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Galway Girl: A Jack Taylor Novel


Galway Girl: A Jack Taylor Novel

GALWAY GIRL works very well, even though it shouldn’t. The same can be said, more or less, of all of Ken Bruen’s novels featuring Jack Taylor, who is a difficult figure to behold.

Taylor is a former Galway Garda turned informal private investigator who alternates between almost perpetual drunkenness and abbreviated bouts of sobriety. He is bent but not broken, damaged but not destroyed, even as he slides further toward those respective endgames with each installment of the series. This is due to his propensity to make bad choices and engage in worse actions with unfortunate consequences that ripple elliptically from his epicenter.

Bruen’s prose style consists of short, choppy sentences shot full of grim street poetry and relayed for the most part (with occasional shifts of perspective) in Taylor’s first-person voice. It is noteworthy that, as a result, readers sometimes know what Taylor is going to do before he tells them, which provides plenty of opportunity for cringing.

"GALWAY GIRL is cringeworthy and more, in all the best ways. Even when you anticipate what Taylor or any other character is going to do, you still hope against hope that they won’t."

Cringing? Oh yes, indeed. GALWAY GIRL is cringeworthy and more, in all the best ways. Even when you anticipate what Taylor or any other character is going to do, you still hope against hope that they won’t. Hopes such as these are repeatedly dashed. But the tale is so beautifully and bleakly told that one simply cannot stop reading.

Let’s discuss specifics for a bit. The novel shares its title with a marvelous Steve Earle song (as well as a better known but less appealing number by Ed Sheeran), which is referenced frequently throughout the story. I listened to Earle’s tune nonstop while reading the book and recommend that you do as well. It is about a lady who breaks Earle’s heart; Taylor’s Galway girl is a woman who is out to kill him. Her name is Trish, but she goes by Jericho and has a major mad-on for Taylor, specifically because of a prior action of his.

A note here: Each of Bruen’s Jack Taylor thrillers builds on the last --- isn’t life just like that? --- but he does a prime job of giving newcomers (and those of us who have difficulty remembering where we left the phone, let alone what happened a year ago) just enough information to follow along.

Jericho recruits two other somewhat twisted Galway residents into her scheme, which involves inflicting as much pain, psychic and otherwise, upon Taylor as she can. But Taylor performs an act of kindness that, instead of badly boomeranging on him and everyone around him, actually carries the seeds of his potential salvation (however temporary) with a few twists, turns and curves. The result is an ending that is dark in pitch but oddly satisfying.

Bruen gives readers more than a top-flight story here. There are a number of cultural recommendations disguised as stream-of-consciousness mentions, commentary on current events (I guarantee that you won’t agree with everything), and, if I am not mistaken, an occasional third-person sighting of the author in his own book. It is but one indication of the casual power of Bruen’s writing that I am already cringing over what might happen in his next Taylor tale, even as I eagerly and impatiently anticipate it.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on November 8, 2019

Galway Girl: A Jack Taylor Novel
by Ken Bruen

  • Publication Date: November 17, 2020
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Mysterious Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802157335
  • ISBN-13: 9780802157331