The Magdalen Martyrs: A Novel

The Magdalen Martyrs: A Novel

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by Ken Bruen

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Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned.

Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead


Jack Taylor is walking the delicate edge of a sobriety he doesn't trust when his phone rings. He's in debt to a Galway tough named Bill Cassell, what the locals call a "hard man." Bill did Jack a big favor a while back; the trouble is, he never lets a favor go unreturned.

Jack is amazed when Cassell simply asks him to track down a woman, now either dead or very old, who long ago helped his mother escape from the notorious Magdalen laundry, where young wayward girls were imprisoned and abused. Jack doesn't like the odds of finding the woman, but counts himself lucky that the task is at least on the right side of the law.

Until he spends a few days spinning his wheels and is dragged in front of Cassell for a quick reminder of his priorites. Bill's goons do a little spinning of their own, playing a game of Russian roulette a little too close to the back of Jack's head. It's only blind luck and the mercy of a god he no longer trusts that land Jack back on the street rather than face down in a cellar with a bullet in his skull. He's got one chance to stay alive: find this woman.

Unfortunately, he can't escape his own curiosity, and an unnerving hunch quickly turns into a solid fact: just who Jack's looking for, and why, aren't nearly what they seem.

The Magdalen Martyrs, the third Galway-set novel by Edgar, Barry, and Macavity finalist and Shamus Award-winner Ken Bruen, is a gripping, dazzling story that takes the Jack Taylor series to explosive new heights of suspense.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This third entry in Bruen's Jack Taylor series (The Killing of the Tinkers) is arguably the bleakest to date, but also the best. When a local thug hires Jack to track down a woman, it seems like an easy way to repay an outstanding debt. Not until he's in too deep does Taylor realize that it's not a simple identity trace, and that his client may have been playing him all along. While flashbacks in time are kept to a minimum, it's clear that Jack's search is somehow related to events that happened decades ago at a home for wayward girls. Jack juggles his search with another case, one in which he becomes involved with the woman he's hired to investigate. Jack is often a hard man to like, and he spends a great deal of the book hitting potholes on his meandering path to redemption. For all that, he remains completely compelling, and Bruen continues one of the best current crime series. Recommended for most public libraries. Bruen lives in Galway, Ireland.-Craig Shufelt, Lane P.L., Oxford, OH Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Private eye Jack Taylor, late of the Garda Siochana, the Irish National Police and any condition remotely resembling sobriety, is down and out in Galway in the third entry in this relentlessly dark yet never dreary series (The Killing of the Tinkers, 2004, etc.). A summons arrives from Bill Cassell, Galway gangster and figure of authentic evil. He's done Jack a favor asked out of dire necessity, and now he's calling his marker. Find a woman named Rita Monroe, orders the reptilian Cassell. It's not the blood-chilling imperative Jack had been dreading, but he knows better than to relax, and he's right. The search for Monroe leads him to a group of young women horrifically exploited and tortured while being forced to labor not in some primitive Third World country but in the heart of Galway. The revelations bruise Jack's spirit as severely as the parallel investigation into his own addictive and destructive personality. At length, Jack finds Rita Monroe, achieves long-overdue justice for the brutalized women and maybe, just maybe, takes one small step toward personal redemption. Jack's Orwellian journey is often painful, but there are compensations. An array of good writers, from Ralph W. Emerson to George P. Pelecanos, are quoted throughout. It's a class of writer that includes Bruen himself. Author tour

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St. Martin's Press
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Jack Taylor Series , #3
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The Magdalen Martyrs

By Ken Bruen

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2003 Ken Bruen
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-0235-9


December is a rough month. Screw all that festive preparation. If you're on your own, it mocks you at every turn. You open an old book and find a list of friends you once sent cards to. Now, they're all dead or disappeared. The television is crammed with toys for children you never had, and boy, is it ever too late. The radio is playing ballads that once held significance or even hope.

It has been said that you truly only realise the full impact of being alone when you're in the kitchen, as you prepare a meal for one. Everything is singular: one cup, one set of cutlery, one plate and, probably, one lousy plan. Live long enough alone and you develop obsessive traits. As soon as the meal is done, you wash the plate. Why? Who the hell is going to complain? Let the shit stack up for a week and see who cares; but you don't because you can't. The rituals you have developed are all that tie you to the human race, and the worst bit is the knowledge you are doing this.

Man, I'd gone through some different homes these past years. I'd had a flat along the canal, and if not happy there, I was as near to content as it gets. Got evicted and moved to Bailey's Hotel, one of the few remaining private ones in Galway.

Then, as the result of a case I was investigating, I seemed to land on my uppers and moved to a house in Hidden Valley. That was fine. Had me a time. Stone floors, open fireplace, deep freeze, neighbours, books ... in a wooden bookcase ... the whole citizen deal. But blew that to hell and gone with the worst judgement call of my chequered career. I feel the guilt and recriminations still. The line of dead who accuse me at every turn of sleep, they come in silent dread, the eyes fixed on me as I twist and moan in vain hope of escape.

