Back from London, where he was deeper down and farther out than Orwell ever was, comes p.i. Jack Taylor for his second walk on Galway’s dark side.
Jack’s picked up “a leather coat and a coke habit,” and not much more to show for a journey that had begun so optimistically, with fond hopes of recovering his sobriety and working out his redemption. Now, once again at anchor in his favorite pub, he’s swilling Jameson’s, fighting demons, making phrases (his coffee is “bitter as a rumor”), and being available to troubled souls in need of his services. Enter the tinker Sweeper. Someone’s been murdering and mutilating his gypsy clansmen, and he’s heard Jack will help when the Garda Siochana can’t be bothered. Reluctantly, Jack moves into action, or at least into another of his wobbly journeys with idiosyncratic detours, this time for a brief but poignant love affair, a bizarre skirmish with a teenaged swan-killer, and related twistings and turnings. When at length he gets his man, it’s the wrong man. Rectifying this spot of error thrusts Jack into a contract with—well, not quite the Devil, but a near relation.
From time to time, Jack (The Guards, 2003) may test a reader’s tolerance for the comic antihero, but how can you resist a man who says, “Lord knows, feeling bad is the skin I’ve worn almost all my life”?