It's more than four months old, but it's still worth reading...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The Guards, by Ken Bruen
I've been headed toward a rendezvous with Mr. Bruen for a long time. Or at least his books. As with James Lee Burke, reliable sources have long plied him on me. I haven't been resistant, I've just been, as with so much else, behind times.
I don't know where the latest prompt came from, but I finally bit. One of the benefits of waiting so long is that you have the time to form an impression that will quickly be knocked down once you start turning the pages. So what did I think this book would be like?
Well, for someone who has read a lot of crime fiction over the years, I'm a little bit of a chicken about the genre. For some reason, I had the Jack Taylor books down as a bit brutal, probably dark and undoubtedly wet.
The Guards wasn't like that at all.
Jack Taylor is an ex-garda, which means he was once an Irish cop, and according to him, getting booted out of this venerable institution meant he really had to put his mind to it. But out of control drinking, among other less than highly desirable traits, has left him high and dry. Well, not exactly dry.
There isn't technically such a thing as a private investigator in Ireland ("the Irish wouldn't wear it") , so Taylor is instead something of a finder. Which really means he drinks his way around Galway, in the company of his mad and sometime friend Sutton, and in Sutton's company he gets himself into a situation that is deeper and darker than any person whose got his problems with sobriety should reasonably get.
Taylor is also a reader, which surprised me. One lesson we learn from his wide knowledge of books, detective novels, but much beyond these as well, is that reading is a lifeline for a certain kind of kid. What we also learn more painfully is that reading alone won't save you. But I enjoyed the literary asides and the way all of Galway seems to come to Taylor's aid at times, and the way his own low tide makes him compassionate to many others at a similar low ebb. Sometimes, of course, that's a mistake. As in life.