The Dramatist by Ken Bruen – review

the dramatist ken bruenEven though those stories were complete in their telling the previous three novels in the Jack Taylor series can in some ways be seen as a three act prologue for the Dramatist. Sub-plots that had been in the making find their completion as old characters come back into Jack’s life.

Jack for the first time in a long while finds himself to be clean and sober. His dealer is in jail and has requested that Jack investigate the death of his sister. He pays well and Jack could use the money so he agrees to look into her death. When another young girl is also killed Jack notices some similarities with the dealer’s death and suspects that the two might be linked.

In the past I’ve often used the words “respite” and “redemption” when discussing the books and the character of Jack Taylor. As it turns out their will be no respite for Jack in The Dramatist, as to whether he’ll find redemption or not, well that remains to be seen. The word that haunted my reading of The Dramatist and that is increasingly haunting Jack is “pariah”. As the novel progresses Jack, through his own actions and inactions, is becoming increasingly isolated from those who are closest to him. He is moving fast on a path that may lead to his complete ostracization from the community.

One of the hallmarks of the Taylor series, if not Bruen’s whole body of work, is the endings. Bruen’s endings are swift and brutal, smiting the innocent along with the guilty like the Old Testament God. With the endings that we’ve seen so far one almost has to wonder if Bruen is capable of shocking us any longer. As it turns out he is still capable and considerably ups the ante here and the blow that is struck to Jack in the closing moments of The Dramatist is filled with a savage intensity that will threaten Jack’s entire existence and will bring his carefully cultivated sobriety to a crashing end.

The final act is so startling in its implications that one is forced to add a new word that begins with “R” to the list above, recovery. One has to wonder aloud if a recovery from this is even possible for all involved. With the finality that comes with the ending of The Dramatist and knowing that there are still at least three books left its hard not to speculate as to the plots of the later books in the series. This recovery or lack thereof will be of a central importance.

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Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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About Brian Lindenmuth

Brian is the non-fiction editor of Spinetingler magazine and one of the fiction editors of Snubnose Press. In addition to Spinetingler his work has appeared in Crimespree magazine and at BSC Review, Galleycat and the Mulholland Books website. He also heads the Spinetingler Award committee.

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