The Guards by Ken Bruen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Ken Bruen's "The Guards" is an attempt at an uber-cool and uber-noir crime novel. My guess is that most readers will either love it or hate it. The blurbs on the cover scream enthusiastic praise, even from good writers such as James Crumley or T. Jefferson Parker. Someone even compares Mr. Bruen's work to James Joyce - a ridiculous comparison. The novel reminds me a little of Don Winslow's "Savages" (my review is on Goodreads) because of somewhat unconventional writing.
Jack Taylor, fired from Garda Siochana for excessive drinking and insubordination, tries to work as a private investigator in the rare moments when he is sober and not on drugs. A woman whose sixteen-year-old daughter's death was treated as suicide hires him to find the truth. The plot tracks Jack through his boozing, beatings, rehabs, and feeble attempts at solving the case.
A private detective, in addition to be hard-boiled and often alcoholic, is required to have other quirks. Jack loves books, and has been a voracious reader since childhood. Alas, it does not ring true. It is a formulaic quirk, written into Jack's character straight from a quirk template. A substantial part of the novel takes place in pubs - I have never been able to understand why people drink in pubs rather than at home, which would be cheaper and would not force one to look at other drunks.
What I like about "The Guards" is that it is really a very short book (it took me less than three hours to read the 300 pages) because of enormous amount of whitespace on the pages - short lines, frequent lists, pages with just two lines on them, etc." The writing is economical and competent, if not inspired. The novel conveys some sense of location (Galway, Ireland). I like the grim ending. "The Guards" could have been a very good novel, if it weren't pretentiously insistent on being so uber-noir.
Two and three quarter stars.
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