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The Sanctuary That is Jack Taylor

‘Well, Mr. Taylor, they did warn me that you have a caustic tongue, but regardless, I’d like to engage your services.’

I let him hear me sigh, went, ‘Let’s hear it’

He cleared his throat and I wondered if he wore a cravat – they nearly always did. He said, ‘My only daughter Jennifer was sixteen a few weeks back and, naturally, I got her a pony’


Ah, there’s nothing better than settling in for a new Jack Taylor rip. I think that it took me all of 3 hours reading time to get through the latest Ken Bruen – Sanctuary – from my first break at work yesterday to 7:45 this morning. This seventh Jack Taylor novel is leaner and meaner than the previous six – clocking at just around 200 pages of double spaced, massive font – and would probably serve the reader better as a pocket sized novella. I’ve always thought these books should be printed as such – under-sized trade paperbacks that you can stick in the back pocket of your faded black jeans – isn’t that how Jack himself would handle things? (I am not complaining, really, and this is no knock on Mr. Bruen, who has deity status in my house, it’s just that 3 hours of reading is a hard sell at $24.95.) I’m getting away from the true point here, though: the book is substantially brilliant, as always.

Bruen’s writing is so sparse, so visceral, that the short format fits the bursts of prose and sharp verbal jabs perfectly. A 400-page introspective Jack Taylor novel would maybe not pack as much of a punch, although the middle books in this series were much meatier and just as well-rounded. I much prefer to have my teeth kicked in for 3 hours (figuratively, not literally) rather than have Jack change his ways just to fit into a longer novel. I won’t go into too much plot for this one – there are some major, major personal revelations for Jack in this – but I will say that Mr. Taylor is never fully free of the demons inside his head, even as he edges towards normalcy and sanity (as towards the end of the previous book, Cross) something horrible will always happen to him to suck him back down into the abyss. Jack is also waking up to the realization that he lives in the “new Ireland” – one of “non-nationals”, new wealth, and ever changing landscapes. It seems that this revelation, coupled with Jack’s lack of meaningful friendship in his life (or so he thinks) that is driving him towards leaving the land of his birth for the greener shores of America. Whether he ever leaves remains to be seen. Bruen has a wondrous way of exploring the choices and decisions Jack makes – even the bad ones, you can see coming.

“Here’s the horrendous deal: an alcoholic can stay dry under the most trying circumstances. You’ll hear people wonder that he didn’t drink at the wedding/funeral/when everybody expected him to.

An alkie can stumble drinkless through all these minefields, and then one tiny incident, like a shoelace snapping or a carton of milk spilling, and wallop, he’s off on the most almighty binge.”

Jack sells himself short here – his “shoelace snapping” is a bit more life-altering than that. But I do love the handling of his unavoidable falling off the proverbial wagon – with humanity and grace, the explanation is clear. It’s not that it is not Jack’s fault – he readily admits as much – but that it is an inescapable fate for him, as there is only so much that his tortured soul can take. Do I drop everything when these books arrive because Jack’s life makes me feel better about my own self? Why do we revel in his pain & madness?

Probably because he would just retort, to this sympathetic reading, with either a “Jesus” or a “Bollocks”. My only complaint is the length – now what the hell am I supposed to read?

One comment on “The Sanctuary That is Jack Taylor

  1. Corey Wilde
    May 15, 2009

    Bruen has that same status in my house, too.

    I, too, wish the shorter books were printed in a smaller size. I’d keep paying full price because Bruen is worth every penny. I’d just like to always have one of his books in my pocket so I could slap it open in front of people sometimes and say, ‘there, read that, who else do you know can write like that.’

    Is he going to do a sequel to ‘Once Were Cops,’ do you know?

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2009 by in Bruen, review.
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