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by Ken Bruen
St Martin's Minotaur, March 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0312316453

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS . . . in which former policeman Jack Taylor continues his descent into hell.

If you haven't encountered Ken Bruen's mind-blowing series set in Galway, Ireland, all you need to know is that Jack was thrown out of the gardai for thumping a politician, he's a PI of sorts and that he has one hell of a drink and drugs problem. And he has a talent for getting into violent scrapes.

THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS is little different from the two books that have gone before in the series -- THE GUARDS and THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS. But you don't read Bruen for the brilliance and originality of the plotting (and with that in mind you might feel the ending is too pat, especially given the anarchy elsewhere). You read him rather like you probe at an aching tooth with your tongue.

As the book opens, Jack is sober. Sort of. But he doesn't stay that way for long, as local hardman Bill Cassell is calling in a favour. Naturally Jack is underwhelmed by this development, but doesn't have a lot of choice in the matter.

Cassell's mother was a victim of the horrifying Magdalen Laundry, where young girls, many of them single mothers, were imprisoned and ill-treated by the nuns who ran it. He wants Jack to find the woman who helped his mother escape from the laundry. The present-day narrative is interspersed with 'The Magdalen' passages which are painful to read.

Jack's also supposed to be investigating whether the beautiful and alluring Kirsten murdered her husband. But both his clients find Jack a less than focussed investigator as the drink and drugs take hold and the books and music swirling around in his head seem set to overwhelm him.

For the tightest, tautest, most pared-down and painful writing on the block, read Bruen.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, February 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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