The Guards (Jack Taylor Series #1)

The Guards (Jack Taylor Series #1)

3.6 20
by Ken Bruen

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Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Siochana--The Guards, Ireland's police force--and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. In his sober moments Jack aspires to become Ireland's best private investigator, not to mention its first--Irish history, full of

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Still stinging from his unceremonious ouster from the Garda Siochana--The Guards, Ireland's police force--and staring at the world through the smoky bottom of his beer mug, Jack Taylor is stuck in Galway with nothing to look forward to. In his sober moments Jack aspires to become Ireland's best private investigator, not to mention its first--Irish history, full of betrayal and espionage, discourages any profession so closely related to informing. But in truth Jack is teetering on the brink of his life's sharpest edges, his memories of the past cutting deep into his soul and his prospects for the future nonexistent.

Nonexistent, that is, until a dazzling woman walks into the bar with a strange request and a rumor about Jack's talent for finding things. Odds are he won't be able to climb off his barstool long enough to get involved with his radiant new client, but when he surprises himself by getting hired, Jack has little idea of what he's getting into.

Stark, violent, sharp, and funny, The Guards is an exceptional novel, one that leaves you stunned and breathless, flipping back to the beginning in a mad dash to find Jack Taylor and enter his world all over again. It's an unforgettable story that's gritty, absorbing, and saturated with the rough-edged rhythms of the Galway streets. Praised by authors and critics around the globe, The Guards heralds the arrival of an essential new novelist in contemporary crime fiction.

The Guards is a 2004 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Novel.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune

The next major new Irish voice we hear might well belong to Ken Bruen.
Denver Post

Bruen is a brilliant, lyrical, deeply moving writer who can make you laugh and cry in the same paragraph and whose characters are so sharply portrayed that they almost walk off the page at you. If you like Ian Rankin, Dennis Lehane, Pelecanos, and the like, Bruen is definitely a writer to reckon with.
Washington Post Patrick Anderson

Bruen is an original, grimly hilarious and gloriously Irish. I await the further adventures of the incorrigible Jack Taylor.
Publishers Weekly
Bruen flaunts genre cliches (the tough cop who loves books; the beating victim who insists on checking himself out of a hospital too soon) on virtually every page of this outstanding debut mystery. He gets away with it thanks to his novel setting, the Irish seaside city of Galway, and unusual characters who are either current or former members of the Garda Siochana, the Guards, Ireland's shadowy police force. Bruen, a teacher of English in schools in Africa and Japan, has a rich and mordant writing style, full of offbeat humor. "You don't know hell till you stand in a damp dance hall in South Armagh as the crowd sing along to `Surfing Safari,' " says Jack Taylor, kicked out of the Guards for various booze-related infractions and now working sporadically as a "finder." An attractive woman pays him to look into the supposed suicide of her teenaged daughter, and Taylor manages to stay sober long enough to do it, after a fashion. There's a tendency toward cuteness (three-line lists dot the already sparse narrative), and Bruen is determined to tell us just how well read and well listened his hero is by dropping in dozens of references to writers and musical groups. But these are minor failings. With the recent accidental death of Mark McGarrity, the American who wrote (as Bartholomew Gill) about a top Dublin cop, Bruen now has a chance to become that country's version of Scotland's Ian Rankin-and perhaps the standard bearer for a new subgenre called "Hibernian Noir." (Jan. 13) Forecast: Blurbs from T. Jefferson Parker, James W. Hall, Jon A. Jackson and James Crumley will help ensure better than average sales for a first novel import.
Library Journal
Jack Galway's life is spiraling downward. Dumped from the Garda Siochana ("the Guards"), Ireland's elite police force, he now passes his days drinking in a friend's bar. Enter Ann Henderson, a woman searching for her missing daughter. Jack agrees to take on her case, learning about Ann's daughter as well as other young women who have recently disappeared. Soon, he becomes personally involved with his client and her plight and works toward resolving it despite a strange sense of hopelessness that hangs over the action. While there is ultimately some form of resolution, first novelist Bruen makes no effort to tie everything up in a neat and happy ending. The writing is less hard-boiled than lyrical, with a definite edge that perfectly fits the story. This one should be popular in public libraries with fans of crime fiction, especially those who appreciate the art of good writing.-Craig Shufelt, Lane P.L., Oxford, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Jack Taylor's a drunk. He was a drunk while a member of the Garda Siochana, the Irish national police, and even more inclined to the habit since being terminated for decking a loudmouth with too much political clout. Now he cobbles together a living as a quasi-p.i. Here and there in Galway, he's known as a steady man for finding things. Perched precariously and more or less permanently on his favorite barstool, Jack Taylor will listen to the bereft, if he's not too far into his pints. Ann Henderson, lovely, grieving, distraught, has lost a child, her daughter. Suicide, Garda officials insist, but Ann doesn't believe it for a minute: not her Sarah. She thinks a murder is being hushed up in behalf of those with the money and influence to buy that kind of silence. And she wants Jack to sober up long enough to prove her right. "They say you're good," she tells him, "because you've nothing else in your life." For the moment, then, Ann's in his life, brightening it, burnishing its edges with hope. Solving the mystery of Sarah's death becomes as important to him as it is to her. But soon there are other deaths to contend with, along with threats, beatings, and finally one climactic betrayal. Hard-boiled, eccentric, darkly comic: Bruen (The McDead, 2001, etc.) bows to but doesn't just mimic James M. Cain and the other great noirists in a breakout novel not to be missed.

