Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Guest Review by Tony Black- SANCTUARY by Ken Bruen

Transworld, June 2008, £17.99, ISBN978-1848270275,

SANCTUARY is the seventh, and possibly final, installment in the Galway-based Jack Taylor series by Ken Bruen...if this is the end, and God forbid that's true, then Jack's going out on a high.
The booze-soaked sleuth has been battered and bruised in just about Biblical proportions from book one (The Guards) and this latest outing offers no, er, sanctuary for him.
Jack is up to his neck in bad shit from just about page one, when he receives an anonymous list of 'victims' including two guards, one judge, and a nun, signed only by the mysterious, Benedictus.
Followers of the groundbreaking series will know Jack's a man who's never been overly keen on the 'finding business'; in fact, if he's interesting in finding anything, it's an escape from his own misery. He seems close to doing just that at the outset of SANCTUARY -- he even has his tickets for New York in hand -- but then the case dramatically draws him in.
And what a bitch it turns out to be.
To the list of victims is added...a child.
Bruen is a master of the slow burn, adding fuel to the mounting fire of Jack's rage, until finally, the reader has scorched fingertips and the threat of spontaneous human combustion seems a real possibility.
Unputdownable is an overused catch-all these days but SANCTUARY demands the description. The relentless incident, the mounting doom and the unshakable knowledge that here is a tale told by a master storyteller -- at the peak of his form -- makes for one b'Jesus of=2 0a read.
The beauty of the prose can only be described as that of a genius. Bruen applies a finesse to his slickly-crafted sentences that's unmatched. It's a Salinger-esque trip told with the kind of insight you'd expect from an author with his own unique, cultural X-ray vision. And, in SANCTUARY, the new Ireland, in all its complexities, is never far from his field of view.
Those of you who have stayed the course throughout the bestselling Jack Taylor series are duly rewarded with the return of a host of recognisable characters -- savoury and otherwise -- that Jack has drawn around him. Jeff and Cathi. Ridge. The odious Father Malachy. And none are mere cameos. They all earn their right to be there, contributing the kind body-blows you'd expect from Bruen. But be warned, the revelation about Serna May is a particularly lethal hurley smack to the nut.
If SANCTUARY spells the end for Jack, he has earned his rest. But for those who don't want to believe it's so, Bruen leaves a tantalising prospect in the final few lines...which I won't reveal here. All I will say is, let's pray Jack's back...and soon.
Tony Black's PAYING FOR IT is out now. The nice folk at Crimespree said: "I’d put him up there with Rankin and Kernick and Billingham with just this first novel." Visit his site at: www.tonyblack.net