Wednesday, April 16, 2008


I've just finished Ken Bruen's fourth Jack Taylor novel - Cross - and the story has left me feeling a little depressed and bleak, as though I should be lashing out at someone. I also feel like I've stumbled across an amazing writer whose prose is so intriguing that it sucked me into reading a genre of book I don't ordinarily enjoy: gritty realistic crime fiction. I'm more the Hercule Poirot type, so I wouldn't think a story that involves one victim being crucified and another burned alive as being a page-turner, but I couldn't put this one down. Set in Galway, and revolving around a disgraced former policeman who has only recently pulled himself up out of alcoholic spiral, Cross has an amazing atmosphere. You really feel like you are in the wet, dirty streets of rundown Galway. Jack Taylor is barely hanging on to sobriety, and he is beginning to identify the holes in his life that the alcohol used to disguise. He has no friends or family, no hobbies or employment, and he's been indirectly responsible for the death of a young man who admired him and a friend's young child. The plot of the story is somewhat unimportant, since the reader knows the identity of the killer and the motivation early on in the book. This novel is all about character and setting and it truly sucks you in. If you are a fan of John Straley's Cecil Younger books (set in Southeast Alaska), you will see the parallels. Two washed-up guys on the downhill slide of their lives, trying to get past alcohol and drugs, and seeing very little on their horizon. As Townes Van Zandt said, they're "just waiting around to die".

1 comment:

Gerard said...

Bruen does good work. We (the library) just received our copy of this the other day.

His Inspector Brant series set within the London Metropolitan Police are impressive and have the same qualities as "Cross": heavy on character and setting.