-developed, in fact, that he's not particularly likeable. Most of the other characters are kind of thing, but passable.
The plot . . . well, it isn't a smooth and winding road, that's for sure. But the twists are fun to roll with. A satisfying excursion with an author with a unique approach. If half-stars were a possibility, I'd give it four and a half. Not quite a five, but well worth reading.
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Format: Paperback
At the end of THE GUARDS, the prequel to this book, Jack Taylor leaves Ireland for London. Now he's back, although any sign of a fanfare for his return is sadly missing. I though Ken Bruen took Jack Taylor just about as low as it is possible to take a character in THE GUARDS, but he's managed to follow that dark excursion up by plunging him into an even deeper canyon in THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS.

He's not long back home when he is sought out by a man who needs his help. Of course, Jack is in a pub at the time and has no problem listening to the man, a tinker named Sweeper. He explains that someone has been savagely murdering, occasionally including dismemberment, the young men from his clan. The feelings towards the tinkers (sometimes otherwise known as gypsies) range from dislike to fear and hatred, so the suspect pool could be very large. Sweeper has resorted to turning to Taylor for help because the Garda Siochana (the Irish police force), of which Taylor used to be a member, have not bothered to investigate preferring to write the deaths off as the result of a feud between tinker families.

It's a pretty grim sounding situation and a difficult case, but when the offer of free accommodation is included with a healthy pay packet, jack can't refuse.

Just because he has agreed to take the case, taken the tinker's money and moved into a tinker's house, it doesn't mean he will throw himself into a full-scale investigation. His intentions are honorable, mind you, but the temptations of the many pubs see him succumbing all too often, mixing his alcohol consumption with a steady supply of cocaine.

He makes progress on the case thanks mainly to the help of a policeman friend from London, but there are external factors that also adversely affect his progress.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There is magic in Ken Bruen that is not easily placed. It's certainly not the plot - there is little mystery and less forensics in Bruen's Irish crime staccato. And one can hardly be drawn to the characters, unless in the mildly perverse sense of attraction to tragic heroes plotting self destruction. Nor is Bruen good for your spirits, as he drags the reader through vast fields of human wreckage that begin with mere despair and reach utter wretchedness by the climax. Yet just as Bruen's drug and alcohol addled Jack Taylor is drawn to his booze and coke, I find myself addicted to this sparse and brutal poetry disguised as fiction, not merely unique but untouchable.

"The Killing of the Tinkers" is the second Jack Taylor novel. A classically simple Bruen story line: someone is killing "tinkers" (gypsies), the cops could care less, ex-Guard Taylor is offered a lucrative fee by one of the clan to find out who. But as with most of Bruen's writing, this central plot - finding the killer - is mostly forgotten as the insolent Taylor drifts in and out of all varieties of drug induced stupors and subsequent vomit and hangovers - not a lot of social redeeming value here, and far from the cardboard cutout PIs more often found in crime fiction. Taylor stays sober enough to wreck his short marriage and start a torrid new affair. While some of the tangents and side stories may seem like diversion in a patently sparse Bruen novel, this is indeed key to the Bruen's allure of spinning the complex psychological and cultural backdrop to the story.
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Format: Hardcover
"Leaving Galway, I'd left behind a string of deaths.... The investigation had led to.... Three murders. Four, if you count my best friend. My heart being hammered. Tons of cash. Exile."
Jack's back. Wisecracking ex-Garda Jack Taylor is back in Galway after a spell in London. He's brought little more than a coke habit back with him. Now, hanging out at his new favorite pub (defined: one that still allows him in), he tries to reclaim his drinking habit too. While he would prefer nothing more than to nurse a pint --- or, better yet, several pints --- and drown the woes of his Irish past, trouble finds him sitting there on that stool.
A tinker named Sweeper seeks him out and invokes a name from a death Jack looked into, the one that sent him fleeing Galway at the end of THE GUARDS. Jack tries to brush him off, but finds himself unable to turn away.
I said, "Call me if you need anything."
"I need one thing, Jack Taylor."
"Name it."
"Find whoever's killing my people."
Sweeper tells Jack of several deaths among the young tinkers, and of the Garda's response: none. They're only tinkers, after all. He pays Jack well to find the killer. Whether Jack is actually up to the task is debatable at best.
There's always more to Jack Taylor's days than the pursuit of clues. He has friends with crises, strangers with more crises, and an abundance of his own personal crises. Most times, he faces all of these by getting drunk. To his credit, he manages to solve the mystery, despite some rather untidy side effects. The bulk of the entertainment isn't in Jack's sleuthing abilities, though, but in his interactions with others, be they friend, foe, authority figure, mom, wife, girlfriend, lad or lass.
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