Jack Taylor goes looking for an explosive volume and finds it and a whole lot of other explosions.
Working these days as a security guard for a factory owned by mysterious Ukrainian Alexander Knox-Keaton, Jack’s called into the office of his boss and given a new job: to find The Red Book, which has been pinched from the Vatican archives by rogue priest Frank Miller. It’s no trouble for a man with Jack’s contacts to find Miller, but the lapsed cleric refuses to tell Jack anything about the missing item, and before Jack can question him again, he’s been beaten to death and has loose pages from a book jammed down his throat. The news naturally brings Sgt. Ridge, the lesbian cop who was once Jack’s friend, to his door in a less than friendly role and brings Jack back to see his boss, who brusquely pays him off and warns him that terrible things will happen to him if he doesn’t stop asking questions. It’s not much of a threat since six terrible things happen to Jack most days before breakfast. But although Jack does indeed find the missing copy of The Red Book, its discovery seems powerless to stem the wave of violence it’s unleashed—a wave that will engulf Jack, Sgt. Ridge, goth girl Emerald McKee (Green Hell, 2015), and Lorna Dunphy, the schoolgirl who’s given Jack 19 euros to find her missing brother, Eamon, who’s going to be hard to find because he doesn’t exist. All these events unfold in the most mannered prose since the glory days of James Ellroy against the distant echoes of Donald Trump’s shockingly successful presidential campaign. Maybe Ireland doesn’t have a monopoly on troubles after all.
Dispensing with the genre’s customary pleasures—promising plot developments go nowhere, menacing characters are abruptly killed off, the solution solves nothing—Bruen still manages to deliver prose that’s both tough and elegiac, plus enough white space per page to tempt even Alice in Wonderland.