Jack’s Back: A review of Green Hell by Ken Bruen

Kid, I never fuck around with murder.—Jack Taylor.Green Hell

The other morning I returned home from a four-mile run to find a copy of Ken Bruen’s Green Hell in my battered mailbox. I knew I would be spending the afternoon turning the pages of multiple-award winning Irish noir master Bruen’s eleventh and latest twisted tale of Galway bad boy Jack Taylor.

I immediately turned my car around and drove down the hill to the wine and beer store and picked up a sixer of Guinness extra stout. It would be a good start. If you’re going read Bruen, is there any better way than on the piss?

Besides, I wasn’t going to be writing for some weekend London newspaper. I don’t do staid. Not well. Not at all. I would be writing for the Mean Streets blog and I knew the editor and publisher up close and personal.

In a break from past convention, Bruen spends the first half of Green Hell telling Jack’s violence-filled and sordid story through the eyes of young American exchange student Boru Kennedy. A Protestant no less and studying Beckett at the graduate level at Trinity College in Dublin.

And for these sins, he meets Jack “as likely to split a skull with a hurly as hand fifty euros to a homeless person” and whose idea of a day at the beach is to take a half bottle of Jameson and go sit on the rocks and yearn. Jack saves Boru from a vicious beating by a gang of young hooligans and the American decides to chronicle Jack’s life.

Jack schools young Boru on Ireland and Galway, in particular, taking the lad pub crawling while dispensing such homilies as “Catholics are the Jameson guys. Bushmills is for the other crowd.”

Can it get any better?

Yes.

And it does.

For lurking in Galway is a sadistic literature professor who specializes in teenage girls.

Shouldn’t every half-decent noir novel have at least one?

Jack tells Boru that he wants the lad to write his last will and testament and reveals that he is planning to kill the professor. And for this revelation, Boru commits the most heinous of mortal sins. He “grasses” Jack. And not to just anyone but to Superintendent Clancy of the Garda, Jack’s former colleague and now long-time nemesis.

And for this treachery, he will surely pay. But how?

It would be unfair to readers to reveal the entire plot. I will only say that the second-half of the story is told by Jack who forms a platonic relationship with a goth woman named Emerald whose belief in blood-soaked vengeance is as strong as Jack’s.

Bruen’s multiple personality approach to the battered, tottering Jack’s ugly quest for justice works well and the author once again reveals snippets about himself in the process.   Devotees of Bruen’s writing and the Jack Taylor television series starring Iain Glen will not be disappointed.

Green Hell by Ken Bruen, 304 pages, The Mysterious Press, New York, 2015.

 

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