Talk of the town just now is Philomena, the movie. It tells the story of a woman who was a victim of one of the wicked manifestations of the Catholic Church. The film looks OK. I may see it one day, perhaps on DVD. However it plays out, I’m pretty sure it won’t be able to shine a prayer-candle to Ken Bruen’s The Magdalen Martyrs.
I loved Jack Taylor before arriving at this novel. It’s difficult not to. He articulates his inner workings with charm, humour and a good deal of learned profundity.
Here, he becomes involved in 2 cases. The first is to investigate a rather interesting woman who likes her drink and whose ex-husband suspects is guilty of murder. The second, a job from a killer whom he couldn’t turn down, is to track down an old lady with associations with the Magdalen Laundry.
The cases are hugely interesting in themselves and give the book its movement and superbly dimensioned characters. Although that’s crucial to the plot, the main story is one of addiction – the effects of intoxicants, withdrawal, black-outs, extreme actions, hallucination, self-loathing, guilt, depression, the works.
Jack moves from the booze to pills to periods of abstinence. As he plods through each phase, he sees his reflection the world and the people around him. He talks about his life and his failings in such an articulate and entertaining way that I doubt there can have been many better accounts of these extremes. Bruen would argue with this last statement and win because he knows far more than I – each chapter begins with a quote that has been selected perfectly to set a tone or underline a point.
Talking of quotes, here’s one of his own that I rather cared for:
“I can’t blame books for the chaos of my life, but they’ve always been there on the journey.”
This novel works wonderfully on so many levels. It’s a brilliant piece and one that only emphasises Bruen’s right to be accorded such a high status within the crime-writing world and the world of literature.