03 November 2009

Irish noir

Irish writer Ken Bruen's Priest features recurring character Jack Taylor and is set in the Irish coastal city of Galway. Taylor is a disgraced former cop ("Guard" in Ireland), just out of the madhouse, trying to get a fresh start in the town of his youth. Haunted by a death he was responsible for when he was drunk, he goes into pubs and orders drinks but doesn't touch them. His only contact with reality is his hard-assed ex-partner, a lesbian, who he has erotic dreams about. Jack's confusion and alienation is furthered by the appearance of his childhood tormentor, Father Malachy, who seeks his help on a murder case. The local Guard commander tries to muscle Jack out of the picture, but help from an unlikely source resurrects our protagonist's resolve and he goes after the killer. Demons from his past overwhelm events, and the coda comes with shocking finality. The novel is set in the midst of the New Ireland, flush with money and development, where the old village ways are losing out to EU immigration and American corporations. We experienced much of the city on our 2001 Ireland trip, and it was quite a bit of fun to walk the same streets again with Jack Taylor. The book has lots of quirky Hiberno-English and the dialogue is rich in Irish idiom, so be prepared for the full-immersion course. It's dark stuff, too, not for the faint of heart, just way I like it.

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