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Bruen, Ken - 'Priest'
Paperback: 288 pages (Jan. 2006) Publisher: Bantam Press ISBN: 0593055101

PRIEST is the fifth book to feature Jack Taylor, an alcoholic ex Guard (Irish police officer) who is well known for finding people.

Jack is in a mental hospital wracked with grief and guilt after allowing the young daughter of his friends, Cathy and Jeff, to fall to her death out of a window when he was supposed to be looking after her. Encouraged by a fellow inmate he avoids his medicine and begins to improve sufficiently to be released. On his release he is reunited with Ridge, a Guard and the daughter of an old friend. They seem to have a hate-hate relationship but nonetheless she takes him home to Galway and finds him somewhere to live.

Things actually appear to be looking up for Jack. He stays off the booze and even gives up smoking. He even inherits a flat and some money but there is still guilt and rage inside him. Even though he's not officially a PI he soon acquires a case from an unlikely source. Given his hate for Father Malachy, he is surprised when the priest asks him to find out who murdered Father Joyce. Ridge also asks Jack a favour, to find out who is stalking her and then Cathy comes back into his life asking him to find her husband Jeff who is now one of the drunken homeless. Her request comes with a threat though, if Jack fails she will kill him. At least Jack now has a partner to help him. Cody, a young man affecting an American accent attaches himself to Jack and pleads to be his partner. Surprisingly Jack agrees and becomes fond of the young man.

So everything appears to be on the up and up but there are enough "had I but known" statements to indicate that things will go badly wrong and they do…

PRIEST is one of those books you read with increasing horror as you plead with the characters not to do or say certain things but you can't take your eyes off the page. The style is spare and well suited to the darkness and despair felt by Taylor. Galway and its citizens are well brought to life and I feel like I've been one of the, possibly unwanted, tourists there.

Taylor solves his cases with ease and one wonders why the police didn't find the priest killer. As well as the mystery, the reader gets an insightful look at modern Ireland and the current place of the church and also the impact of US culture and immigration on a small but increasingly wealthy community.

Gripping but depressing, where does Jack Taylor go from here?

Karen Meek, England
March 2006

Karen blogs at
Euro Crime.

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 30/03/2008 20:37