The Guards by Ken Bruen

January 17, 2004
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The Guards
Ken Bruen

St. Martin's/Minotaur
1/17/04
Trade Paperback/304 pages
ISBN: 0-312-32027-2
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"The Guard is at first glance a little tale with an anti-hero, but proves to be much more."

". . . a gritty view of Ireland and small town life that goes beyond the obvious stereotype of the Irish drunk."

Private investigators, that staple of American literature and criminal justice, do not exist in Ireland. The Irish will not tolerate informers. That leaves only fools–-and drunks-–to look into cases the Guard have closed or ignored. To the Irish, truth is not as important as silence.

 

 

According to the official report, Sarah Henderson was found in the waters beyond Nimmo’s Pier. She committed suicide. Her mother, Ann, does not believe the official report. Sarah was a happy, industrious girl in love. Since Galway’s Guard closed the case, Ann decides to pay someone to find the truth. Who better than an ex-Guard like Jack Taylor?

 

There are heroes who defy death, taxes, and danger to right all wrongs and there is Jack Taylor who defies sobriety and common sense. Jack Taylor is a public disgrace, a drunk who thinks no further than his next drink, and he does not care.

 

Ann persuades Jack to clear Sarah’s name. In return for Ann’s money, Jack allows Ann to clean him up-–for a while. In the meantime, Jack and drinking buddy and sometime artist Sean, stumble through Galway leaving a trail of death, destruction, and mayhem in their wakes. Jack and Sean uncover the truth about Sarah’s death only to find themselves at odds.

 

The Guards is at first glance a little tale with an anti-hero, but proves to be much more. The characters are real people who lurch through their lives only to stumble over themselves and the truth that defines their lives. Ken Bruen provides a gritty view of Ireland and small town life that goes beyond the obvious stereotype of the Irish drunk. Bruen’s short, disjointed chapters mimic the view from bloodshot eyes, creating a moment of harsh reality for characters and readers alike.

Reviewer: J. M. Cornwell

 

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