REVIEW: 'The Killing of the Tinkers (A Jack Taylor Mystery)' by Ken Bruen

The Killing of the Tinkers (2004) by Ken Bruen is the second book in the series featuring ex-cop, Jack Taylor.

Irishman, Jack Taylor, an ex-Garda Síochána, is our eyes and ears in this series. Since being kicked out the Guards for punching his supervisor in the face, he’s been making his living as a half-assed private detective in Galway.

In “The Killing of the Tinkers,” Jack is asked to investigate the suspicious deaths of the “tinkers” who are a class of people who are often referred to as “gypsies” or “travelers.” The Guards, an law enforcement agency overshadowed by corruption and controversy are not interested in the killing of the tinkers. In fact, the tinkers seem to be viewed as socially unacceptable or occupying the bottom rung of the social ladder in the Irish community.

At the end of the last book, Jack was sober and moving to London to start over. Now he’s back home and drinking again. He’s also started a drug habit. I’ve been warned that Jack will never get his life together and so be it. Despite his addictions, he’s still a rather complex and interesting character to follow. He does have some redeeming qualities, for starters he loves to read. Music and words seem to be what calms him during his fragmented moments.

As for the thread with the tinkers, I almost didn’t think that it would get resolved. More than half-way through the story Jack gets handed another case where someone is slaughtering swans. But then he solves that one easily enough. It’s the tinker case that is very complicated and like before, Jack gets the crap beat out of him for his involvement. I’m starting to expect that will happen for each new case that he gets.

As interesting as the tinker case may be, it is Jack’s personal life that is more front and center. His hangovers, his withdrawals – it’s the life of an addict that we mostly see and since this series revolves around a ex-cop who’s an alcoholic, that is no surprise. A lot of it I could do without and I hope that Bruen will focus more on the cases because those are very interesting. That’s my minor complaint about this series. Otherwise, this series thus far has been an interesting one to read.

I guess what draws me to this series is the social commentary and the passages from great writers that he has integrated in here to give Jack more depth. A lot of the time this author makes me think. Often his quips and social observations about people and society are insightful. Bruen’s writing is different but he says so much in so few sentences and he writes with such confidence and wisdom.

Also, the setting and the people of Galway are just as important as the plot. And the Guards I keep reading about seem to be never there when you need them. In fact it seems that most people would rather _not_ involve them if they can. Since reading this series, I haven’t seen the Irish police force in a good light.

I realize as I write this that Bruen will not be to everybody’s tastes. His work is more noir and if you enjoy that then his work is one I’d highly recommend. I almost forgot – he can write about some of the creepiest people without all the graphic violence that usually accompanies it. In here, the bad guy was well hidden in the shadows and the denouement was one of puzzlement for me. Bruen can write suspenseful scenes as there were moments where I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Overall, this story was a fast read. The ending left me with the need to get my hands on the next book in the series which I have sitting on my nightstand. To wrap it up, “The Killing of the Tinkers” was a great read overall. Memorable? Maybe not. His work is for those who enjoy hard-boiled mysteries. There’s no romance in here but Jack does enjoy his share of female companionship. I like Jack despite his addictions only because well, I don’t know. Can’t put my finger on it, I just know that he _tries_ to be better person and sometimes, that’s enough. My grade, B.


This is my contribution to the last TBR Challenge of 2008. I hope you will visit the other participatants of this challenge and thanks to all those who participated this year!


About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Grade B Reviews, Mystery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to REVIEW: 'The Killing of the Tinkers (A Jack Taylor Mystery)' by Ken Bruen

  1. Jan says:

    Great review of a complex character and book. I’m not sure I want to read it, but it sounds like the author has done a good job if you can’t wait to get your hands on the next book in the series.

  2. Li says:

    Sounds like an interesting book. Like Jan, I’m not entirely sure I want to read it, but I’ll look out for this author the next time I’m in the bookstore.

  3. Avid Reader says:

    Like I said – Bruen won’t be for everybody. I’m not like I’m blown away by the series but the character of Jack is what draws me back again and again. He’s such a tragic guy but heroic in some instances.

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