Ken Bruen- Purgatory (Jack Taylor 10)

Product DetailsSomeone is scraping the scum off the streets of Galway, and they want Jack Taylor to get involved. A drug pusher, a rapist, a loan shark, all targeted in what look like vigilante attacks. And the killer is writing to Jack, signing their name: C-33. Jack has had enough. He doesn’t need the money, and doesn’t want to get involved. But when his friend Stewart gets drawn in, it seems he isn’t been given a choice. In the meantime, Jack is being courted by Reardon, a charismatic billionaire intent on buying up much of Galway, and begins a tentative relationship with Reardon’s PR director, Kelly. Caught between heaven and hell, there’s only one path for Jack Taylor to take: Purgatory.

Ken Bruen, being a personal favourite of mine, would mean that I could wax lyrical for hours about Purgatory, the tenth outing for Jack Taylor, a man destined for melancholy punctuated by acts of random violence. I could draw attention to the pitch perfect characterisation of Jack, with his regular mounting and dismounting of the wagon of physical pleasures, the booze and the fags, and his less than harmonious forays into the pleasures of the flesh. Always the wrong woman Jack. I could highlight the intrinsic morality buried deep in his soul, that manifests itself at times in observations of an almost lyrical beauty and  his steadfast  engagement with books, culture and current events that Bruen effortlessly weaves into the plot. At the same time it would be foolish to ignore the dark side of our erstwhile hero though, and the black places he inhabits mentally, and gets taken to, in the demands of this case all beautifully rendered by the sparsity yet richness of Bruen’s language which ebbs and flows with laconic perfection throughout Jack’s travails. I could mention the twisted, yet ultimately affectionate, relationship between Jack and  his native Galway, as the seedier aspects of this community and those that wish to exploit it, come to bear in this tale of avarice and murder…

Or I could keep it simple in a homage to Jack himself with his honest,  sweary nature and gravitation to the simple pronouncement.  Purgatory? Feckin’ great.

Ken Bruen was born in Galway, Ireland. After turning down a place at RADA, and completing a doctorate in Metaphysics, he spent 25 years as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, South East Asia and South America. An unsheduled stint in a Brazilian prison where he suffered physical and mental abuse spurred him to write and, after a brief spell teaching in London, he returned to Galway, where he now lives with his daughter.

(With thanks to Transworld Ireland for the ARC)

Ken Bruen & Reed Farrel Coleman- Tower

Product DetailsNick’s father is a stand-up Irishman—once a cop, now a security guard in the World Trade Center’s North Tower—but Nick does not take after his old man. He’s “got the bad drop,” meaning he only cares about booze, violence, and getting into trouble with his best friend, Todd, a low-level hood connected to the Boston mob. Todd inducts Nick into the world of petty crime. What starts as a bit of good fun—robbing apartments, scoring weed—turns serious as Todd gets closer to the inner circle. He may not love violence as much as Nick does, but he’s about to get more than his fair share. How can friendship survive in an underworld built on pain?

A brutal and uncompromising collaboration from the doyen of Irish crime, Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman, author of the gritty Moe Prager series. With each relating the same story from the point of view of Nick (Bruen) and Todd (Coleman) what ensues is a perfect slice of noir detailing the friendship between two guys drawn into a world of violence at the behest of ruthless Irish crime boss Boyle and under the uncompromising glare of Boyle’s sadistic henchman Griffin. As they sink deeper into the realms of organised crime is there really going to be a way out when the breaking point beckons for them both…

Nick is a quintessentially Bruen creation, invested with a sharp intelligence, ready wit and propensity for violence. Named after his ex-cop father’s favourite Hemingway character, he is an archetypal bad boy, running wild from an early age with a stint in juvie hall leading him into a life of crime- as his father says ‘You’re nothing but a punk’. Nick is a wondefully smart-mouthed character, always walking the tightrope between knowing when to keep his mouth shut and when to suck it up. He also has a healthy disregard for his employer Boyle, mocking his exaggerated Irish brogue and quickly realising that Boyle’s right-hand man Griffin poses a far greater danger to his physical well being. Bruen’s pitch perfect characterisation of Nick, fair carries the reader along, with his narrative coming at you like a hail of bullets from a machine gun- sharp, punchy and unrelenting. As Nick experiences a kind of epiphany and seeks to assuage his conflicting loyalties, so Bruen unfolds his character a little more, and a little more, revealing a different side to him but never losing the intensity of the rapid fire prose.

Nick’s cohort, Todd strikes me as a more circumspect character, although imbued with the same sense of self-preservation as , and an equal propensity for violence. Coleman depicts Todd in a steady and measured way, reflecting Todd’s even handed and less volatile character but still with the trademark spare prose Coleman is known for. Initially, he like Nick just appears to be a bit of a bad boy happy to be at the beck and call of Boyle, but Todd’s on the cusp of a change that will threaten both himself and Nick. The relating of the same narrative from the two viewpoints works brilliantly with the reader feeling the strength of Nick and Todd’s relationship, as the story steams it’s way to a heart-rending conclusion. The other players in the story are equally well drawn with the bad and the good among them manipulating the lives and emotions of Nick and Todd, for better or worse, and there is even time within the plot for the boys to fall for some feminine charms, again revealing another side to the two bad boys, and adding another facet to what could simply be a tale of wiseguys and shoot-ups.

I loved this short and sharp rat-a-tat tale reflecting the sheer talent of both Bruen and Coleman in terms of character, dialogue and plot but there’s even more to it- oh yes-
‘Tower’ is also a great vehicle for discovering other writers, with each chapter beginning with a well chosen quote that perfectly reflect the content of the upcoming chapter. I have discovered some hitherto unknown to me authors, so on top of this being a noir read par-excellence you too can add to your burgeoning bookshelves with some new names. Cracking.

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(I read ‘Tower’ as a digital galley from Open Road Media via www.netgalley.com )