“The Ghosts of Galway” by Ken Bruen

The Ghosts of Galway

Ghosts of Galway

Ken Bruen

“A failed suicide is a sad, sad *****”

So begins “The Ghosts of Galway,” dropping the reader right into the action, as Jack Taylor, former Garda member and failed suicide, ends up, not kinder or wiser, but as a security guard, which he calls “Suicide by boredom.” Only things don’t stay boring long. Soon Jack has been yanked from his relaxing tedium as a security guard and sent off to find the Red Book, a possibly real, possibly fake relation to the Book of Kells. And while he’s haring off after the book, dead animals keep turning up in the town square, and there’re rumors that it’s the work of ghosts.

I haven’t read any of the previous books in the series, so I wasn’t completely up to speed with what was going on with the characters beforehand, but essentially Jack Taylor’s life has been on a downward spiral for some time, which makes him just the kind of bitter, life-hardened cynic you need as a PI-ish sort of character in a detective novel. The fact that the action takes place in small-town Galway, rather than the mean streets of Boston or Chicago, only enhances the effect. People can be just as miserable and desperate in the green and beautiful Irish countryside as they can anywhere else.

Potential readers should be aware that the writing style is unorthodox and the language is salty, to say the least. In his ruminations Jack’s thoughts come out as Mayakovsky-esque ladder and column free verse, e.g.:
Emily
Em
Emerald
A goth-like crazed girl who had blasted into my life two years ago and left me
Bewildered
Burned
Bewitched.
So if that’s the kind of fancy dancing you disapprove of, you might just want to move on. However, while it could be an affectation, it works here, graphically representing Jack’s fragmented thought processes, liberally sprinkled, in the best Irish tradition, with the f-word and other strong phrases. Readers will probably either like it or hate it, but it certainly stands out.

As for the plot itself, it’s full of so much crazy action I won’t even attempt to describe any more than I already have, other than to say that the body count is high. While not super-gory, this is not a novel for fans of cozy mysteries where everyone gets off with nothing more than a little scare. By the end of the book, the character list is significantly depleted, and Galway is filled with even more ghosts than before. All in all, an unusual but highly compelling hardboiled detective novel that is likely to polarize readers into “love it” or “hate it” camps.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

Buy links: Barnes and NobleAmazon

Just a reminder that The Breathing Sea I is up for an award in the Literary category of The 50 Best Indie Books of 2017!  Votes are much appreciated!

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