Sunday, June 15, 2008


Jack Taylor is still taking all the punishment Ken Bruen can think up in his dirty little mind in Cross, the sixth novel in the Jack Taylor P.I. series. At the end of the previous novel Priest I recall thinking to myself that at this point it would actually be more shocking if something really blissfully wonderful happened to Taylor instead of something soul-crushing. That may happen in a later book but certainly not in Cross.

A boy has been crucified in Galway and lesbian policewoman Ridge asks Taylor for a hand with the investigation. Taylor certainly has time for it, seeing how he's given up the drink and does nothing with his days but feel the agony of guilt over the shooting of his surrogate son, an incident that he was responsible for. But this being a Bruen novel, the investigation takes a backseat to the way life seems to fuck you every chance it gets.

Bruen is a genuine original in the copycat world of noir. He seamlessly infuses post-modern self-consciousness with the beloved cliches of the hardboiled detective to create something all his own. The prose is tight, the atmosphere blacker than black, the story is organic but filled with violence, and above all: the books are darkly hilarious. Jack Taylor, along with being one of the most depressive characters of all time, also has a rapid-fire wit on par with Dennis Lehane's Patrick Kenzie. Even though this series is all about guilt and the loss of innocence, you can't help but be entertained by Jack's sense of humor. Jack's willingness to take his coal-black brand of justice all the way doesn't hurt either.

But when it comes down to it, I can't really reccomend Cross unless you've read everything that came before it. The order of the series is as follows:

The Guards
The Killing of the Tinkers
The Magdalen Martyrs
The Dramatist

I really consider them all one work. It almost makes no sense to read them otherwise. And if you like Taylor, you should try Bruen's slightly cheekier, crazier series about Seargant Brant, a corrupt Brixton policeman with no regard for rules or social decorum. In order they are:

The White Trilogy

There is a lot to read in the Bruen oeuvre (yeah, I'm a douche) but don't be intimidated, his books are short and sweet and are easy to plow through in just a few days (hours, if you have an afternoon free). Now if only the cover prices would reflect the length...fucking trade paperbacks.

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