The Ghosts of Galway – Ken Bruen

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“It’s not that the Irish
Are cynical.
It’s simply that they have a wonderful Lack of respect
For everything and everybody.”
Brendan Behan

Former ex-guarda , current Jameson- loving PI Jack Taylor loves to quote famous writers when he’s trying to convey a point—that is, when he’s sober and not picking a fight. His liver must be shot and he’s made so many bad decisions in life that it’s surprising he’s still alive.

Yes, still living and continually disgraced, Jack is now working as a private security guard at night. Hardly utilizing his investigative skills, he’s offered a profitable assignment to recover “The Red Book”, a book of heresy supposedly written around 800 AD. It’s currently in the hands of a rogue priest now hiding in Galway. Also trying to get their hands on the book may be “The Ghosts of Galway”. Many believe this is a fundamentalist cult; though some believe they’re just a bunch of thugs trying to spread chaos. What we do know about them is that they kill animals and dump them on the public square.

Now if you think that this is treading into a Dan Brownish knock-off, you’re not even close. It’s not just the varied plot from Jack’s cynical point of view; it’s the seriously flawed characters and their relationships that are paramount to the novel. This is what I love about the Jack Taylor series. There are a lot of paradoxes, just like in real life. Jack continues to maintain a certain unhealthy adoration for his adversaries. It’s not that he’s a poor judge of character—he knows what and who he’s dealing with—it’s just that he’s sentimental…at times. Like me, he also laments the death of Prince and David Bowie.

There are a lot of novels about alcoholic ex-cops but this one is different. Author Ken Bruen takes irreverence to another level. He continues attacking traditional Irish institutions and the Church’s hypocrisy. As usual, the bleak setting,  witty dialogue and dark humor keep you glued to the pages.

You don’t need to read the other books in the series to understand or enjoy The Ghosts of Galway. But if you’re like me and find that you love Bruen’s style, you may want to.


(Check out our review of another in the Jack Taylor series, Sanctuary.)

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