The Guards: A Novel (Jack Taylor)

The Guards  - Ken Bruen This is hard-boiled private detective with an Irish lilt--and alcoholic slur. Jack Taylor was once in the Garda Siochana--the Irish police--but self-destructed with the aid of drink. As he himself describes his life and behavior, "I could say it was the booze, but that's not true. There's a self-destruct button in me. I keep returning to it." He does--throughout the book, and the novel is as much about that--in fact more about that--than his investigation of a young teen who seemingly committed suicide. The book is set in Galway, where, kicked off the force, Jack works intermittently as a "finder." As he puts it: There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't wear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated "informer"... What I began to do was find things. This is written first person with great style and voice. Somehow it kept me sympathetic and rooting for Jack despite him being a screwup. And the ending involves a frequent, even cliche element in hard-boiled detective fiction that usually is a deal breaker, and in a strange way it's because Jack is so damaged, it comes off less cold-blooded than it usually would. Jack's voice, the overall pacing and short chapters full of snappy dialogue made this a fast read at one sitting and left me feeling I wouldn't mind more, despite this being that dark and cynical blend you find in hard-boiled fiction that usually leaves me cold. But there's a wit and humor in the narrator that somehow made that darkness bearable.