Review: Purgatory (Jack Taylor)


Review By: C.M. Dawson

Okay all you bibliophiles out there, and you know who are. Let’s begin this conversation by being on the same page. By now most of you have heard the rumors of bookstores going out of business and our beloved local libraries being threatened. Sadly, this is true. In my tiny little town all of the bookstores as well as the used printed media shops have all closed their doors except for one. Even that remaining one, which is hanging on by its book jackets, still orders most of their New York Times best sellers directly from publishers rather than having them displayed on store shelves for faster access.  This practice in particular infuriates me, but that’s a rant for another day.

On the downside of electronics, habitual use causes neck and back aches, and raises merry hell with your vision.  Exchanging books with a friend can be tough not to mention whoever heard of snuggling up on a stormy night with a cup of cocoa and a good laptop?

I’ve nothing against gaming, being a gamer myself. But giving up eating, sleeping, sex with an actual human, standing outside in a line three blocks long in the snowstorm of the century to pay for the latest update of Master Sergeant with all your families’ income?  Really?

Most of we loiterers who hang out at sidewalk cafes to work daily crossword puzzles, or have a cup of joe while enjoying the next chapter of a new read, feel part of the scene without actually participating in it. We hear a laugh and we immediately feel lighter; a chair leg scrapes the sidewalk as the occupant slides away from the table to leave thus allowing someone new to take his place. The wispy scratch of dry yellow and red leaves as the fall wind pushes them along the sidewalk behind us acts as an underscore to the events like a Chopin nocturne. The smell of rich strong imported coffee teases our brain into waking. We turn the page in our book while in the back of our mind we’re wondering who that stranger is who slipped into the vacant chair. Is he here to read a book or magazine? Is he the one person who got the answer to thirty-two across in last week’s Times crossword? Or maybe he’s an author. You lower your book to peek at him. You think you recognize him but you’re not sure so you raise the book again to continue reading, all the while wondering if you saw him last month at the book fair in Central Park, or this morning while waiting in line at the butcher shop. So, you sneak another look, this time realizing it was a few days ago during a book signing at your favorite bookstore where you ogled a good looking guy or girl.  ‘Excuse me.’ someone says so you’ll move your big feet for them to pass. ‘Certainly.’ You barely look up but then you find a set of blue eyes above a warm smile fixated on you. ‘Is that his new one?’ You sit up straight and touch your hair to ensure it doesn’t look like Medusa’s do as you place the book next a half filled cup of coffee. ‘Yes.’ you say with authority. ‘Have a seat.’ The hotty pants seat themselves across from you where you are both soon drawn into a heated discussion of other works by the shared author. At the next table someone clears his throat so you will look at him.  ‘I actually met him in New York at a gallery opening.’ The table behind you pipes in their opinion on the man and his works and you are soon wrapped up in a mutually friendly discussion that turns into hours of entertaining antidotes and opinions. Oh where has the day gone?  Next comes drinks down at the pub. And now you are a full-fledged member of the new Sunday Inklings.

Reading novels or studying texts strengthens your mind and reading skills and is a lot of fun. You gain knowledge of history, social structures, self-analysis, comedy or drama, endless romances, insights into other cultures, and just about everything else you can contrive. There’s no down side. So I encourage all we book lovers whether it’s a compelling whodunit, or anything recorded on paper or film by Stan Lee, to keep reading, keep writing, and keep talking about it. We will prevail. Read! Read! Read!

I discovered Ireland’s Ken Bruen by a backwards process but at least I got there. Not being able to find a job because of my age and the car-crash of an economy, Hulu was my friend.  I filled my double sized coffee cup to the brim then wrapped myself in a fuzzy blanket to protect me from the ten-degree winter, and then scrolled through foreign films and tv series until I hit on delicious titles such as the Danish series, The Eagle, and Sweden’s intoxicating blonde Detective Saga in The Bridge. One morning I saw a title starring Game of Thrones’ Iain Glen. Being one of my favorite actors I clicked on Jack Taylor and proceeded to watch the entire series in a day. The credits revealed it was based on a series of novels by Irish author Ken Bruen which ignited my next obsession to track down his books.

Mr. Bruen is a son of Galway who at one time taught English in South Africa, Japan, and Eastern Asia which proves the point that you can’t write about the world if you’ve never been out in it. Jack Taylor is a believable character that anyone of us would willingly tag into a pub in Galway for a pint or a conversation with his blue-haired British friend.

Jack is a former guarda who becomes a private detective in association of a few quirky friends who gives blackmailers, murderers, and all sorts of psychopathic serial killers a run for their money. With a backdrop of the eternally wet city of Galway and its swans, pubs, and drunks, we explore the world of Jack Taylor as he hunts for clues and bad guys amid art galleries, millionaires’ mansions and gypsies, it is a delight to take the journey of the everyday life of an Irish detective.

My only complaint is that Mr. Bruen fails to give us a new Jack Taylor novel once a month. But he is to be forgiven because Bruen has given us additional detective novels, some of which are set in Texas and New York so happily we fulfil our over indulgence in characters we can relate to who are amid the same high caliber as Sam Spade and Philip Mallow. He has a real blabber finger with over thirty titles to date so there’s no chance of going away from the table hungry.

I urge those of you with discerning tastes for gritty, glib and intelligent reading to buy, buy, buy, Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor. Let him be your go-to guy for a pint and a good read.



On the Goodreads scale this is definitely a 5 out of 5 Star! If you would like here are more by Ken Bruen,



The Guards

The Tinkers


The Devil

Magdalin Martyrs


American Skin

Hackman Blues


and lots more….