So I drink. I'm way past my sell-by date and am on precious borrowed time. I should have gone down a long time ago. Lots of days, I wish I had.

The first two weeks of December I was dry. Gearing up. I knew I'd never get through the whole fiasco sober so was putting in time for good behaviour. It's just another delusion that alcoholics practise. These lies are nearly as vital as the alcohol. You hug them close as prayer, and they are twice as heartfelt. The constant rain and the fecking cold, it permeates your bones. Along the way, I'd been seriously addicted to cocaine but was even refraining from that. So, I had the chills and shakes and, of course, a major dose of them blues.

I was living again in Bailey's Hotel. Located near the tourist office, it is not easy to find and survives against the odds. Owned by a widow in her eighties, for some reason she has affection for me and continues to keep a room for me despite my worst excesses. She is under the impression I helped her out once; and if I did, I've forgotten how or even when. I'm grateful she doesn't judge me. Perhaps it's that we are both of that endangered species, "Old Galway", and our time is truly limited. When we go, the hotel will be converted to luxury apartments, and some yuppy will tread on the bones of our deluded selves.

Her staff consists mainly of Janet, a woman as old as herself, who is pot-walloper, maid, conscience, cleaner and as religious a woman as I've ever met. Because I read so many books, Janet thinks I'm somebody. This is an old Irish notion that, alas, fools fewer and fewer people. I had a calendar on the wall. The Sacred Heart was on the front, and the days were marked with pithy sayings to uplift your day. I can't say they much uplifted mine. In red, the 18th stood out like a beacon. It's my father's birthday. That was the day I'd drink again. Just knowing the very time when I'd lift a glass got me through so many other impossible hours. I'd planned well. Had four bottles of black Bushmill's, twenty-four pint cans of Guinness and an ounce of coke. I kid you not, this was just for openers; and for the lock-down days of Christmas, I thought it was a fairly decent plan.

The day came and I lashed in with a vengeance. Managed a week till I got a blackout and ended back in hospital. They were not pleased to see me and read me a minor riot act. Their hearts weren't in it, as they knew I'd drink again. Mid-January, I was back in Bailey's, trying to ration my drinking, abstaining from coke and suffering a depression like the depths of hell. Sitting on the edge of my bed, I was running some lines of Ann Kennedy in my head.

Burial Instructions

These lines:

You might know the spot
Because that's where they placed
Marilyn's ashes
In a pale marble crypt
Looking across at our family.

Go figure.

I can't.


Excerpted from The Magdalen Martyrs by Ken Bruen. Copyright © 2003 Ken Bruen. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Ken Bruen was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and the Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. He lives in Galway, Ireland.

Ken Bruen has been a finalist for the Edgar and Anthony Awards, and has won a Macavity Award, a Barry Award, and two Shamus Awards for the Jack Taylor series. He is also the author of the Inspector Brant series. Several of Bruen's novels have been adapted for the screen: The first six Jack Taylor novels were adapted into a television series starring Iain Glen; Blitz was adapted into a movie starring Jason Statham; and London Boulevard was adapted into a film starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. Bruen lives in Galway, Ireland.

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Magdalen Martyrs (Jack Taylor Series #3) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
The finding business has proven quite dangerous for Jack Taylor, who is quite acrimonious that life has past him by with the worst time of the year being Christmas bad cheer for all the lonely people. Actually this season he feels less self pity than usual although his last case (see KILLING OF THE TINKERS) was more brutal than ever. He still needs to eat and drink (even if his binges mean hospital stays) and this is about all he can do since he and THE GUARDS departed.--- Cancer victim Bill Cassell calls in a favor from Jack, who owes the local kingpin. Bill orders Jack to locate Rita Monroe, ¿the Angel of the Magdalen¿ who helped his mother escape the appalling abuse of these church ¿prisons¿. Trying is not good enough as Bill's enforcer will cancel debts the old fashioned way if Jack fails or gets drunk. A second client surfaces as Terry Boyle hires Jack to prove that his father was murdered and the official accident report is a lie; instead he insists that his stepmother killed his dad. As Jack investigates both cases, he begins to find a link though he was not looking for one as the same police officer seems to surface in both inquiries.--- Jack is at his ¿rosy¿ antihero best struggling with sobriety to work both cases. The story line is action-packed and takes an intriguing twist (no olives) when the seemingly separate investigations merge sending Jack even further over the edge. Although alcoholism is taken perhaps too lightly, the look at the Church 1950s atrocities towards female wards is shocking (see Marita Conlon-Mckenna¿s historical fiction THE MAGDALEN for more). Readers will appreciate Ken Bruen¿s latest Taylor British Noir.--- Harriet Klausner