Ken Bruen, Priest


Bruen is a high-rated writer of hardboiled private eye books. This is a Jack Taylor PI story, being one of only 77 numbered and signed copies in a special binding with an appreciation by Simon Kernick.

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Ken-BruenKen Bruen was born in Galway, Eire and has a growing following in noir crime circles with followers of British writers such as Derek Raymond and David Peace or Americans such as Lawrence Block and the heirs to pulp fiction. Yet although we have the structure of the private eye story Bruen is inclined to a diverse range of literary influences from the Beats to some of the Parisian modernists. His books were for years published only in paperback by an Irish publisher and it was through word of mouth that he began to gain recognition. He has produced a London set police and underworld series and the Jack Taylor PI series beginning with The Guards set in Galway. This series has regularly been nominated for awards in the USA and London Boulevard was released as a film with actress Anna Friel. The Taylor books also use the form of the detective novel to say something about life in Eire – its direction, where it messed up and importantly that it needs to get back on track.

Priest (2006) opens with Jack Taylor recovering from five months in an asylum. He meets with a Catholic priest and is given an assignment to investigate a death of a member of the cloth. This leads to the the whole difficult and tortured issues of paedophilia by Catholic priests and the sustained cover-up by the Church. What is interesting is Bruen’s sympathetic handling of the impact on individuals, as Jack tracks down two men who were abused by the recently murdered priest, is beautifully depicted, though, of course, extremely sad. And through the first-person telling of the story by Jack we also see the impact on the wider society which was once, in various ways, held together by the Church and its representatives (the priests) and is now adrift somewhat without the familiar anchor. The impact on the victims and families cuts to the heart.

This Jack Taylor story won the Barry Award for best British novel and was short-listed for the Edgar. It was published in 2006 in an edition of 77 signed and numbered copies with an appreciation by Simon Kernick.

4.50 out of 5

2 reviews for Ken Bruen, Priest

  1. 5 out of 5

    Rating by Karen Chisholm on Austcrimefiction on June 4, 2012 :

    Jack is in all sorts of self-inflicted trouble again. He’s in hospital, severely affected by a nervous breakdown, after his negligence caused the death of someone very very important to him and his last close friends, when he’s bought back from the brink by the kindness of another patient.

    On his release Jack returns to his previous life with a new-found determination to avoid drinking and drugs. When his least favourite priest, Father Malachy asks Jack for help in discovering why a local priest was decapitated in his church confessional, Jack falls into that and other investigations but clings to his promise to stay sober.

    PRIEST is the fifth novel in the Jack Taylor series and it is the first novel in which Jack is actively reassessing his life and what he really is. He’s still an angry and depressed man, but as he has been all the way through this series, he’s acutely self-aware and for the first time some of this anger is actually directed squarely at himself. He’s angry with the way that Irish society is changing, he’s still angry with the Catholic Church and in particular it’s attitude to paedophilia and sexual abuse. Whilst PRIEST is part of a series and the reader definitely benefits from reading the early books, firstly because they are universally excellent, but also to see how Jack and the author have moved through a series of phases, PRIEST can be read as a standalone.

    If nothing else, you have to admire Ken Bruen for his brutal honesty and his willingness to tackle the confrontational. In PRIEST he is scratching at a lot of scabs, societal and possibly personal. Karen Chisholm, Austcrimefiction website

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rating by New York Times Book Review on June 4, 2012 :

    Jack Taylor, the violent, guilt-driven, alcoholic ex-cop who suffers exquisite agonies in Ken Bruen’s black-bordered narratives, has been away from Galway for only five months when PRIEST (St. Martin’s Minotaur, $23.95) opens. But he spent those months in a hospital (“the madhouse … the loony bin … the home for the bewildered”), traumatized at having caused the death of a child. Back in his old haunts but still extremely disoriented, Jack is reluctantly drawn into the investigation of the murder of a pedophile priest whose disembodied head was found in the confessional, a crime that has put the fear of God into any man of the cloth, guilty or not, accused of sexual abuse. You can’t expect much in the way of conventional sleuthing from this tormented hero, but there’s music in his lament for the corruption of innocence and the loss of faith—in the government and the clergy—in “the new Ireland,” even as he does battle with the demons that have claimed his own soul.”
    —Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

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