Sanctuary – Ken Bruen

P.I. and former guard Jack Taylor isn’t the most likeable guy. Through the years, he’s managed to make more enemies than friends. In fact, he’s known more for being a drunk than an investigator. That means that his biggest enemy is alcohol, and, through their constant bouts, the liquor always seems to win. Though Jack is an extremely bitter and angry man, he manages to have a conscience, causing so much inner turmoil that the alcohol continually finds a way to sneak back into his life.

Jack manages to rub most people the wrong way. But the few friends he does have, namely Ridge and Stewart, remain loyal. Ridge is a female guard and his “partner in hostility.” Stewart, a former drug dealer, is now a Zen student after spending six years in prison. However, he finds Xanax to be a quicker fix for Jack, and he always has it in supply.

To escape this life, Jack gives up his apartment in Galway, Ireland, ready to board a plane to America. Unfortunately, his plans are detoured when he discovers that Ridge was diagnosed with cancer. He just can’t leave her now. After he finds a new place to live, a note arrives explaining that the following murders would take place: two guards, one nun, a judge, and a child. After researching, Jack finds that a Guarda Flynn was killed over a week prior to the letter. Could this be a coincidence? Soon he receives another letter, adding his name to the list. This person isn’t fooling around, and Jack realizes that he has to find and stop the killer.

Sanctuary, one of the Jack Taylor series, is a gritty novel, packed with raw, dark humor. Author Ken Bruen leads readers through the callous streets of Galway, taking on the church, bigotry, hatred, and retribution—all relayed from Jack’s cynic perspective. Elements of Jack’s past continually surface, as does his conscience, and we begin to understand how he became the man he is. That doesn’t mean that you will actually like Jack Taylor. I’m still undecided on that. Then again, this isn’t a conventional mystery. There aren’t numerous twists, but the well-structured story, with its bleak setting, terse, but witty dialogue and flawed characters kept me from putting this thriller down until the very end.

If you’re looking for the classic mystery that follows a nice, clean formula, then this book isn’t for you. However, if you’re like me and enjoy noir with sharp originality, then Sanctuary may just be what you’re looking for.

(review previously published on www.nightsandweekends.com)

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