Purgatory (Jack Taylor Novel) : Ken Bruen

PURGATORY (2013) by Ken Bruen is a 187 page Irish crime novel featuring Jack Taylor. It is the tenth entry in the series. This series is labeled as Irish noir and the protagonist is a middle-aged alcoholic with mileage and plenty of baggage. In Galway, he’s been roughing it as a sometime private investigator since being kicked out of the Guards for his excessive drinking. People usually meet him in pubs because that’s where he mostly lives. He’s the go to man for help & answers but those days are over. Disclosure: the publisher provided this book for review.

These days Jack is now somewhat sober and indifferent to other people’s problems. He even has some cash thanks to some forgotten bonds found in a family bible that he says would make his hated mother “spin in her grave.”

Cover for Purgatory  shows a brown table with a shot glass and noteThe main plot theme in Purgatory is vigilantism. The killer targets criminals – a slum lord, a shady money-lender. The killer assigns himself the nickname: C33 and even asks Jack to play along. Of course Jack ignores the notes and messages but his best friend Stewart takes a look. Even Garda Ridge, one of the few women in the police force, returns to antagonize Jack. Oh and one of my favorite characters, Father Malachy, returns. The chain-smoking priest who was friends with Jack’s mother, makes his usual, memorable entrance surrounded by a thick cloud of smoke that billows around him. One development in the story did take me by surprise but on second thought maybe it shouldn’t have. This isn’t labeled noir for nothing.

Society’s ills continues to be a major underlying theme. Poverty and the recession in Galway isn’t just wallpaper but is treated as a significant part of the story. After reading all the Brant books and all the Jack Taylor stories, one theme just keeps being repeated: the degradation of society. Society being preyed upon from various sources. Either it’s a psychopathic serial killer, corrupt bankers, spectators or the government and their ridiculous taxes/policies. The police are either inept, dirty or corrupt. Street justice is a given and bad guys sometimes get away free and clear. This is kind of like how the real world works.

What makes Jack Taylor a memorable character is his love for music and books. Also he’s lived through every major event the author could throw at him. He’s also lost friends either directly or through collateral damage. His life is full of regrets and mistakes. Darkness and loneliness are two of his constants in life. Despite his flaws, he’s a redeemable and sympathetic character.  It’s enough for me that he tries to be a better man and takes it one day at a time.

In conclusion, this series has been terrific so far but I have to be honest and say that Purgatory isn’t his best work but it’s entertaining enough. The many references to pop culture and quotes from writers or films padded the story with its multiple storylines. The tone has always been and continues to be full of sarcasm and humor. So if you enjoy Irish noir then read this series. The first book is The Guards. There’s also a TV series adapted from the books. I still haven’t watched them yet but will one day try to watch. Meanwhile I’m all caught up with both series and so far, its been a pleasant ride. If you’ve read the Jack Taylor series do you have any favorites? The Dramatist is mine but they’re all good with some being better than others.

Notes: Reviews can be found at Col’s Criminal Library and read the starred review at PW. 

About Keishon

I love reading crime fiction.
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12 Responses to Purgatory (Jack Taylor Novel) : Ken Bruen

  1. TracyK says:

    This is what I love about Ken Bruen’s books. Besides the fact that I love his writing. The length. Under 200 pages is just perfect. Anyway, I have only read the first one in this series, but I have a few more to read in 2014. I want to see the TV series also, but want to get a few more books read first. Great review, I hope I can catch up soon.

  2. Col says:

    I think you saw a few more positives than I did, but that’s how it goes. One of my friends over on Goodreads loved the first 9, rated this a 1! It just lacked something, kind of indefinable for me. I’d recognise whatever if was if it was present, but it just didn’t grab me…….even the references seemed forced……a bit of an exercise in how hip I am to be reading x, y and z – so should you.
    Sorry – maybe I should go back to bed!

    • Keishon says:

      Col: The story might not have been the best but I did enjoy all the rest of it. I finished reading this book in 2 days. I didn’t find the references forced, if anything, he had a lot of them in here to pad the story like I said in the review. It wasn’t his best but it certainly wasn’t his worst book. But you know….differences makes the world a lot more interesting so we’ll have to agree to disagree.

      • Col says:

        I’m happy to disagree with you on this one, and the next, and the next if it comes to it….. hopefully not though! Glad you got more out of it than me…….and it probably won’t be the last time we differ.

        • Keishon says:

          Well we both enjoy the Brant series and I agree with you in that they are superior to the Jack Taylor series. I finished them all and thought they were all solid reads and of course we’re not going to agree on everything but I enjoy our discussions nonetheless.

  3. Nicely reviewed, Keishon. I liked the way you analysed Jack Taylor’s character. I’m not a steady reader of crime-fiction as I read a lot of other stuff in between, which is one of the hazards of reading in nearly all the genres. But Ken Bruen and Jo Nesbo are on my radar.

  4. Darlynne says:

    I haven’t read this one yet, but it’s only a matter of time. Father Malachy is great in a really awful and spiteful way; any time Jack can best him is a good time in my book. My favorite will probably have to be THE GUARDS: first look, first love and all that. But I’ve enjoyed them all and hope Jack Taylor is with us for a while. Excellent review.

  5. Rebecca says:

    So you know that Bruen is on my list of authors to try thanks to your posts, Keishon, and I just realized that I watched a movie version of a Brant book this fall, Blitz. (It’s on Netflix.) Next stop, read a book!

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