Priest by Ken Bruen – review

priest ken bruenIreland, awash in cash and greed, no longer turns to the church for solace or comfort. But the decapitation of Father Joyce in a Galway church horrifies even the most jaded citizen.

Jack Taylor, devastated by the recent trauma of personal loss, has always believed himself to be beyond salvation. But a new job offers a fresh start, and an unexpected partnership makes him hope that his one desperate vision – of family – might yet be fulfilled.

With knowledge aforethought, would I have said

‘Nope, not for me, thanks,I’ll preserve what little sanity I have.’

Alas, I’d have still walked that road of unhappy destiny.


Because I’m an eejit and, worse, a stubborn one.

In the beginning of Priest we find Jack Taylor in an asylum. The story picks up as he is starting to come out of his medicated stupor. As he eases into some semblance of his old life he tries to keep from confronting the tragedy that ended The Dramatist and deal with its fallout. For the first time he finds himself completely sober, no drugs, no alcohol, no cigarettes. With those numbing defense mechanisms not in place Jack tries hard to ignore the enormity of his actions. His refusal to directly confront his act lends to the narrative a palpable menace mixed with a strong riptide of violence that threatens to pull him under. Jack will use physical confrontations to release the building pressure but will find no real satisfaction.

You’re about to spit on a priest, your so fucked, even the Devil is mildly taken aback.

We know from previous books that Jack had a dubious relationship at best with his parents, especially his mother. In this book Bruen is going to spend a lot of time analyzing the relationship between fathers and sons. Jack is going to spend some serious time thinking about his own father and more importantly his feelings of longing at wanting to be a father himself. Joseph Campbell frequently described both a midlife crisis and late middle age as “getting to the top of your ladder then realizing it was up against the wrong wall.” This description fits Jack well in this book. His twin desires of having a son and being a father are fully materialized when he takes on a partner named Cody. Cody and Jack’s relationship will mirror the father/son dynamic so much so that others in town just assume that’s what it is. Throughout the course of the book the limits of that relationship will be greatly tested.

With horror, I realized I cared for more people in the graveyard then in life, which means you’ve lived too long or God has a serious vendetta going, with no signs of Him letting up in the foreseeable future.

Priest is a fantastic entry in the Jack Taylor series that finds these characters at a crossroads. We don’t yet know where these characters are heading or what their fates, both collective and individual, will be but as always the journey is interesting.

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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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