Book Review: Galway Girl by Ken Bruen

Galway Girl

Ken Bruens

Jack Taylor Series

November 5, 2019

Galway Girl by Ken Bruen is the 14th book in the Jack Taylor series—as sharp and sardonic as it is starkly bleak and violent, it shows the master raconteur at his best: lyrical, brutal, and ceaselessly suspenseful.

I have long been a fan of Ken Bruen’s writing, particularly his Jack Taylor novels. I will confess that much of my attraction lies in its setting: Galway City in the Republic of Ireland, which is where Ken Bruen lives and is one of my very favorite places on earth. Situated about 40 miles southeast of the lush countryside and hills of Connemara, Galway City has a more cosmopolitan attitude. After all, didn’t the American President John F. Kennedy give a well-remembered speech in Eyre Square? And isn’t the Spanish Arch a symbol of all the trading that went on between Galway and Spain for centuries? And don’t the five major colleges in the city attract students from all over the world? Not to mention singers on every continent longing to “watch the sun go down on Galway Bay.” I have always been intrigued by setting, and in 2011, I wrote an article for Criminal Element about “the pull of place” in novels, using Ken Bruen, Jack Taylor, and Galway City as my prime example.

Jack Taylor cares not a whit for present times and longs for the Ireland of his youth. Still, since I love the Galway of today, I forgive Jack for his wishful thinking and take his complaints about modern Galway in stride. So as soon as I heard about Bruen’s latest novel, Galway Girl, I was happy to have a chance to visit Galway once again.

Jack Taylor—a former member of the Garda Síochána (Irish police) who was fired for cause—spends his life in an unending mishmash of chaos and tragedy as he plies a trade that would be called Private Eye in most parts of the world, though Jack is not comfortable with the term. He would tell you he “helps” people. Generally, he is fussy about who he helps and why, yet there are times when trouble brings itself to his door.

A young female Guard (ban Garda) comes to tell him that another guard, recently killed, was the uncle to someone with which Taylor was once very close. When she leaves his house, Taylor watches from his window and is shocked when a man walks up, shoots her in the face, and disappears.

The shooting of Guard Nora McEntee caused a huge furor.


The city was on high alert, media screaming for the culprit to be apprehended.


He wasn’t.


As the only witness, I was dragged to the station.




to help with inquiries


But more to be bullied, intimidated and shouted at.

I can assure you of this, Jack Taylor is not a man to be intimidated—not by the Guards, not by anyone. And so he resists as his former colleagues push him to investigate in his own unorthodox way. Until he stops resisting because, well I will let you discover that when you read the book.

In the quote above, did you notice how poetic and rhythmic Bruen’s writing is? That is the beauty of Bruen’s prose. He continues the poetry in many of his chapter breaks, and he sometimes quotes other authors who also have a poetic bent to their writing.

Not that he was alone.


He also had his library of course.


After Astrid died, he filled the void.


Of words unspoken


With the new silence


Of books unread.


Derek B. Miller, American by Day

I know you are used to me reviewing cozy mysteries. Cozies are what I write, and cozies are what I read, for the most part. But just as Ireland—the home of my ancestors—has captured my heart, so have Irish writers, and top among them is Ken Bruen. His work is far from cozy, but I devour it with great joy. The language is rough and some scenes are forceful, others powerful, but all are worth reading.

Do not miss Galway Girl, a novel that shows Ken Bruen’s writing at its finest and Jack Taylor’s life at its gruffest.

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