This kind of sums up things in Taylor-land. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. And with good cause as Jack's life is hardly infested with rainbows & kittens (although this instalment does have a puppy). But I find myself picking up each book as much for the prose as for a compelling story.
First of all, Jack Taylor. The man is a train wreck, still walking & breathing against all odds. In this outing he befriends a young american grad student named Boru Kennedy (no relation). They couldn't be more different. Boru is a naive academic & completely unprepared for Jack's introduction to Galway. Instead of writing his dissertation, he's dealing with attacks on the homeless & learning to enjoy Jameson's with breakfast. But Jack has an ulterior motive.
There's a serial rapist in the city, a charismatic professor with friends in high places. Jack decides it's time to do what the justice system can't but needs an in to the world of academia. Like...oh, I don't know...a grad student.
Part one of the book takes the reader on tour with this odd pair as Jack works on his plan while teaching his protege how to live among the locals. Unfortunately, Boru makes a decision which sets off a chain of events no one could have predicted.
In part two, Jack takes another stab at sobriety after a horrible crime is committed. He's not looking for a partner but gets one in the person of Emerald, a tech savvy goth with more personalities than Sybil. She, too, wants to see the professor go down & with good reason.
This is celtic noir at its' best. The Galway we see through Jack Taylor's eyes may be bleak & unrelentingly grim but this is frequently interrupted by his darkly funny comments & observations ("the only difference between a rut & a grave is the dimensions"). There are numerous musical & literary references that add a twist to conversations. Jeeze Louise, this guy is well read. But it never comes across as boastful & is particularly enjoyable if you're familiar with the source.
Bruen's style is fluid & poetic, full of ironic asides that make you smile in the middle of a dramatic scene. Jack's contentious relationship with the church continues as he struggles with the possibility of redemption. There are several returning characters, including his nemesis Supt. Clancy. And Emerald is a compelling new addition, one I hope we'll see again.
By the end, some aspects of the case are resolved but at huge cost & the landscape behind Jack is littered with broken souls that add to his personal baggage. It's a quick read & you won't be able to stop, even if it's from between fingers of the hand covering your eyes.
To get your full money's worth, these should be read in order as there's a lot of history. And if you're a fan of clear linear narrative, it may not be the series for you. Personally, I wait for each book like an addict with the DT's. So if a smart, literate crime novel with great characters & black humour appeals, jump in.