A bit of a mixed bag, this Jack Taylor novel. On the credit side, it is replete with Bruen's deft handling of the usual suspects: stylistic experimentation, pop culture references, an abundance of Jameson, and an assortment of engaging secondary and tertiary characters in support of some familiar faces. And there is a new puppy in the mix, which always draws out some of Taylor's more endearing qualities.
On the debit side of the ledger, this novel has just too much crazy. The Grammarian as source of random violence is just, well, too random. Sociopaths and psychopaths have always proven worthy of attention (see, for instance, Hannibal Lecter) given their intelligence, cunning, and motivational complexities (not to mention their creative ways of expressing their violent impulses). But the Grammarian... more pathetic than compelling, more drooling fool than prince of darkness.
And there is just too much Emily in this book. As an occasional disruptive presence in Jack's life and in Galway's underculture, she is usually a welcome addition to a Bruen novel. But the key to a good monster is to never see too much, never learn too much, and never ever let them near the precipice of cliche. All of which happen in this novel, and all of which make her far less interesting as catalyst and far less welcome as a house guest.
Is it the end if Jack Taylor? Hope not. He's one fucked up guy. And he's worth every penny. Author Bruen has a gold mine with this guy. He flouts all of society (and with reason), has very colourful (and dangerous) friends... and enemies. Losing Jack would be like losing a friend, someone who disregard what is politically correct and corrects it in very unorthodox ways. Who wouldn't like to have a friend like that? I sure would like to have him in my corner. Please Bruen, keep Jack alive. Have him find some kind of epiphany. Have him find a hobby. Have him renew with Ridge (why not? She looks cool enough). But don't end the saga with him eating his gun...
I can't comment on this book as I haven't finished it yet, but the MO of the serial killer reminded me of this temp assignment I once went on at a legal services company, and the proof reader there, a demented young woman named // Dalton \\ [oh, what a pretentious name!!!!] insisted that I spell grammar as grammer, and I repeatedly attempted to explain to her the proper spelling, but for some demented reason this demented person was obsessed on misspelling it with an // e \\ - - needless to say they never called back for me . . . .
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 surviving 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 regarding 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 regret for the human carnage left 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 interspersed with events. 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 keeping him tethered to 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.
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