Just to put it out there, I'm a big fan of this author. I read about 120 books a year & "Green Hell" made my Top Ten list for 2015. So when I heard Emily was returning in book #12 of the Jack Taylor series I couldn't wait to get my grubby mitts on a copy.
This is a very different read. Yes, there are bad guys who run the gamut from smarmy to sociopathic but they figure briefly in Jack's daily pursuit of the perfect pint. Unlike other instalments, the plot is not driven by his involvement in any one case. It doesn't follow the pattern of Jack being hired, investigating a person/event & trying to survive its conclusion.
Instead, this is more of a character study with Jack as leading man. He's at a point in his life where all the events, choices & injuries of the past are catching up with him. He's deeply reflective & spends much of his time lost in mental meanderings about his upbringing, past loves, Irish politics & favourite books. He has plenty of time to ruminate as he recovers from several good thumpings & dutifully walks Storm, his dog.
Along the way he interacts with bartenders, old acquaintances, homeless philosophers & an enigmatic neighbour. But it's the reappearance of Emily that really shakes things up. She's a force of nature he can't resist, despite her tendency to drag him into dicey situations. Her character is darker & more manic in this outing as she looks for trouble & delivers her own style of justice. She can swing from compassion to cruelty in a heartbeat with no regard for the human carnage she leaves in her wake. There's a scary psycho killer in the story but I found myself thinking I'd rather take my chances with him than face her in a dark alley. Or anywhere.
There's a boatload of musical & literary references sprinkled through the story. Some are extensions of Jack's thoughts & it makes for a surreal read, at times. He's facing a personal crisis & drifting away from the few friends he has. The only thing that tethers him in the now is Storm, a fluffy reminder that things such as happiness, love & hope can exist.
It's an introspective & sometimes bleak look at Jack's life that is periodically relieved by jabs of black humour. The end makes it clear we've arrived at a fork in the road, not just for Jack but possibly for Mr. Bruen as well. Not for the uninitiated.
Pics: The Long Walk in the Claddagh area of Galway (highly recommend a visit) & Iain Glen (Downton Abbey & Game of Thrones) as Jack Taylor.