Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Boom Review: THE GUARDS, by Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen
THE GUARDS (Jack Taylor #1)
St. Martin's Minotaur, 2001
291 pages
Crime / Private Detective

I discovered Ken Bruen by accident. Came across a TV show on Netflix, JACK TAYLOR. Halfway through the season, I realized the show was based on books by Ken Bruen. So I did what any avid reader would do. I bought all of the Jack Taylor novels.

THE GUARDS is my first attempt at reading Ken Bruen. In this tale we meet Jack Taylor. An alcoholic, he threw away his career as an officer with the Guard. His former partner continued to aspire and eventually became the Guard Superintendent. Jack, on the other hand, became something known as a "finder." Private Detectives were frowned upon in Ireland. A Finder was better.

Jack's office was Grogan's Pub. People looking to hire him found him there. His good friend Sean (and the bar owner), kept him in booze, but always pushed the coffee instead.

When a woman wants Jack for a job, he isn't sure there is much he can do. The lady's teenage daughter committed suicide. No parent ever wants to believe their child is capable of such an act. It is when she received a phone call insinuating foul play she decided she needed someone to look into the matter.

I enjoyed THE GUARDS. The characters are well-crafted, and the story's pacing is perfect. The only issue I have is that for three-quarters of the book, and maybe a smidgen more, Jack does literally no detecting, or investigating. The book more or less revolves around Jack's rock bottom life. We learn about his deceased father, whom he loved, and his worthless mother, who was something of a bitch. There are flirtations, and love interests, battles against booze, with wins, and with losses.

Clues, and breaks in the case pop up practically out of thin air . . . with minimal or little reaction, or follow-up. Until the end. And even then, the ending is a cliff hanger, only was there ever really a cliff?

Thing is, I still loved the story. Kind of imagined Mickey Rourke as Jack Taylor (maybe because of his role in Barfly. Probably because of his role in the movie Barfly). The writing. The dialogue. And the flow --all work wonderfully well. Although I am hard pressed to call this a Mystery novel, a Thriller, or even a Crime --when in fact it is more or less a dark drama, I am looking forward to the second in the series!

Phillip Tomasso
Author of the Severed Empire Series,
and The Vaccination Trilogy

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