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Product Details

St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
Jack Taylor Series, #1
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

It's almost impossible to be thrown out of the Garda Siochana. You have to really put your mind to it. Unless you become a public disgrace, they'll tolerate most anything.

I'd been to the wire. Numerous



Last chances


And still I didn't shape up.

Or rather sober up. Don't get me wrong. The gardai and drink have a long, almost loving relationship. Indeed, a tee-total garda is viewed with suspicion, if not downright derision, inside and outside the force.

My supervisor at the training barracks said,

"We all like a pint."

Nods and grunts from trainees.

"And the public likes us to like a pint."

Better and better.

"What they don't like is a blackguard."

He paused to let us taste the pun. He pronounced it, in the Louth fashion, "blaggard".

Ten years later I was on my third warning. Called before a supervisor, it was suggested I get help.

"Times have changed, sonny. Nowadays there's treatment programmes, twelve-step centres, all kinds of help. A spell in John O' God's is no shame any more. You'll rub shoulders with the clergy and politicians."

I wanted to say,

"That's supposed to be an incentive!"

But I went. On release, I stayed dry for a while, but gradually, I drank again.

It's rare for a garda to get a home posting, but it was felt my home town would be a benefit.

An assignment on a bitter cold February evening. Dark as bejaysus. Operating a speed trap on the outskirts of the city. The duty sergeant had stipulated,

"I want results, no exceptions."

My partner was a Roscommon man named Clancy. He'd an easygoing manner and appeared to ignore my drinking. I had a thermos of coffee, near bulletproof with brandy. It was going down easy.

Too easy.

We were having a slow duty. Word was out on our location. Drivers were suspiciously within the limit. Clancy sighed, said,

"They're on to us."

"Sure are."

Then a Mercedes blasted by. The clock hit thermo. Clancy shouted,


I had the car in gear and we were off. Clancy, in the passenger seat, said,

"Jack, slow down, I think we might forget this one."


"The plate . . . see the plate?"

"Yeah, so what."

"It's government."

"It's a bloody scandal."

I had the siren wailing, but it was a good ten minutes before the Merc pulled over. As I opened my door, Clancy grabbed my arm, said,

"Bit o' discretion, Jack."

"Yeah, right."

I rapped on the driver's window. Took his time letting it down. The driver, a smirk in place, asked,

"Where's the fire?"

"Get out."

Before he could respond, a man leaned over from the back, said,

"What's going on?"

I recognised him. A high profile TD. I said,

"Your driver was behaving like a lunatic."

He asked,

"Have you any idea who you're talking to?"

"Yeah, the gobshite who screwed the nurses."

Clancy tried to run block, whispered,

"Jeez, Jack, back off."

The TD was outa the car, coming at me. Indignation writ huge, he was shouting,

"Yah brazen pup, I'll have your job. Do you have any idea of what's going to happen?"

I said,

"I know exactly what's going to happen."

And punched him in the mouth.

Copyright 2001 by Ken Bruen

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